Canada’s PM seeks emergency powers to tackle ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests – media

Justin Trudeau is reportedly seeking to invoke the never-before-used Emergencies Act to deal with Covid demonstrations gripping Canada

Canada’s prime minister is planning to invoke the Emergencies Act – never-before-used legislation granting the government extra powers to handle crisis situations – to tackle the Freedom Convoy demonstrations, broadcaster CBC reported on Monday, citing anonymous sources.

Justin Trudeau spoke about invoking the Act to quash the ongoing ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests, during a meeting with his Liberal Party caucus. According to the report, Trudeau said that he had no plans to deploy the Canadian military to the streets, should the Act be invoked. The premier is expected to address the issue with provincial premiers later in the day.

The legislation provides the government with extra powers to tackle national emergencies, defined as an “urgent and critical situation,” enabling it to “take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times.” The Act can be invoked when Canada faces a critical situation “of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it,” relating to public welfare and order, as well as to war and international emergencies.

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A protester waves a Canadian flag in front of parked vehicles in Ottawa. © AP / Justin Tang
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The emergency status takes effect immediately after being declared by the cabinet, though the government still has to get approval from the parliament within seven days. Should either of the legislature’s chambers vote against it, the declaration of emergency will be revoked.

It’s the second time Trudeau has reportedly considered invoking the Emergencies Act during his time in office. Back in 2020, he discussed taking such a step over the Covid-19 pandemic with the provincial premiers, who, however, opposed the move.

Adopted in 1988, the Emergencies Act has not yet been used by Canadian authorities. The Act replaced the 1914 War Measures Act, which was primarily used to expand the government’s powers during wartime. That legislation was used in peacetime only once in 1970, when the father of the current prime minister, then-PM Pierre Trudeau, invoked the Act amid the government’s standoff with Quebec separatists.

Canada has been gripped by mass protests over vaccine mandates for weeks. The Freedom Convoy demonstrations kicked off late in January in response to Trudeau’s demand for unvaccinated truckers to quarantine after coming back into Canada from a state in neighboring USA. The movement escalated, with protesters increasingly blocking vital routes across Canada and border crossings with the US. The activists’ demands have also grown, ranging from calls for the revocation of any coronavirus-related restrictions, to Trudeau’s resignation.

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