The blockade of a bridge between the two countries has disrupted car production and begun to have broader implications for the North American motor industry.
The Canadian and US governments have warned of the risks of damage to the economy by the blockade of a bridge between the two countries by protesters demanding an end to Canadian COVID-19 restrictions.
The protest forced the shutdown of a factory on Wednesday and began to have broader implications for the North American car industry.
The protest by people mostly in pickup trucks entered its third day at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Traffic was prevented from crossing into Canada, while US-bound traffic was still moving.
The bridge carries 25% of all trade between the two countries, and Canadian authorities expressed increasing worry about the economic effects.
Ford said late Wednesday that parts shortages forced it to shut down its engine plant in Windsor and to run an assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, on a reduced schedule.
General Motors and Toyota also reported disruption. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, reported normal operations after cutting shifts short the previous day at its Windsor minivan plant.
“The blockade poses a risk to supply chains for the auto industry because the bridge is a key conduit for motor vehicles, components and parts, and delays risk disrupting auto production,” said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood firm against an easing of restrictions in the face of mounting pressure during recent weeks.
A growing number of Canadian provinces have moved to lift some of their precautions as the Omicron surge levels off, but Trudeau defended the measures the federal government is responsible for, including the one that has angered many truck drivers: a rule that took effect January 15 requiring truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated.
“The reality is that vaccine mandates, and the fact that Canadians stepped up to get vaccinated to almost 90%, ensured that this pandemic didn't hit as hard here in Canada as elsewhere in the world,” Trudeau said in Parliament.
About 90% of truckers in Canada are vaccinated, and trucker associations and many big-rig operators have denounced the protests. The US has the same vaccination rule for truckers entering the country, so it would make little difference if Trudeau lifted the restriction.
Protesters have also been blocking a border crossing in Alberta, while hundreds of trucks have paralysed downtown Ottawa, Canada’s capital, in a protest that began late last month.
While protesters have been calling for Trudeau’s removal, most of the restrictive measures around the country have been put in place by provincial governments. Those include requirements that people show proof-of-vaccination “passports” to enter restaurants, gyms, cinemas and sporting events.
At a news conference in Ottawa that excluded mainstream news organisations, Benjamin Dichter, one of the protest organisers, said: “I think the government and the media are drastically underestimating the resolve and patience of truckers.”
“Drop the mandates. Drop the passports," he said.
The “freedom truck convoy” has been promoted by Fox News personalities and attracted support from many US Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, who called Trudeau a “far left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates.”
Pandemic restrictions have been far stricter in Canada than in the US, but Canadians have largely supported them. Canada's COVID-19 death rate is one-third that of the US.