Although the Ambassador Bridge from Michigan to Ontario was cleared over the weekend, trucker protests remain at several other border crossing areas, as well as in Canada's capital city of Ottawa. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finally invoking federal emergency powers to deal with the trucks blocking commerce and disrupting cities across the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will invoke emergency powers in response to protests in Canada’s capital city that have entered their 18th day.
Trudeau will inform provincial premiers of his decision to use the Emergencies Act during a virtual meeting Monday morning, according a government official speaking on condition of anonymity before the announcement. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. first reported the news. The law gives the federal government extraordinary powers, including the right to prohibit travel from or within any specified area and to requisition property it deems necessary for managing the situation.
The act also allows the government to order the provision of “essential services” by any person and to impose emergency fines or imprisonment for violating orders. It has never been used since being enacted in 1988 and is meant for an “urgent and critical situation, temporary in nature, that endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians,” according to a government memo.
It doesn’t mean Trudeau has decided to call in the military to deal with the protests. The prime minister has repeatedly said he thinks that’s a bad idea.
Trudeau’s government has been facing increasing pressure to step in, after protests over vaccine mandates and other Covid-19 restrictions spread last week to the bridge that carries a quarter of Canada’s commerce with the U.S., its largest trading partner.
Ontario declared an emergency on Friday, and police began clearing protesters at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario on Saturday morning. The span was blocked for six days and was finally reopened Sunday night.
Protests against vaccine rules, which include hundreds of semi trucks parked in the streets of Ottawa, swelled into the thousands over the weekend. But truckers were met Sunday with counter-demonstrations from residents who are angry that parts of their city have been paralyzed, with businesses closed and streets impassable, since the trucks arrived on Jan. 28.
The federal government’s new powers are limited by Canada’s charter of rights and must be reviewed by elected lawmakers. A public inquiry be must held within 60 days after the emergency has ended, according to the legislation, and a report must be made to parliament within a year.
So the Trudeau government will be held accountable for invoking the law, but they were always going to be held accountable for what happened if they didn't step in and end the right-wing nonsense, which is going on its third week now.
What it means is that Canadian local, provincial, and federal police will be repeating what we saw on Saturday night and Sunday morning on the Ambassador Bridge: clearing and removal of those blocking bridges and crossing points, as well and clearing out the circus in downtown Ottawa.
I hope that nobody will be hurt as a result, but this is something that should have been done weeks ago.