Faced with a protesting convoy of truckers all across the country, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in history, giving the government an extensive list of new powers to try and quell the disruptive vaccine mandates protests.
The act will grant the government far greater powers than what is normally considered legal for the next 30 days. It will allow officials to prevent large gatherings in certain areas, bar donations from reaching any protesters, punish companies with trucks implicated in the protests, and allow officials to use private tow trucks to remove the large vehicles from blocking roads. It may be used to clear blocks of protesters from crowded areas, where they are causing most unrest, or block truckers from traveling through border crossings.
"It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement's ability to effectively enforce the law," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference Monday afternoon.
The government is not expected to use the military against protesters. "We are a long way from having to call in the military," Trudeau said in a statement, BBC News reports.
Passed in 1988, the Emergencies Act is only to be used in extraordinary situations of domestic or international emergencies, and provides the largest increase in temporary powers of any law in Canada. It took over from the War Measures Act, which granted similar powers in times of war, which was used three times: during the First World War, the Second World War, and the October Crisis. Since its beginning, the Emergencies Act has never been used.
Truckers began protests over vaccination mandates on January 9, 2022, demonstrating against the requirement to be fully COVID vaccinated when crossing the Canadian border. The protests became a blockade, preventing trade routes from continuing through major cities and often keeping residents awake throughout the night with a barrage of sound. The so-called "Freedom Convoy", which is now made up of mostly people who are not professional truck drivers, has now spread to other cities and into the USA, protesting both mandates and the governments’ COVID-19 measures as a whole.
These blockades have since been branded "illegal", and substantial donations were discovered going to the convoy that were sourced outside Canada. Shortly before making the announcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta seized an entire truck full of firearms alongside 11 individuals connected to a small organized criminal group operating within the convoy.
In response, Trudeau now believes the disruption to be justification for invoking the Emergencies Act in the regions of Ontario and Quebec, and the PM must consult the premiers of each region before putting the decision to parliament. The premier of Quebec, Francois Legault, does not wish for the act to be used in his province, reports the BBC.