Canada’s Trudeau invokes emergency powers to try to end protests

OTTAWA, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau activated rarely used emergency powers on Monday in a bid to end protests that have closed some U.S. border crossings and paralyzed parts of the capital.

Under the Emergencies Act, the government introduced measures to cut funding to protesters and took steps to strengthen provincial and local law enforcement with federal police.

“Lockdowns are hurting our economy and endangering public safety,” Trudeau said at a news conference. “We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue.”

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But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the government had fallen short of the standard for invoking the Emergencies Act, which aims to address threats to “the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity “, said the group.

The “Freedom Convoy” protests, launched by Canadian truckers opposed to a COVID-19 vaccination or quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, have drawn people opposed to Trudeau’s policies on everything from pandemic restrictions to a tax on the carbon. Protests by copycat truckers have also erupted in Israel, France, Australia and New Zealand.

Protesters blocked the Ambassador Bridge, a vital trade route between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, for six days before police cleared the protest on Sunday while others closed smaller border crossings in Alberta, Manitoba and in British Columbia. Protests in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, have entered a third week.

Protesters camping outside the Canadian parliament, some of whom want the prime minister to meet them, said the latest measures were excessive. “It’s an extreme measure that is not necessary,” said protester Candice Chapel.


Financial measures put crowdfunding platforms under terror finance scrutiny, allow Canadian banks to freeze accounts suspected of funding lockdowns and suspend vehicle insurance during protests, said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland .

“We are making these changes because we know these (crowdfunding) platforms are used to support illegal blockades and illegal activities that harm the Canadian economy,” Freeland said.

Canadian authorities said about half of the funding for the protests came from American supporters. The Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) last week froze two personal bank accounts that received C$1.4 million ($1.1 million) for the protests. Read more

A US-based website, GiveSendGo, became the main channel for getting money to protesters after consumer crowdfunding platform GoFundMe blocked donations to the group. Last week, an Ontario court ordered GiveSendGo to freeze all funds supporting the blockade, but it said it would not comply.

Amid criticism that the police approach to the protests has been too permissive, Trudeau will use federal agents to support provincial and local forces. “Despite their best efforts, it is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” he said.

In the western Canadian province of Alberta, police said they dismantled an armed group and were prepared to use violence to support a blockade at a border crossing with the United States. Read more

Canada’s Parliament must approve the use of the emergency measures within seven days, and the left-leaning New Democratic Party has said it will back Trudeau’s minority Liberal government to pass the measures.

Ontario, which declared a state of emergency on Friday, supported the decision. But the premiers of Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan opposed the plan. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the use of emergency powers risked adding “fuel to the fire”. Read more

Trudeau said the measures would be geographically targeted and time-limited.

Ontario said it would accelerate its plan to scrap vaccination proof requirements and lift pandemic-related capacity limits for many businesses, while Alberta ended its mask requirements on Monday. for schoolchildren. Read more

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Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Nia Williams in Calgary and Lars Hagberg in Ottawa; Written by Amran Abocar; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Paul Simao and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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