Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act against ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers’ protest

The protests began in Ottawa on January 28, but quickly spread across the country, stifling several border crossings between the United States and Canada. Trudeau said it has become clear that, despite their best efforts, “there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law.”

“This has gone on for far too long,” Trudeau said. “This is no longer a legal protest against federal government policy. It is now an illegal occupation. It’s time for people to go home.

He promised that the measures would be time-limited, geographically targeted and proportionate to threats to Canada’s national security. He said the act was not used to deploy the military. Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said military help may be needed to stamp out the unrest.

“Invoking the Emergencies Act is never the first thing a government should do or even the second,” Trudeau said. “The law should be used sparingly and as a last resort. At present, the situation requires additional tools that are not held by any other federal, provincial or territorial law.

The announcement follows several dramatic weeks in which protesters in large trucks and other vehicles blocked the streets of Canada’s normally placid capital, snarling traffic and forcing businesses to close due to security concerns. . Demonstrations of solidarity have spread to several Canada-US border crossings.

The move comes a day after authorities reopened the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ont., to Detroit. The busiest land border crossing at the Canada-US land border had been partially blocked for nearly a week, forcing automakers to cut production all the way to Alabama.

“These barricades are doing great damage to Canada’s economy and our reputation as a reliable trading partner,” said Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Canada. American officials had urged their Canadian counterparts to come to grips with a situation that had left them on the hook.

On February 12, authorities attempted to lift a protest blockade near the Ambassador Bridge, a key trade corridor to Detroit. (The Washington Post)

The blockades began in protest against rules in both countries that prohibit unvaccinated truckers from crossing the border. But they’ve since attracted people with a host of grievances. Some want an end to all public health measures, which are mostly under provincial jurisdiction. Others are calling for the removal of Trudeau, who was re-elected in September for a third term.

It was unclear what effect the statement would have on the protesters who remained defiant despite previously being threatened with fines, jail time and the loss of their driving licenses. Over the weekend, protesters staged raucous dance parties in blocked streets and carried jerry cans of fuel as police stood wide apart.

A din of horns rang out in the chilly night sky after Monday’s announcement – a violation of an injunction banning honking.

Tamara Lich, one of the main organizers of the convoy, told reporters ahead of Trudeau’s announcement that they would remain “planted” on Parliament Hill until the warrants were lifted.

“There are no threats that scare us,” she said. “We will hold the line.”

The protesters’ press conference ended abruptly after reporters asked questions that a spokeswoman called “too aggressive”. Attendees shouted “get out” and “tell the truth” in the direction of several reporters wearing face masks in accordance with a provincial rule.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday he had negotiated a tentative agreement with Lich to move trucks blocking residential streets to the main road in front of Parliament. Prospects for a deal were thrown into doubt when Lich tweeted that there was no deal.

Some vehicles moved onto Wellington Street on Monday, but they appeared to have made the situation worse. Several trucks were parked side by side like sardines on the already congested streets, further complicating efforts to remove them. On other roads, vehicles clog every lane of traffic for several blocks.

Despite Ottawa declaring a state of emergency, protesters still gathered on February 12 to demonstrate against coronavirus restrictions. (Zoeann Murphy, Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Authorities said they needed more resources and are concerned about the potential for violence.

Underlining their concerns, authorities announced on Monday the arrest of 11 people and the seizure of firearms, body armor and a “large quantity of ammunition” in Coutts, Alberta, near one numerous partially blocked border crossings.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta said the group was “willing to use force against police if attempts were made to disrupt the blockade”. Officers seized 13 long guns, handguns, a machete and high-capacity magazines, police said. Sunday evening, according to the police, a large agricultural tractor and a semi-trailer tried to ram a police car.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that the province will suspend its vaccine passport on March 1 and accelerate its reopening plans by easing capacity limits for some indoor public places. Masking requirements were to remain in place.

Trudeau met with his cabinet on Sunday evening. On Monday, he met with the rest of the Liberal caucus and the provincial premiers. Premiers do not have veto power over the emergency declaration, but several have voiced their opposition, saying they don’t think it’s necessary and don’t want it imposed on their provinces.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters that invoking the law risked throwing “fuel on the fire”.

Canada’s Emergencies Act replaced the War Measures Act, a law controversially invoked by Trudeau’s father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, during a crisis with Quebec separatists in 1970 .

Freeland said financial institutions such as banks will have the power to freeze or suspend the accounts of persons suspected of involvement in the blockades without a court order and to temporarily cease providing financial services to them.

The country’s money laundering and terrorist financing rules will also be expanded to cover crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe and GiveSendGo and payment service providers that have been used to funnel funds, including cryptocurrencies, towards the protesters. Owners of trucks used in the blockades could also have their insurance suspended and their business accounts frozen.

“It’s about following the money,” Freeland said.

Officials here said a “significant element” in the United States was involved in financing and organizing the convoy. Trudeau said last week that at some sites nearly half of the donations came from Americans. He said Monday that Canadian border officials are turning away non-Canadians trying to enter the country to participate.

Bryan Pietsch in Seoul and Rick Noack in Paris contributed to this report.

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