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City still seeking federal money 2 years after convoy protests

Protesters maintain a blockade of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ont., on Feb. 11, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Protesters maintain a blockade of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ont., on Feb. 11, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

It has been two years since police broke up the Freedom Convoy blockade at the Ambassador Bridge. But Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says there are still outstanding issues.

"The primary outstanding issue for us is the the non payment of $900,000 in expenses that residents in the City of Windsor incurred to get rid of the problem here on the streets," said Dilkens. "The federal government made a commitment for $6.9 million. We still want to be made whole."

The city spent $1.8 million in costs associated with getting an injunction to remove the protesters. MP Irek Kusmiercyzk said he fought to get half of those costs covered, even though legal costs are usually not eligible for reimbursement by the government.

"Our federal government stepped up with $6.1 million in support for the bridge costs," Kusmiercyzk said several times in an interview.

The mayor also says the upper levels of government have not come together with the city officials to come up with a plan to prevent blockades like this from happening in future.

"So we need to get everyone together at some point to have a very serious conversation about how we can maintain the free flow of goods and people across that border should events happen in the future that try and restrict the crossing," said Dilkens.

Kusmiercyzk agrees.

"This requires all-hands-on-deck approach, co-ordinated approach to make sure that this doesn't happen again," he said, but did not offer a timeline for a meeting.

Just last month, a federal judge ruled the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act was unreasonable and infringed on protesters' Charter rights. The federal government invoked the act a day after the protests in Windsor were cleared by police.

The government plans to appeal, but Duff Conacher, the founder of Democracy Watch, doesn't believe police will have difficulty preventing a similar protest in the future if the appeal fails.

The Ambassador Bridge, linking Detroit and Windsor, Ont., is shown Feb. 10 amid protests over public health restrictions linked to the pandemic.
The Ambassador Bridge, linking Detroit and Windsor, Ont., is shown Feb. 10 amid protests over public health restrictions linked to the pandemic.

The Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ont., is shown Feb. 10, 2022, amid protests over public health restrictions linked to the pandemic. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

"The police are monitoring the activities of these groups and started right away after Ottawa, preventing them from setting up similar protests like they were planning to do around the Ontario legislature in Toronto," said Conacher.

Meanwhile, in the years and months after the Windsor blockade, charges have been dropped against three of the protesters but William Laframboise still faces charges including mischief and he has trial dates in April and May.

Const. Michael Brisco was found guilty of discreditable conduct last year for donating $50 to the convoy protests. He appealed the decision to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission last November and is awaiting a decision.