A convoy of truck drivers took to the streets on Highway 75, Emerson, Manitoba near the U.S.-Canada border on Jan. 17 following the introduction of new COVID-19 vaccination requirements on truckers put in place by the Canadian and U.S. governments.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said that a “large number of vehicles” were involved in the “demonstration” near the Emerson Port of Entry, affecting both northbound and southbound lanes. The RCMP was monitoring traffic flows onsite.
In a video shared on Twitter, protestors in the fleet can be seen flashing signs such as “Last year’s heros, this year’s zeros” and “My body, my choice” in the early morning of Jan. 17.
Drivers were circling the MB-75 “between Emerson Duty Free and the Commercial Inspection station blocking all lanes heading south to the United States and Northbound traffic coming from the USA,” driver Jamie Throp told local radio station CJOB in an interview.
Effective Jan. 15, foreign truck drivers can only enter Canada if fully vaccinated, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Nov. 19, 2021. Unvaccinated foreign drivers will be sent back to the United States.
Canadian truckers who can’t show proof of vaccination “will need to meet requirements for pre-entry, arrival and Day 8 testing, as well as quarantine requirements,” according to a Jan. 13 Canadian Public Health statement. However, the Public Health department added that “a Canadian truck driver who is not fully vaccinated can’t be denied entry into Canada” in the same statement.
Symptomatic individuals will be required to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Canada.
Currently, full proof of vaccination includes all who have completed the two-shot series detailed on the Canadian government website or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Similar requirements, effective Jan. 22, were made for non-U.S. national truckers crossing into the United States, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Nov. 23.
Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the vaccine mandate is the “right thing to do,” which not only protects themselves, but also protects “their businesses and the industry” from the pandemic.
The vaccine mandates, however, have resulted in a 25 percent increase in the cost of transporting produce from California and Arizona to Canada last week, as fewer trucks were able to cross the border, according to the chief executive of a fruit-distributing company.
George Pitsikoulis, president and chief executive officer of Canadawide Fruits, told Bloomberg in a Jan. 17 interview that the consumer is the one paying the price for the rise in costs.
“The lower the supply, the higher the price,” Pitsikoulis added.
Another produce company, Bamford Produce, reported a doubling in cost to bring a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California and Arizona to Canada.
According to Reuters, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) had estimated that 10 percent (16,000) cross-border drivers may be forced off the roads as a result of the mandate.
As of November 2021, Canada’s headline inflation rate has been driven to an 18-year high since 2003, as a result of supply chain disruptions.
The Biden administration has pushed a mandate requiring U.S. companies with 100 or more staff to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, a rule that would apply to truck drivers if enforced. On Jan. 14, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the mandate. the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also said the vaccine mandate would not apply to solo truckers and other employees “who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present.”
Currently, only 50 to 60 percent of U.S. truckers are estimated to be vaccinated, according to data from the American Trucking Associations obtained by Bloomberg.