A truck convoy protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions blocks the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing near Coutts, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. A woman says her family members couldn’t say goodbye to their dying mother because of the demonstators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta family misses chance to say goodbye to dying mother because of border protest

Alberta family misses chance to say goodbye to dying mother because of border protest

COUTTS, Alta. — A woman says her family members couldn’t say goodbye to their dying mother because of protesters blocking the main U.S. border crossing in southern Alberta.

Megan Allan of Medicine Hat, Alta., said her aunts tried to come back to the province from Arizona when their 94-year-old mother’s health took a turn for the worse.

They booked the soonest flight to Great Falls, Mont., with plans to pick up their vehicle and drive north through the Coutts border crossing, said Allan. On Jan. 31, the blockade forced them to drive to another entry point that opened at 8 a.m. the following day.

Their mother died earlier that morning.

“They would have made it if they could have gone through (Coutts),” said Allan, just before wiping a tear from her cheek.

“I understand that the truckers’ message is to be about freedom but their protest affected my family’s freedom and my aunts will never get the chance to say goodbye.”

She shared her story during an NDP press conference on Thursday where Alberta’s Opposition called again on the United Conservative Party government to remove the illegal blockade that has been restricting, or outright blocking, access for nearly two weeks.

Demonstrators are protesting against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers and broader public health restrictions. The blockade has been ongoing since Jan. 29.

Despite plans announced Tuesday by the Alberta government to phase out all COVID-19 measures, the blockade continued with “renewed resolve,” said one of the lawyers representing the participants.

“Protesters are demanding concrete and immediate deadlines for the lifting of all lockdown and vaccine mandates, both provincial and federal,” Calgary-based lawyer Chad Williamson said Wednesday.

RCMP Supt. Roberta McKale said vehicles continued to block the border Thursday with large convoys of commercial and personal vehicles at Coutts and further north near Milk River, Alta.

McKale said Mounties are encouraging protesters to move to a field on the south edge of Milk River to essentially switch the protest from unlawful to lawful.

“We continue with that effort to try to convince people to make their way up there,” she said. “There’s not one person there right now.”

RCMP began issuing tickets late Wednesday for various offences at Milk River, as well as to drivers who were parked illegally whose tickets will be sent by mail.

It’s estimated more than 200 passenger and commercial vehicles, camper trailers and tractors are impeding traffic in Milk River. Another 100 vehicles are in Coutts, where the Alberta movement ignited.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2022.

— By Alanna Smith in Calgary

The Canadian Press

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