Trudeau Says Canada's Federal Gov't Invoking Emergencies Act to Address Protest Blockades
21:42 GMT 14.02.2022 (Updated: 01:13 GMT 15.02.2022)
The "freedom convoy" protests by a group of truckers and their sympathizers who were protesting Ottawa's COVID-19 mitigation policies managed to block traffic across a key bridge from the United States to Canada for six days, creating extensive economic problems in both countries.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he would invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time in the country's history, giving his cabinet special powers to address a national crisis. The act is being invoked because of protests that have blocked border crossings to the United States.
“We will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue," the prime minister said, calling the measure a "last resort" against the protest movement, which reportedly has links to right-wing political groups, according to an investigation by Multipolarista.
By doing so, Trudeau will be able to impose restrictions on public assembly and travel and provide federal support for local and provincial police forces, according to Reuters. Other powers the government gains under the declaration include deciding what are essential services and regulating the distribution of essential goods.
However, it also includes a provision for compensating those who receive financial harm due to government measures taken under the act. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the government is still confined by the protections offered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Constitution's bill of rights.
An important difference from the War Measures Act that the Emergencies Act replaced in 1982 is that Trudeau's invocation of it must be approved by the Canadian Parliament within seven days and it can also later be revoked by lawmakers. It is unclear if Trudeau's Liberal Party, a minority in the legislature, will have the support of New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh.
The governors of at least four Canadian provinces have publicly opposed Trudeau's plans to invoke the Emergencies Act, including Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Some said the act should only be applied to jurisdictions that request it.
© REUTERS / PATRICK DOYLEA woman poses for a photo in front of trucks that are part of a trucker convoy to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 28, 2022
A woman poses for a photo in front of trucks that are part of a trucker convoy to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 28, 2022
However, officials from the United States, including Biden administration officials and the US Chamber of Commerce, have prodded their Canadian counterparts for days to take action.
The War Measures Act was invoked three times before being discarded: during each of the World Wars, as well as in 1970 by the present prime minister's father, Pierre Trudeau, when the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped the provincial Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross - a situation known as the October Crisis. During the events of 1970-1, Canadian troops were deployed to keep order in Quebec, where an independence movement had gained major sway among Francophones and deployed terrorist tactics against the government.
Truckers Oppose Vaccine Mandates
For weeks, groups have protested vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation measures proposed by Trudeau's government, including a 17-day encampment in the national capital of Ottawa by hundreds of big-rig truck drivers. Most recently, a group of truckers shut down the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor, Ontario, with the US city of Detroit, Michigan, and serves as a vital trade artery between the two countries.
The six-day shutdown that ended on Sunday sent ripples through both nations' economies, causing shortages and even temporary factory closures.
The protests have attracted widespread support from right-wing figures such as US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former US President Donald Trump, who are opposed to government-mandated COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccination, masking, and quarantine requirements intended to interrupt and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Ironically, the truckers' protest, which has claimed to speak for all truck drivers, has been publicly opposed by the Teamsters Unions in both Canada and the United States.
"The so-called 'freedom convoy' and the despicable display of hate lead by the political Right and shamefully encouraged by elected conservative politicians does not reflect the values of Teamsters Canada, nor the vast majority of our members, and in fact has served to delegitimize the real concerns of most truck drivers today," the union said.