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Canada-US Trade Routes Disrupted by Anti-Mandate Protests

What’s happening?

This week, two major land border crossings between Canada and the United States have been partially blocked by anti-mandate protesters, significantly impacting trade and supply chains.

Border crossings at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor are affected, as well as the Coutts border crossing between Alberta and Montana.

Untitled design (16) (1)The protesters, self-titled the Freedom Convoy, have centered the demonstration on Ottawa where demonstrations have shut down parts of the city for over a week. Ottawa’s mayor has declared a state of emergency, and around 80 criminal investigations have been launched in connection to the protests. According to Reuters, there are 418 protest vehicles in downtown Ottawa, despite false claims of up to 50,000 participating trucks.

On January 15, travel exemptions for Canadian truckers were lifted, enforcing quarantine for unvaccinated truckers crossing the border. The protests were a response to this change, but have since escalated into broader opposition to pandemic-related restrictions in Canada. 

Protesters are now demanding an end to all mandates and have sparked demonstrations across the country. According to Teamsters Canada, which represents over 55,000 truckers, 90% of Canadian drivers are vaccinated.

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What’s the impact?

Even though the demonstrations have partially blocked border crossings, the disruption significantly impacts Canada-US trade. According to Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, the Detroit-Windsor crossing is one of the world’s most important border crossings, carrying 25% of Canada-US trade. The US market supports about 75% of Canadian exports.

Supply chains, which have already been strained from the pandemic, are also affected. A Michigan-based automotive consulting firm stated that even a delay of five hours can disrupt production. According to The Washington Post, blockades lasting as little as 1-2 days could also cause temporary plant closures and layoffs.

The demonstrations are also causing public safety concerns. According to Ottawa police, the rally has largely been lawful—but bystanders have observed extremist rhetoric and symbolism, as well as public disruption and monument damage.

A recent article in Security Magazine recommends that global legislatures “adopt a heightened security posture” amid the global spread of anti-mandate and anti-vaccine demonstrations. 

The pandemic has created an environment ideal for radicalization amongst disenfranchised and alienated individuals. This is causing concern for government and anti-extremist groups, like the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, who are observing the global influence of Canadian protests.

How can OSINT help?

The immediate impact of border disruptions on Canada-US trade means that governments and private enterprises need access to current information. 

Public information channels like social media are often the earliest source of updates for trade and supply chain disruptions. This open-source intelligence (OSINT) can provide on-the-ground photos and media from border crossings. This illuminates the severity of disruptions and helps analysts predict downstream impacts in real-time as border activities change.

Organizations can also use this ground-truth information to assess public safety threats and support criminal investigations. Social media also helps intelligence teams monitor misinformation related to anti-mandate demonstrations. More covert sources, like imageboards and unindexed forums, can provide early warning indicators for public safety risks related to hate and extremism.

Because these events evolve quickly, specialized OSINT tools are required to access relevant information quickly. These solutions also make a variety of data sources—including news, mainstream social media, and fringe websites—more accessible to analysts. 

If your organization is affected by border disruptions or concerned with public safety risks, you could be overlooking relevant information without the right tools. Book some time with our team to learn more about leveraging OSINT for supply chain monitoring and other pandemic-related risks.