Canadians react to Emergencies Act: Provinces oppose, while critics tell Trudeau it’s the ‘ultimate power grab'

·5 min read
Canadians react to Emergencies Act: Provinces oppose, while critics tell Trudeau it’s the ‘ultimate power grab'

For the first time in Canada's history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's federal government is enacting the Emergencies Act to bring the occupations and blockades in Canada to an end. There are six key measures that will be invoked:

  • Prohibiting and regulation public assemblies that breach peace and go beyond a public protest

  • Designating and securing certain places blockades are prohibited, including ports, border crossings, and Ottawa

  • Directing persons to render essential services to relieve impacts of blockades on Canada's economy, including tow trucks and their drivers, who will be compensated

  • Directing financial institutions to relieve the impact of occupations, including prohibiting the use of property to fund blockades

  • Enabling the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences

  • Imposing of fines or imprisonment for a contravention of orders under the Emergencies Act

"Occupying streets, harassing people, breaking the law, this is not a peaceful protest," Trudeau said on Monday. "At the border in different parts of the country, the blockades are harming our economy and endangering public safety."

"With each illegal blockade, local law enforcement agencies have been acting to keep the peace within their jurisdiction. Despite their best efforts, it is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law."

Trudeau also stressed what enacting the Emergencies Act will not do, while saying this will be "time-limited" and "geographically targeted."

We’re not using the Emergencies Act to call in the military, 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.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

"If you’re still participating, the time to go home is now."

When asked to justify increasing police powers when many have said they have failed to use the power they do have, the prime minister said "there will be time later to reflect on all the lessons that can be learned from this situation."

"Right now we are ensuring that local police of jurisdiction have both the legal authorities that they need to do their jobs but also the extra resources."

The declaration lasts for only 30 days, but federal officials said they hope to revoke it "much sooner." Parliament can also revoke the emergency declaration.

Financial implications of the Emergencies Act

The scope of Canada’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules have been expanded to cover crowd-funding platforms and the payment service providers used, and all forms of transactions, including crypto currencies. Canadian financial institutions have been directed to temporarily halt providing financial services where it is suspected an account is being used to further illegal occupations, from both personal and corporate accounts.

"If your truck is being used in these illegal blockades, your corporate accounts will be frozen," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, said. "The insurance on your vehicle will be suspended, send your semi-trailers home."

Conservative response

Following this announcement, interim Conservative leader, Candice Bergen, responded by saying her party wants to see "an end to the blockades" but there are concerns that the actions of Justin Trudeau will not do so in a way that is peaceful and in a way that "Canadians feel that they have been listened to, heard and respected by their prime minister."

"We have to take a look at what he's proposing and the rationale, and Conservatives will discuss it and make a determination in terms of whether we will support it or not," Bergen said. "At first blush, we are very concerned with what we see."

She highlighted provinces that have indicated they are not in support of invoking the Emergencies Act and said Trudeau will continually "stigmatize" Canadians he does not agree with.

"The prime minister had an opportunity to talk and to listen to people who he disagreed with and he refused to do so," Bergen said.

"[Trudeau] certainly didn't help the situation by calling them names, by saying that their opinions were not acceptable, that they were misogynists and racists. He continually escalated and inflamed the situation... He's done a dismal job managing this."

Canadians also responded to the announcement on social media:

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