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How might Ontario's state of emergency put an end to 'illegal occupations' in Ottawa, Windsor?

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As major demonstrations against COVID-19 vaccination mandates and public health measures continue in Ottawa and Windsor, the Ontario government has declared a state of emergency to put an end to the protests, which Premier Doug Ford described as illegal occupations.

But how will the measure actually be used to clear the group of trucks that has occupied Ottawa since Jan. 29 and the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, which connects Canada to the U.S. through Detroit, which started on Feb. 7?

The province said it will lean on fines and possible imprisonment for those who refuse to leave.

Ford said that fines for non-compliance will be “severe” and can reach as high as $100,000 and up to a year in prison.

“My message to those still in Ottawa, to those at our border crossings, please go home,” Ford said at a news conference Friday.

Under the order, the province is also providing responding police forces with additional authority to “consider” taking away the personal and commercial licences of anyone who doesn’t comply.

Ford said he would be meeting with his cabinet on Saturday to urgently enact additional orders that will make “crystal clear” that it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure.

Those measures will include protecting international border crossings, 400-series highways, airports, ports, bridges and railways.

The emergency orders are temporary and will expire after 42 hours, according to Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

“There is a wide difference between a demonstration, that people make their point and go home, and [an occupation where] people put their lives, and their families lives, and communities at risk. That’s unfortunately what we’re now seeing in Windsor and, of course, in Ottawa for the last number of days,” Jones said at a news conference on Friday.

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency at a city level on Feb. 6 and police then moved to cut off fuel supplies to the "Freedom Convoy" demonstrators who occupied the downtown core.

A day later, a judge granted a 10-day injunction in a class-action lawsuit by Ottawa residents against the convoy to stop the incessant honking.

However, a large number of trucks still remain in the area and police have said that some 100 vehicles have children living inside.

In Windsor, the Ambassador Bridge, which sees $700 million of two-way trade every single day, according to the province, has been brought to a standstill as a result of the blockade and on Feb. 9 the city and local police service requested provincial and federal assistance to deal with the protesters.

Public Safety Minister Mendicino said the RCMP would send more "reinforcements" to put an end to the blockade, while also directing resources to demonstrations in Ottawa and Coutts, Alta.

Meanwhile, Windsor City Council authorized steps to seek a court injunction to stop the blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, which is expected to be heard by an Ontario Superior Court later today.

Asked what tools are available to the province should the measures announced today not work in removing the protesters, Ford expressed faith in local police forces saying “I’m sure they’ll get the job done.”

With files from CTV News’ Christy Somos

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