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Blockade at North Dakota-Manitoba border likely to end today

In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, RCMP Manitoba announced that it has reached a resolution with protesters at the Emerson Port of Entry, and RCMP officers are coordinating the departure of protesters.

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Trucks and farm equipment lined up on Feb. 10 on the Canadian side of the Pembina-Emerson border crossing in protest of U.S. and Canadian requirements for truck drivers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to cross the border.
Submitted photo / Yness Boily
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EMERSON, Manitoba — The blockade on the Canadian side of the Pembina-Emerson border crossing is set to end by Wednesday, Feb. 16, says the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, RCMP Manitoba announced that it has reached a resolution with protesters at the Emerson Port of Entry, and RCMP officers are coordinating the departure of protesters.

“We are now confident that a resolution has been reached and that demonstrators will soon be leaving the area and that full access to the Emerson Port of Entry will be restored,” said Chief Superintendent Rob Hill, Officer in Charge of Criminal Operations for the Manitoba RCMP, in the tweet.

The blockade at the border started in the early hours of Thursday, Feb. 10, when trucks, farm equipment and other vehicles blocked all four lanes of traffic on Highway 75 in Emerson, Manitoba in protest of Canadian and American vaccination requirements for cross-border truck drivers. The blockade completely stopped the flow of traffic at the border except for some agricultural and emergency vehicles.

Simon Resch, owner of the duty-free shop in Emerson, told the Herald on Tuesday afternoon that he could see some activity in the blockade, with some vehicles starting to move, and expects a full dispersal of protesters by tomorrow morning or early afternoon.

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"We’re very thankful that this is going to be dispersed peacefully,” said Resch. “The RCMP seem to have negotiated the resolution with whoever the leaders of the convoy were and nobody has resorted to violence or yelling matches.”

But still, Resch says, the economic impacts will continue for Manitoba and North Dakota, especially at border businesses like his. In the nearly six days of the blockade, his business has been completely cut off.

“By complete I mean that in every sense of the word. We haven’t registered a sale,” he said.

On top of two years of reduced traffic from the pandemic, the complete cutoff of travel through the border resulted in a desperate situation.

“We can’t afford to miss a day, nevermind a week of sales,” he said.

For Mike’s Parcel in Pembina, the end of the blockade will allow commercial carriers through to the business. But owner Mason Peters says until more restrictions are lifted, his business is still impacted.

“Now we still have to deal with all of the restrictions at the border, but if some of those change, we’ll be singing pretty happily,” said Peters.

Relief for him and other border business owners may be coming soon. On Feb. 15, the Canadian government announced a series of adjustments to travel restrictions at the border . Starting on Feb. 28, travelers will be allowed to use a rapid antigen test or molecular test to meet the pre-entry negative test requirement. The test must still be administered by a laboratory, healthcare provider or telehealth service, so an at home test will not suffice.

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According to the release from the Government of Canada, the changes have been made because the Omicron variant has passed its peak in Canada.

Mike Nowatzki, a spokesperson for North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, said the governor is grateful for the work of Premier Heather Stefanson, other Manitoba officials and the RCMP to resolve the situation peacefully and resume cross-border traffic.

"As COVID cases and hospitalizations decrease, he urges both federal governments to take this opportunity to consider reinstating the vaccine exemption for cross-border truck drivers," said Nowatzki.

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Related Topics: U.S.-CANADIAN BORDERPEMBINA
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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