Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act to crack down on Freedom Convoy protests against vaccine mandates and Government overreach over COVID-19. It is the first time the extreme legislation has been triggered since it was enacted in 1988, and it empowers banks to freeze the personal accounts of protestors without the permission of a court. The Government is also extending “terrorist financing” rules to cover the protestors. BBC News has more.
Mr Trudeau said the scope of the measures would be “time-limited”, “reasonable and proportionate”. The military will not be called to assist.
Without a court order, banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests.
Mr Trudeau faces widespread criticism for his handling of the protests.
“This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs,” he said.
He said the police would be given “more tools” to imprison or fine protesters and protect critical infrastructure.
The extraordinary move by Mr Trudeau comes as demonstrations across Canada enter their third week. It is his most aggressive move since the protests began.
On Sunday, law enforcement cleared anti-mandate protesters at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor – a critical pathway for Canada-US trade – after a week-long stalemate.
Hundreds of protesters remain in Canada’s capital city.
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for a state of emergency in the province in response to the protests.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests without any need for a court order.
Vehicle insurance of anyone involved with the demonstrations can also be suspended, she added.
She said they were broadening Canada’s “Terrorist Financing” rules to cover cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms, as part of the effort to clamp down on the protests.
“It’s all about following the money,” she said.
The Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, demands a high legal bar to be invoked. It may only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians”. Lawful protests do not qualify.
Speaking on Monday, Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti said the Government believes these conditions have been met, saying the current crisis is national in scope and exceeds the power of existing laws and Canada’s provinces to respond.
Mr Lametti and Mr Trudeau stressed that the enormous power of the legislation would be applied temporarily, and in a highly specific manner. But the decision has already been met with criticism.
The BBC draws attention to the fact that last year, Trudeau angered the Indian Prime Minister by supporting farmers in India who blocked major highways to New Delhi. “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest,” he said at the time.
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