Justin Trudeau would seek to invoke the never-before-used Emergency Act to deal with Covid protests gripping Canada
Canada’s prime minister plans to invoke the Emergencies Act – a groundbreaking law giving the government additional powers to handle crisis situations – to combat the Freedom Convoy protests, the TV station reported on Monday. CBC, citing unnamed sources.
Justin Trudeau spoke about invoking the law to quash ongoing “freedom convoy” protests, during a meeting with his Liberal Party caucus. According to the report, Trudeau said he had no intention of deploying the Canadian military on the streets, if the law was invoked. The Prime Minister is expected to raise the matter with the provincial premiers later today.
The legislation gives the government additional powers to deal with national emergencies, defined as a “urgent and critical situation” allowing him to “take temporary special measures which may not be appropriate in normal times.” The Act can be invoked when Canada faces a critical situation “of such proportion or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of any province to deal with it”, relating to public order and welfare, as well as war and international emergencies.
The state of emergency takes effect immediately after being declared by the cabinet, although the government still has to seek parliamentary approval within seven days. If either legislative chamber votes against, the declaration of emergency is revoked.
This is the second time Trudeau has reportedly considered invoking the Emergencies Act during his tenure. In 2020, he discussed taking such a step on the Covid-19 pandemic with 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 War Measures Act 1914, which was primarily used to extend the powers of government in times of war. This legislation has only been used in peacetime once in 1970, when the current Prime Minister’s father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, invoked the law amid the government’s standoff with separatists Quebec.
Canada has been in the throes of mass protests against vaccination mandates for weeks. The Freedom Convoy protests began in late January in response to Trudeau’s demand that unvaccinated truckers be quarantined after returning to Canada from a neighboring U.S. state. The movement has intensified, with protesters increasingly blocking vital roads across Canada and border crossings with the United States. Activists’ demands have also increased, ranging from calls for the revoking of any coronavirus-related restrictions, to Trudeau’s resignation.
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