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Canada’s Trudeau triggers Emergencies Act to break blockades

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the military would not be deployed at this stage, but that authorities would be granted more powers to arrest protesters and seize their trucks./AFP
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Feb 15, 2022 - 01:15 AM

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Monday in a move designed to clear a blockade in the capital Ottawa and other areas in connection with trucker-led protests against COVID-19 health rules.

It is also aimed at preventing a recurrence of a blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, the main artery of trade between Canada and the US. The act is time limited, although how long it would remain in effect is not clear. It is also targeted to specific areas like the Ottawa blockade.

“This is about keeping Canadians safe,” Trudeau said in a nationally broadcast news conference, adding “we cannot and will not allow dangerous activities to continue.”

The act has never before been used, but an earlier version — in 1988, it replaced the War Measures Act — was invoked in 1970 by the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s father, who used it to quell a Quebec separatist organization that had kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner and Quebec Cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. The latter was later found dead.

Monday, Trudeau declared the Emergencies Act to deal with blockades by truckers and others who demanded the repeal of all government COVID-19 health measures. Border points have been disrupted in several provinces, including Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba.

But while his father brought in the army to deal with the Quebec threat and there were soldiers everywhere and tanks roamed the streets, Justin did not call up the Canadian Armed Forces, which he had said late last week was a last resort.

“We’re not using the Emergencies Act to call in the military,” Trudeau said. “We’re not suspending fundamental rights or overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“We are not limiting people’s freedom of speech. We are not limiting freedom of peaceful assembly. We are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally.”

While the Ambassador Bridge protesters were removed and the bridge reopened Sunday, the city of Ottawa, with a population of one million, remains paralyzed by demonstrators and hundreds of big rig transport trucks. The “siege” as it was called by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, is in its third week. Ford declared a provincial state of emergency, but it had no effect on the Ottawa situation.

The act is defined as a tool to deal with an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the live, health or safety of Canadians.”

It gives the government the right to enact “special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times.”

For example, under the act, the federal government can order tow truck operators in Ottawa to remove the parked trucks that have created havoc in the downtown. Towing companies had refused to do so, fearing reprisals. Trudeau made the decision after consulting with the provincial premiers and his caucus (elected Liberal members of parliament).

Meanwhile at the Coutts, Alberta US-Canada crossing blockade, police said Monday that they arrested 11 militant protesters and seized a number of weapons, including long guns, handguns, ammunition and body armor.

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