Top Biden administration officials pressed their Canadian counterparts to clear truckers blockading parts of the United States’s northern border during protests in January.
A public inquiry into the Canadian government’s decision to use emergency powers to clear the “Freedom Convoy” protesters revealed on Thursday that frantic phone calls were placed by Washington to Ottawa in an effort to open up choked-off supply lines.
“They are very, very, very worried,” Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote in an email to her staff after a Feb. 10 phone call from White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, according to Politico.
“If this is not sorted out in the next 12 hours, all of their northeastern car plants will shut down,” Freeland continued in her email.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg phoned his Canadian counterpart, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, the same day Deese called Freeland, according to the report, and Buttigieg pressed Alghabra about Canada’s “plan to resolve” the protests.
Alghabra told the commission that Buttigieg initiated the call and that the interaction was “unusual.”
Brian Clow, deputy chief of staff to Canada’s prime minister, also heard from White House aides, including National Security Council director Juan Gonzalez, who wanted to connect Canadian national security officials with the US Department of Homeland Security.
A phone call between President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took place the following day, on Feb. 11, where Trudeau conveyed to the commander-in-chief that Ottawa had a plan to end the blockades.
In his call with Trudeau, Biden reportedly alluded to trucker convoys rumored to be threatening to disrupt the Super Bowl in Los Angeles and streets in Washington.
Freeland told staff in an email that the Deese wanted daily updates on the protests which never materialized because the Emergencies Act was invoked three days after Trudeau’s call with Biden.
Freeland told Canadian investigators that she worried Canada was “in the process of doing long-term and possibly irreparable harm to our trading relationship with the United States” and feared DC politicians “who would love any excuse to impose more protectionist measures on us.”
Border blockades in Manitoba and between Detroit and Windsor were cleared before the invocation of the Emergencies Act, the commission found.
The never-before-used Canadian law gave the government the power to freeze bank accounts of protesters, ban travel to protest sites, and force trucks to tow vehicles blocking streets.
The commission is seeking to determine whether the government was justified in invoking the emergency powers.
The “Freedom Convoy” protesters were demonstrating against Canadian COVID vaccine mandates and restrictions.