Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared an emergency Monday to put an end to truckers’ and others’ crippling demonstrations against Canada’s COVID-19 regulations, laying out preparations to not only haul away their trucks but also to strike at their bank accounts and livelihoods.
“These blockades are unlawful, and if you’re still involved, now is the time to go,” he said.
Trudeau ruled out employing the military when he invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, which provides the federal government extensive authority to restore order.
Instead, his administration threatened to haul trucks away to keep key utilities operating, to freeze truckers’ personal and business bank accounts, and to stop their rigs’ insurance.
“Think of yourself as forewarned,” added Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Return your rigs.”
The government will also widen its anti-money-laundering legislation to target crowd-funding platforms that are being used to promote the unlawful blockades, according to Freeland, who is also the finance minister.
Trudeau hasn’t said when the additional crackdowns will start. He did say, though, that the emergency measures will be “time-limited, regionally focused, appropriate, and commensurate to the risks they are intended to address.”
Hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters in trucks and other vehicles have been clogging the streets of Ottawa, the capital, and besieging Parliament Hill for more than two weeks, railing against vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 precautions, as well as condemning Trudeau’s Liberal government.
Members of the self-styled Freedom Convoy have also blockedaded several US-Canadian border crossings, though the busiest and most important — the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit — reopened on Sunday after police arrested dozens of demonstrators and ended a nearly week-long siege that had disrupted auto production in both countries.
“This is the largest, greatest, most severe test Trudeau has ever faced,” Wesley Wark, a national security specialist and professor at the University of Ottawa, said.
According to Wark, using the Emergencies Act would empower the government to declare the Ottawa demonstration unlawful and sweep it out by towing automobiles. It would also allow the federal police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to be used more effectively by the government.
In the face of government pressure, one of the demonstration organizers in Ottawa promised not to back down.
“There are no dangers that will make us afraid.” Tamara Lich stated, “We will hold the line.”
Cadalin Valcea, a Montreal truck driver who has been protesting for more than two weeks, said he will only go if compelled: “We just want one thing: to end this lockdown and these limitations.”
Before announcing the crackdown, Trudeau met digitally with the leaders of the country’s provinces.
Doug Ford, the Conservative premier of Ontario, which encompasses Ottawa and Windsor and is Canada’s most populous province, indicated support for emergency measures, saying, “We need law and order.” “Right now, our country is in jeopardy.”
Other provincial leaders, on the other hand, advised the prime minister against taking such a measure, warning that it may exacerbate an already grave situation.
“At this time, it would be detrimental to the social atmosphere.” There’s a lot of pressure, and I believe we need to be cautious,” Quebec Premier François Legault remarked. “Political division would be exacerbated.”
Right-wing radicals and armed individuals have backed the protests in Canada, while Fox News stars and conservatives like Donald Trump have encouraged them on in the United States.
Conservatives lobbied Trudeau to simply repeal the pandemic mandates.
“He’s sparked protests around the country, and now he’s falling behind in the polls, urgently attempting to salvage his political career.” “The answer is right in front of him,” opposition Conservative member Pierre Poilievre, who is competing for party leadership, said.
Millions of dollars have been donated to assist the demonstrations, with a large portion coming from the United States.
According to an Associated Press investigation of the data, hackers who presumably penetrated one of the fundraising websites, GiveSendGo.com, published a file online that showed a count of over 93,000 donations totalling $8.4 million through Thursday.
Approximately 40% of the funds raised came from the United States, while slightly more than half came from Canada.
In other news, the Mounties claimed they detained 11 people after learning about a stash of firearms and ammunition at the blockaded border crossing at Coutts, Alberta, near Montana.
A tiny group within the demonstration was believed to be “ready to use force against the police if any efforts to dislodge the roadblock were attempted,” according to police. Long firearms, pistols, body armor, and a huge quantity of ammunition were confiscated by authorities.
Protesters in a tractor and a heavy-duty truck tried to smash a police car near Coutts on Sunday night, according to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Some protestors, he claimed, want to “go in a very dangerous and dark route.”
Authorities have been hesitant to take action against the demonstrators in recent weeks. Local politicians blamed a paucity of police officers and concerns of violence, while provincial and federal authorities disagreed on who was responsible for putting an end to the turmoil.
In 1970, Trudeau’s late father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, employed an older version of the Emergencies Act, known as the War Measures Act, to cope with a violent Quebec independence movement.
Similar convoys have been organized in France, New Zealand, and the Netherlands as a result of the demonstrations. Truck convoys may be in the works in the United States, according to US authorities.
Invoking emergency powers would send a message to Canadians and allies such as the US, as well as the rest of the world, who are “wondering what the heck Canada has been up to,” according to Wark.
Also on Monday, Ontario’s leader stated that from March 1, the government will no longer demand evidence of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms, or athletic events. The omicron variant’s increase of instances has reached a pinnacle in Canada.
“We’re going this way because it’s the safest option.” “Today’s statement is made despite, not because of, what’s going on in Ottawa or Windsor,” Ford said.
Late Sunday night, the Ambassador Bridge, which transports 25% of all trade between the two countries, reopened to traffic. On both sides of the border, the disruption led GM, Ford, Toyota, and other manufacturers to close operations or reduce output. Some of them are still in the process of resuming full production.
Residents fed up with government inactivity have been enraged by the siege in Ottawa, which is around 470 miles (750 kilometers) away. They claim that demonstrators who have parked their vehicles bumper to bumper on the streets have harassed and intimidated them.
“It’s a tough situation.” What’s going on makes me mad. This isn’t the United States of America. “This does not reflect us,” says Colleen Sinclair, an Ottawa counter-protester.
As the omicron surge subsides, several of Canada’s COVID-19 regulations, such as mask requirements and vaccination passports for entry into restaurants and cinemas, are being lifted.
Although Canada’s pandemic limitations are significantly harsher than those in the United States, Canadians have mostly backed them. The great majority of Canadians have had their vaccinations.