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Ignoring Provincial Premiers, Trudeau Invokes Emergencies Act

Published: February 14, 2022
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens during the first North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) since 2016 in the East Room at the White House Nov. 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trudeau has taken the unprecedented step of invoking the Emergencies Act, granting his administration special powers to quash peaceful protesters in Ottawa and other parts of the country. (Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In a move unprecedented in Canadian history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act in the face of widespread protests that have erupted across Canada and in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. 

The act grants his cabinet the ability to take “special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s state-funded news agency reported. 

“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” Trudeau told a news conference Monday afternoon adding that the measures will be “reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.”

Reportedly, the measures allow the Canadian government to compel financial institutions to suspend any account for any reason if the institution thinks funds from the account are furthering the interests of entities deemed a threat to national security. 

The Emergencies Act was the replacement for the War Measures Act that Justin Trudeau’s father, Peirre Elliot Trudeau invoked in the 1970’s in the face of terrorist activities by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ).

Provincial premiers have come out in opposition to the move including the premiers of Alberta and Quebec, Jason Kenney and Francois Legault respectively. 

Legault said that he didn’t support a state of emergency in his province, telling Canada’s National Post, “I understand there is a particular problem in Ontario and in Ottawa, and we are ready to support what needs to be done by the federal and Ontario government as well as the municipal government in Ottawa, but we do not wish to have Emergency State in Quebec.”

Trudeau said that the act will be limited in “time, scope and geographical area” and that it is not being used to call in the military.

The premier of Manitoba, Heather Stefanson said using the act in her province would be “ill-advised.”

“The sweeping effects and signals associated with the never-before-used Emergencies Act are not constructive here in Manitoba, where caution must be taken against overreach and unintended negative consequences,” she said.

The Emergencies Act allows for four different types of emergencies: public welfare, public order, international and war emergencies however lawful protests do not qualify. It is unclear which type of emergency Trudeau is using to justify invoking the act however many assume it is under a public order emergency.  

The act grants the Trudeau government far-reaching powers including the ability to bar travel to or from specific areas or to order the evacuation of people and personal property from certain areas, not unlike the areas currently being occupied by protesting truckers in the parliament district of Ottawa.

The new powers the Trudeau government holds can even compel  companies to render essential services, “perhaps ordering tow-truck companies to lend their services and clear the roads of demonstrators and their vehicles,” the BBC reported.

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada blasted Trudeau’s move tweeting, “Trudeau will invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time since his father did so over 50 years ago, not because there is an emergency and a major threat to Canadians’ security, but because HE is losing face. And psychopaths hate that.”

Brian Peckford, former premier of Newfoundland and the only living signatory of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said at a press conference that the situation in Ottawa is peaceful and questioned Trudeau’s justification for invoking the act.

“Looking at the situation, especially as it relates to the Convoy 2022, which is here in Ottawa … is peaceful. The streets are clean, crime is down, since the truckers arrived,” Peckford said.

Peckford has sued the Canadian federal government for what he says are contraventions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a statement, Jay Cameron, Director at the Justice Centre Litigation said, “Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau used the War Measures Act in 1970 to deal with violence, kidnapping and murder committed by terrorists in Quebec. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is considering using the Emergencies Act to deal with bouncy castles and ball hockey,” adding that, “Peaceful protesters who feed the homeless, shovel snow, pick up garbage, dance in the streets, play street hockey, wave Canadian flags, sing the national anthem and set up bouncy castles for children do not ‘seriously endanger the lives, health or safety of Canadians,’ nor are these peaceful activities ‘of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it’,” the Epoch Times reported.