Will Trudeau invoke emergency powers to stop protests?
Source: AP News
The government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed whether to invoke emergency powers Monday to quell the protests by demonstrators who have paralyzed Ottawa and blocked border crossings in anger over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
For the past two weeks, hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters in trucks and other vehicles have clogged the streets of Ottawa, the capital, railing against vaccine mandates and other virus precautions and condemning Trudeau’s Liberal government.
Members of the self-styled Freedom Convoy have also blockaded various U.S.-Canadian border crossings, though the busiest and most important — the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit — was reopened on Sunday after police cleared out the last of the demonstrators and broke the week-long siege that had disrupted auto production in both countries.
In recent days, the prime minister rejected calls to use the military but said “all options are on the table” to end the protests, including invoking the Emergencies Act, which gives the government broad powers.
“Our government is prepared to do what is required to uphold the rule of law and to restore order in our communities and in particular to protect critical infrastructure, particularly at our borders,” Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said when asked Monday about whether the Emergencies Act should be invoked.
Over the past weeks, authorities have hesitated to move against the protesters around the country. Local officials cited a lack of police manpower and fear of violence, while provincial and federal authorities disagreed over who had responsibility for quelling the unrest.
“This is the biggest, greatest most severe test Trudeau has faced. And if using the Emergencies Act they fail to clear the protest, I think he’s done,” said Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa professor and national security expert.
Invoking the Emergencies Act would allow the federal government to declare the Ottawa protest illegal and clear it out by such means as towing vehicles, Wark said. It would also enable the government to make greater use of the Mounties, the federal police agency.
An earlier version of the Emergencies Act, called the War Measures Act, was used just once during peacetime, by Trudeau’s late father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to deal with a militant Quebec independence movement in 1970.
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