‘Freedom Convoy’ protests persist in Ottawa, Alberta, B.C., as Trudeau invokes Emergency Act

Trudeau on Monday became the first Canadian leader to invoke the act, under pressure to quell the chaos that has spiraled from the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations against vaccine mandates and coronavirus restrictions.

The law, passed in 1988, will give police “more tools” to bring order to areas where public assemblies “constitute illegal and dangerous activities,” he said. Financial institutions, meanwhile, will get sweeping powers to halt the flow of funding to the Freedom Convoy protests.

Critics of Trudeau’s move quickly spoke out against the Liberal government. The nonprofit Canadian Civil Liberties Association said using the law, which gives the federal government broad powers, such as the authority to freeze financial accounts without court orders, was unjustified. “Emergency legislation should not be normalized. It threatens our democracy and our civil liberties,” it said in a statement.

Near a partially blockaded crossing in Coutts, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Monday night, two people were arrested after a truck nearly barreled through a checkpoint, swerving at the last minute. Earlier, authorities announced the arrest of 11 people there and the seizure of guns, body armor and a “large quantity of ammunition.”

Windsor Police have made 46 arrests and filed 90 charges since the beginning of demonstrations at the Ambassador Bridge, they said Tuesday. Forty-three people were charged with mischief over $5000 and 43 were charged with breach of a court order, police said. Thirty-seven vehicles were seized.

At the Surrey crossing, a police official told local media outlets, officers were trying “to ensure that we can reopen all critical infrastructure,” while anti-mandate protesters who camped nearby stood their ground. Police arrested more than a dozen people in Surrey overnight near the border crossing, a broadcaster in the province, Global BC, reported.

“This has gone on for far too long. … It’s time for people to go home,” Trudeau said when he declared the emergency measures. He pledged they would be time-limited and geographically targeted, adding that they were not being used to deploy the military. Ottawa’s police chief has said military aid might be necessary.

Despite Ottawa declaring a state of emergency, protesters still gathered on Feb. 12 to demonstrate against coronavirus restrictions. (Zoeann Murphy, Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Shannon Stubbs, a Conservative lawmaker who called Trudeau’s move a “serious blow to individual liberties,” said her party intended to debate it in Parliament. While the emergency declaration went into effect immediately, it must still get confirmation in parliament within seven sitting days.

In Manitoba, where protesters had clogged roads linking to North Dakota, the premier, Heather Stefanson, said the legislation should be applied proportionally, “in locations where it is truly needed.” While critical of disruptions at the U.S.-Canada border, Stefanson said law enforcement officials in her province were satisfied they had enough tools to maintain control.

Yet Ontario Premier Doug Ford welcomed action to stamp out unrest in his province, home to the nation’s capital, Ottawa, where protests against mandates and the Trudeau government have paralyzed daily life. In an announcement on Ontario’s lifting of restrictions, Ford also stressed the end of vaccine pass requirements in two weeks was not in response to the demonstrations.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, listed steps such as expanding money laundering and anti-terrorism powers that would seek to cut off financing to the protests, including from online crowdfunding. “Your corporate accounts will be frozen,” she said. “ … Send your semitrailers home.”

The announcement on the emergency powers followed weeks in which demonstrators in big rigs and other vehicles jammed streets in Ottawa, snarling traffic and forcing businesses to shut down. Solidarity protests spread to several U.S.-Canada border crossings, with people remaining despite threats of fines, prison time and the loss of their driver’s licenses.

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