Ottawa: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked a previously unused emergency law to grant his government additional powers in response to the protests in Ottawa and across the country against Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
“The federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations,” Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa on Monday.
The Prime Minister vowed that the measures would be “time-limited, geographically targeted, reasonable and proportionate to threats they are meant to address,” however, was short on details about the scope of the emergency powers.
Earlier in the day, at least two provincial premiers demanded that the measures apply only in requesting jurisdictions. The declaration will remain in force for 30 days, effective immediately, according to Justice Minister David Lametti. Trudeau only highlighted that the federal government intends to designate certain settings and infrastructure, such as international border crossings and airports, as entities to secure and protect.
Furthermore, the country’s federal police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), will have the authority to enforce to enforce municipal laws. The Emergencies Act, which became law in 1985, is defined as a “urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature” that threatens the ability of the government to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada and endangers the lives, health and safety of citizens, does not entail a military deployment, Trudeau asserted.
The Trudeau government’s most forceful measure to quell the protests also allows it to expand anti-money laundering and terrorism financing rules to cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment services they use, such as cryptocurrencies, and authorizes Canadian financial institutions to temporarily cease providing financial services in instances where the provider suspects that an account is being used to fund the protests.
The declaration is being met with some resistance, with at least four premiers speaking out against Trudeau’s decision and official opposition Conservative Party interim Leader Candice Bergen calling it “concerning.” However, the pronouncement is expected to hold up with New Democrat Party (NDP) Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party often sides with the governing Liberals’ initiatives, expressing support for the Prime Minister’s decree.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the move has failed to meet the legal test. “The federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act. This law creates a high and clear standard for good reason: the Act allows government to bypass ordinary democratic processes. This standard has not been met,” the association said in a tweet.
The wave of protests across Canada began in mid-January, with thousands of truckers and other demonstrators converging upon Ottawa to express strong opposition to vaccine mandates for truckers crossing the US-Canada border.
The protest has since evolved into an anti-government demonstration, with various groups uniting in opposition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leading to blockades of several critical arteries, such as land border crossings between the United States and Canada, most notably the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.