Justin Trudeau will use rare Emergency Act to clear ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters

Invoking the Emergency Act will allow the federal government to tow vehicles and use the Mounties to repel protesters

Graig Graziosi
Monday 14 February 2022 20:30 GMT
Related video: Canada truck protest continues as Biden pressures Trudeau to end blockade
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will invoke the Emergency Act in order to stop the ongoing "Freedom Convoy" protesters who have caused massive congestion in Ottawa and temporarily shut down the Ambassador Bridge border crossing between the US and Canada.

The Associated Press reports that Mr Trudeau has largely rejected calls to use the military to clear the protesters but has said that "all options are on the table" to end the ongoing protests, which are now in their third week. Mr Trudeau said on Monday he planned to use the Emergency Act to respond to the ongoing demonstrations.

“Our government is prepared to do what is required to uphold the rule of law and to restore order in our communities and in particular to protect critical infrastructure, particularly at our borders,” Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said when asked Monday about whether the Emergencies Act should be invoked.

Invoking the Emergency Act allows the federal government to declare the protest in Ottawa illegal and clear it out through vehicle towing and using the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The act has only been used once in the past during a militant Quebec independence movement in 1970. At that time the act was known as the War Measures Act, a precursor to the modern Emergency Act.

Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of protesters have been a constant presence in Ottawa for the past two weeks. The largely right-wing protest is demanding the government rescind all coronavirus vaccine mandates and other virus mitigation efforts.

The protest began ostensibly as a so-called "trucker" revolt after a mandate requiring all cross-border truck drivers to be vaccinated was enacted. However, Canadian officials have shown that up to 90 per cent of the nation's truckers are already vaccinated.

Some of the protesters blocked major US-Canada border crossings, most notably the Ambassador Bridge which connects Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. The bridge was re-opened on Sunday after police cleared out the protesters with only a handful of arrests.

Canada's Royal Mounted Police reported that they arrested 11 people at the border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, who allegedly had a cache of guns and ammunition. That crossing has been blocked by protesters since late January.

It wasn't the first time during the protest that police seized weapons; law enforcement has confiscated long arms, handguns, body armour, a machete and a large quantity of ammunition and high-capacity magazines.

Police have been reticent to treat the protesters with too heavy a hand, saying there is a "willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade."

At least one incident has already occurred; at the Coutts border crossing, a group of protesters in a trailer and one driving a large truck tried to ram police vehicles on Sunday night. Those protesters then fled.

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