Canada’s Trudeau defends use of emergency powers to end Freedom Convoy protests

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau On Friday, he said he was confident he had “made the right choice” in invoking historic emergency powers earlier this year to end Freedom Convoy protests against Canada’s COVID-19 warrants.

Trudeau defended his actions during testimony before a commission investigating his use of the Emergencies Act to end the protest by truckers who bottled Canada’s capital of Ottawa for weeks in January and February. The Prime Minister said he had no choice but to appeal to emergency powers on February 14 after deeming a plan presented by the police insufficient to end the week-long protest.

“It wasn’t that they just wanted to be heard. They wanted to be obeyed,” Trudeau said of the protesters, according to Reuters. “I am absolutely, absolutely serene and confident that I made the right choice in accepting the summons.”

Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history at the February Freedom Convoy demonstration in the capital Ottawa. In doing so, he granted the federal government temporary powers to crack down on truckers and others protesting COVID-19 vaccination mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions and to freeze the bank accounts of those suspected of supporting the convoy.

The emergency powers were lifted on February 23.

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A Freedom Convoy protester holds a ‘Hold the line’ sign while dancing in Ottawa, Canada.
(Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testifies before the Public Order Emergency Commission public inquiry on November 25, 2022 in Ottawa.  The Commission heard Trudeau defend the rarely used wartime measures, which were invoked to unseat a protest led by truckers in February 2022 after weeks that paralyzed Ottawa and disrupted trade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testifies before the Public Order Emergency Commission public inquiry on November 25, 2022 in Ottawa. The Commission heard Trudeau defend the rarely used wartime measures, which were invoked to unseat a protest led by truckers in February 2022 after weeks that paralyzed Ottawa and disrupted trade.
(DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Trudeau’s actions were very controversial, and civil liberties advocates questioned whether the circumstances of the protest necessitated its extreme response. Lawyers for the convoy and others said Trudeau ignored a plan prepared by Ottawa police and argued that emergency powers were not needed to end the protest, according to Reuters.

As required by law, an independent commission of inquiry has been formed to investigate the Prime Minister’s actions and submit a report to the the canadian government detailing his findings. The report is due February 20, 2023. Trudeau was the last witness to be called to testify.

During his testimony, the prime minister said the protests posed a serious threat of violence and he accused local police of coming up with a plan that “was not even in the most generous of characterizations a plan” to make facing blocked streets, Reuters reported. .

Other testimonies and documents obtained by the investigation revealed that US officials had lobbied the Canadian government to end protests and lift blockades at border crossings between the United States and Canada.

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White House economic adviser Brian Deese.

White House economic adviser Brian Deese.
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

“They are very, very, very concerned,” Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote in an email to her staff after a Feb. 10 phone call with White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Reported Policy.

“If this isn’t resolved within the next 12 hours, all of their northeast auto plants will shut down,” Freeland added in his email.

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg contacted Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra the same day Deese spoke with Freeland, according to the report, and Buttigieg pushed for “a plan to resolve” the border blockades.

Alghabra told the commission that Buttigieg made the “unusual” call.

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White House aides also reportedly contacted Trudeau’s staff, ahead of a Feb. 11 phone call between the prime minister and President Biden.

During that call, Trudeau reportedly informed the president that his government had a plan to end the protests and lockdowns.

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.

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