Mayor of southern Alberta village frustrated over border blockade by truckers

The mayor of Coutts, Alberta where a truck convoy has blockaded the highway at a busy U.S. border crossing says there will be no mail and some students have not gone to school due to the blockade.

Mayor Jim Willett says he’s angry and frustrated because about 100 trucks lined up on Highway 4 are preventing a mail truck and a school bus from entering the village.

The convoy is one of many in Canadian towns and cities on the weekend that coincided with truckers and their supporters meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest the federal government’s COVID-19 measures.

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Willett says he understands freedom to protest, but he adds the Alberta government needs to act to allow the movement of goods and services near the border, where only foot traffic has been able to get through.

“I have no problem with people having a peaceful protest and even hindering traffic,” said Willett.

“But, as soon as you start making things as difficult as they have and you close off a vital piece of infrastructure, and the only commercial 24 hour port in the province when our province is so dependent on import and export with the United States, you have crossed a line in my mind.”

Roughly 250 people live in Coutts, and with the nearest services in Milk River, Willett says they don’t have a lot of external traffic, even during tourist season.

This is why he says the older residents, who make up a larger portion of their population, feel concerned when they see people they don’t know wandering or driving around the village.

“It’s not an unfriendly thing, it’s just a discomforting thing I guess, it makes you feel uneasy.”

“Normally you walk down the street, you wave at everybody because even if you don’t know for sure, you’re pretty sure you know them, and, you know, cars pass and everybody’s waving. Now, it’s not that way and it makes you nervous.”

However, he says the people they have seen, have kept to themselves.

“There have been no garbage problems, there has been no vandalism, no confrontations in the street,” he said.

But he explains, they are essentially cut off from the outside world, which makes them anxious.

“We’ve got no grocery store, no gas station, no hospital, no drug store, that’s all in Milk River 20 kilometers up the road,” he said.

Supposedly, he says you can get through the blockade and get to Milk River.

“You can imagine driving up to a blockade of big-rigs and protestors, signs, flags the whole thing and saying please may I go through here,” he said.

“That’s a lot more than some people are willing to do to get out of the village,” he said, adding some people will use back roads to get there, weather dependent.

RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters says officers are attempting to come to a resolution with protesters with the least amount of intervention as possible.

Premier Jason Kenney has said it’s up to local authorities to enforce provincial legislation which allows for additional penalties that can be levied against protesters blockading highways and other infrastructure.

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