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Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau to invoke Emergencies Act as blockades drag on

By Mia Rabson, Stephanie Taylor, Laura Osman and Mike Blanchfield   

General Government

OTTAWA (CP) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will tell Canadians later Monday he is invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time as antigovernment blockades continue.

Trudeau consulted premiers earlier in the day about the use of the act, which could give the federal government temporary and extraordinary powers to curtail the demonstrations. That followed an urgent meeting with his cabinet Sunday night.

The plan to invoke the Emergencies Act was confirmed by two sources with knowledge of the matter, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Trudeau is to appear at a news conference later Monday alongside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti. They were to be joined by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

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During question period Monday, Blair didn’t confirm the use of the act but said the government is doing whatever is necessary to bring the illegal blockades to an end.

“What this country is facing is a largely foreign-funded, targeted and co-ordinated attack on critical infrastructure and our democratic institutions,” Blair said, in response to a question about using the act.

“The illegal border crossings are clearly intended to harm Canada and hurt Canadians, and our government, Mr. Speaker, is prepared to do what is necessary to restore order and to protect Canadian interests.”

Convoy organizer Tamara Lich told a news conference on Monday that protesters would “hold the line” no matter what the prime minister did.

“We are not afraid,” she said.

The premiers in Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all said they didn’t want the act used in their provinces, but didn’t oppose it being used elsewhere, particularly Ontario.

“If the federal government does proceed with this measure, I would hope it would only be invoked in provinces that request it, as the legislation allows,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said the blockades in Winnipeg and at the Emerson, Man., border crossing are different than those in Ottawa and the one that had closed the Ambassador Bridge crossing in Windsor, Ont., until police broke it up Sunday.

“In my view, 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.

British Columbia’s solicitor general, Mike Farnworth, said his province supports Trudeau’s use of the act “to deal with this situation back east.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said it’s not necessary for Alberta and that invoking it for his province could actually inflame tensions.

Likewise Interim federal Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said Monday she wonders if using the act would escalate the situation further. The Conservatives are pushing a motion to have Ottawa lift all of its COVID-19 mandates, including for people entering Canada.

Most restrictions are enacted at the provincial level, including mask mandates, gathering limits, business closures and vaccine passports. Ontario Monday became the fourth province to signal an end is coming to vaccine passports, and to show a plan to lift most other restrictions.

The Emergencies Act would be the latest move by different levels of government to get a handle on the demonstrations that began when a convoy of trucks and other vehicles began rolling into Ottawa’s downtown on Jan. 28.

An Ontario judge granted a temporary injunction against relentless honking last week, and another Ontario judge Friday issued an injunction to stop the blockade that was closing the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ont.

Police did move in to end that blockade Sunday and traffic was flowing Monday, but highways leading to crossings in Emerson, Man., Coutts, Alta., and Surrey, B.C., all remain blockaded.

RCMP arrested 11 people at the Coutts blockade early Monday and seized 13 long guns, handguns, body armour, a machete, a large quantity of ammunition and high-capacity magazines.

On Monday, another Ontario judge granted a request by the City of Ottawa for an injunction against multiple bylaw infractions including excessive noise, idling, setting off fireworks and open air fires.

The injunction, which does not have an end date, was designed to give the police and bylaw officers an extra tool to enforce city bylaws, lawyers acting for the city of Ottawa said Monday.

In keeping with Lich’s remarks that protesters would “hold the line,” there was no sign any of the injunctions or word of the coming Emergencies Act were having any effect on protests in Ottawa.

Truck horns were blaring. Protesters were dancing, eating and even lifting weights at an outdoor gym set up using red plastic jerry cans to hold the weight bar, beside a sign designating the space “Muscle Beach.”

Banners waving on ropes tied to the gates around Parliament Hill claimed Ottawa residents needed to remember this is “also our home” and welcomed people to the “segregated citizens zone” of the “Freedom Convoy Communauty” (sic).

Police were also seen escorting multiple big rigs onto Wellington Street in front of the Parliament Buildings, from other parts of the city in what appeared to be an effort to remove them from local residential streets.

The relocation came after discussions Sunday between Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and some of the protest leaders. But other convoy leaders took to social media to decry the trucks’ movement, including Pat King, a Canada Unity leader who in December was heard on social media saying the only way to end the COVID-19 restrictions was going to include bullets.

“Stand your ground,” he yelled on a video posted online Monday, telling truckers they should not move their rigs.

Peter Unger who was flipping burgers at an encampment on Lyon Street on his 17th day demonstrating in Ottawa, said he hadn’t been told to move and had no plans to.

Unger also said there was no need to invoke the Emergencies Act.

“There is no emergency here. All (Justin Trudeau) needs is to come out and talk to us. We’re willing to listen,” Unger said.

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