The Canadian province of Ontario has declared a state of emergency and will give police more "temporary" powers to remove protesters from the Ambassador Bridge and the city of Ottawa, Premier Doug Ford said Friday.
At a press conference, Ford said the economy is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a day as protesters have blockaded the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. It is the main artery carrying about CAN$750 million (US$591 million) in two-way trade a day between the two countries.
Blockading the bridge and the nation's capital of Ottawa that is situated in Ontario is causing "chaos" and unless protesters disperse there will be consequences, Ford said.
"There will be consequences, they will be severe," Ford said. "Fines will be severe."
He said failure for protesters to "go home" will result in fines up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
"This is no longer a peaceful demonstration," the premier said, adding that the situation is "absolutely unprecedented."
Ford said he and his Cabinet will meet immediately to draft new legislation that will give police more power to remove protesters and blockades.
"We are in a critical situation," the premier said, adding that he would get protesters out "as quickly as we can."
What began as a trucker demonstration in Ottawa to protest mandated vaccines mushroomed into attracting other protesters, some from far right organizations, officials said, and spread across the country. The demand became one to end all health regulations concerning COVID-19.
Ottawa has been in a state of "siege" for almost two weeks, since thousands of protesters and vehicles clogged the downtown core, virtually paralyzing the city.
Ford characterized the Ottawa chaos as nothing less than taking "a city of one million people hostage."
Ford did not specify what additional powers will be given to police.