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Justin Trudeau Invokes Emergency Powers in Effort to Stop Protests

Trudeau's government has declared the ability to freeze bank accounts and suspend the rig insurance of truckers involved in the Freedom Convoy

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked emergency powers, giving his government wide-ranging ability to restore order in the wake of the Freedom Convoy protests.

Canadian truckers traveled from across the country in mid-January to Ottawa, where they gridlocked the city for roughly three weeks. The truckers are demonstrating against government overreach, COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and degradation of personal freedom. 

“These blockades are illegal, and if you are still participating, the time to go home is now,” Trudeau said in his public statement on Feb. 14.

Canada’s Emergencies Act gives Trudeau 30 days of expanded power. Under the law, he is permitted to prohibit public assembly, travel, and the use of specified properties.

The law can be invoked during four public emergencies — welfare, public order, international, and war. Trudeau would likely invoke the act under the public order emergency standard.

Lawful protests do not qualify as one of the defined emergencies unless they are classified as a threat to the nation’s security. This could be “espionage or sabotage,” “foreign-influenced activities,” “threats or use of acts of serious violence for political, religious or ideological objectives,” or “covert, unlawful acts intended to undermine or overthrow the constitutionally established government,” per the BBC. The outlet notes “it is so far unclear which scenario Mr. Trudeau would rely on to justify the use of the Emergency Act — none of these four scenarios have been clearly present in Ontario.”

The Prime Minister said the invocation will be “time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.”

Trudeau’s government plans to tow away vehicles that impede essential services. He will also use the expanded authority to freeze the personal and corporate bank accounts of convoy participants as well as suspend the insurance on their rigs.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who also serves as the finance minister, added that the federal government will target crowd-funding sites that facilitate donations to the truckers through broader anti-money-laundering regulations.

“Consider yourselves warned,” Freeland said. “Send your rigs home.”

In a statement released following Trudeau’s announcement, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the truckers’ protest did not meet the Emergencies Act’s standards set for invocation.

The organization quoted the law, pointing out that it exists solely for “the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada” and allows only for actions that “cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.” 

“The Emergencies Act is there to address these kinds of extreme threats to Canada, not to protect the economy,” CCLA said. “Governments regularly deal with difficult situations, and do so using powers granted to them by democratically elected representatives. Emergency legislation should not be normalized. It threatens our democracy and our civil liberties.”

Trudeau did not specify when the regulations would go into effect.

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