Trudeau says emergency powers needed to break up convoy blockades | Police News

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his decision to invoke emergency powers to disperse anti-vaccine protesters who blocked Canada’s border crossings with the United States and occupied the capital earlier this year.

Trudeau, testifying before an independent commission of inquiry in Ottawa on Friday, said it was up to him and his cabinet to determine whether the threshold had been met to declare a “public order emergency,” which is required to invoke the Emergencies Act.

He said his government had examined whether the so-called freedom convoy posed a threat to the security of Canada and whether it was involved in activities that posed a “serious threat of violence” to achieve its political or ideological goals. .

‘There was no sense that things were dissipating,’ Trudeau said, pointing to the presence of weapons at one Alberta border blockade, the use of children as ‘human shields’ at another protest website and the “militarization” of convoy vehicles.

“We couldn’t say there was no risk of threats of serious violence, serious violence,” Trudeau said. “We were seeing things getting worse, not things getting under control.”

Friday marks the last day of hearings for the Public Order Emergency Commission, which started last month. The panel heard from convoy organizers, Canadian politicians, Ottawa residents, police officers and national security officials.

The committee was tasked with examine the circumstances which led Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act on February 14 in response to the convoy, organized by far-right activists.

Convoy participants converged on downtown Ottawa in late January to protest a vaccination mandate for truckers crossing the Canada-US border. Anti-vaccine truckers and their supporters have also called for an end to all COVID-19 restrictions and for Trudeau to step down.

Participants occupied the streets of downtown Ottawa for several weeks, sounding their horns and disrupting everyday life while others erected blockades at border crossings in the provinces of Ontario and Alberta.

The decision to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time since it took effect in 1988, has sparked concern from civil rights groups and other observers who have questioned whether Canada has met the strict legal threshold necessary to invoke the measure.

Others questioned whether it was necessary to use the law or whether the authorities were unwilling to use other tools already at their disposal to end the protests.

The move gave the government sweeping powers, including the ability to prohibit any public assembly “which could reasonably be expected to lead to a breach of the peace” and to restrict access to specific areas. .

A truck parked in downtown Ottawa during the Freedom Convoy on February 5, 2022 [Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images via AFP]

The head of Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told the commission he supported the use of the Emergencies Act and advised Trudeau to invoke it , Canadian media reported this week.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also testified Thursday that the Canadian government was concerned about the economic effects of the convoy movement.

She said US President Joe Biden’s economic adviser requested a call with her just days before the Emergency Measures Act was invoked to talk about border blockades between the US and Canada, reports Canadian media.

“It was a dangerous time for Canada, I felt,” Freeland testified, as reported by CBC News. “That conversation was pivotal for me. And that was a moment where I realized that as a country, somehow, we had to find a way to end this.

But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has raised concerns since the emergency measure was first invoked, said Thursday that “‘economic harm’ is not a ground for invoking the Emergency Measures Act”.

“We have real questions about why the normal, pre-existing legal avenues were not used to resolve the issues instead of invoking the Emergencies Act,” said Cara Zwibel, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program. of the association, to Al Jazeera before the commission’s first hearing in October. .

On Friday, Trudeau said the use of the law was aimed at bolstering the ability of authorities not only to remove blockades and occupations of convoys, but also to ensure that protesters did not return. He argued that this helped prevent potential violence and keep people safe.

“I am absolutely, absolutely calm and confident that I made the right choice,” Trudeau said.

The commission has until February 6, 2023 to submit a final report to the Canadian government, including any recommendations.

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