Ottawa: Protesting truckers in Canada showed no sign of backing down, despite a newly invoked state of emergency granting wide new powers to end their weeks-long protest over Covid rules.
A day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, the truckers appeared undeterred — if anything hardening their stance to move their big rigs into positions tougher to dislodge, with signs that read: “Hold the line.”
Trudeau’s move marks only the second time in Canadian history such emergency powers have been invoked in peacetime.
Authorities have until now proven unable to end the trucker movement, which has paralyzed the Canadian capital Ottawa for more than two weeks, snarling border trade with the United States and spawning copycat protests abroad.
Facing intense criticism over the failure to dislodge the protesters, Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly abruptly resigned on February 15.
The “Freedom Convoy” started with truckers protesting against mandatory Covid vaccines to cross the US border, but its demands have since grown to include an end to all pandemic health rules and, for many, a wider anti-establishment agenda.
Trudeau said that he invoked the Emergencies Act to give the federal government extra and “temporary” powers to handle the issue
The Emergencies Act, which replaced the War Measures Act in the 1980s, provides special powers to respond to emergency scenarios affecting public welfare (natural disasters, disease outbreaks), public order (civil unrest), and international emergencies or war emergencies.
“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law. This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions,” he said.
The Act will ensure that essential services, such as towing services to remove trucks, are rendered, the PM noted.
It will also be used to protect critical infrastructure such as borders and airports from the blockades and the government will enable the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enforce municipal bylaws, and he dismissed the involvement of military force.
As the truck convoy protest organizers have secured millions of dollars from crowdfunding sites, the measures also include giving banks the power to suspend or freeze accounts of blockade supporters without a court order, and force the platforms and cryptocurrencies to follow anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.