Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked emergency powers in an attempt to quell protests against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations that continue to grip the nation’s capital, drawing the ire of some provincial leaders.
Trudeau pledged at a press conference on Monday that use of the powers under the Emergencies Act – which gives the federal government broad authority, including the ability to prohibit public assembly and travel – “will be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address ”. He also said the military would not be called in to deal with blockades.
Financial institutions may be directed to regulate or ban “the use of property to fund or support illegal blockades”, the prime minister said.
Local law enforcement agencies have been acting to keep the peace within their jurisdiction. Despite their best efforts, it is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law, ”he added.
Chrystia Freeland, finance minister, said Canadian banks and other financial service providers will be able to immediately freeze or suspend accounts without a court order if they are being used to fund blockades. She also warned companies that authorities will freeze their corporate accounts and suspend insurance if their trucks are being used in the protests.
“Freedom Convoy” protests have spread across Canada in recent weeks, from Ottawa to the Ambassador Bridge – an important trade route that links Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit, Michigan – and another border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, piling pressure on Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister.
A weeklong blockade at the Windsor-Detroit bridge rippled across the automotive industry, forcing General Motors, Ford and Toyota to scale back production last week as they faced a shortage of parts stemming from the logjam. The blockade was lifted on Sunday.
Leaders of some Canadian provinces pushed back against Trudeau’s plan following a conference call with the prime minister earlier on Monday.
“I was very clear: we do not want a federal state of emergency on the territory of Quebec,” Prime Minister François Legault said.
“Now is not the time to put oil on the fire,” Legault added. “I can understand that after more than two weeks, the federal government and the Ontario government want to put an end to this blockade, which has nearly become a siege. But we do not have these problems in Quebec. ”
Jason Kenney, Alberta’s premier, said he told Trudeau that invoking emergency powers “could make the situation even more complicated”.
Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe also said: “if the federal government does proceed with this measure, I would hope it would only be invoked in provinces that request it”.
The Emergencies Act has never been used before. Its predecessor, the War Measures Act, was used only once during peacetime by Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, to quell a violent revolt by Quebec separatists in 1970.
Meanwhile, several regions in Canada have rolled back some pandemic-era curbs, following a decline in reported Covid-19 infections, including Ontario, the most populous province.
“Like all of you, I’ve waited a long time for this news, but please never doubt that the steps we took together, as difficult as they were, were absolutely necessary and saved tens of thousands of lives,” said Doug Ford, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier
Addressing the protesters who have occupied the capital for 18 days, Ford said: “It’s unacceptable that they have a million people held hostage right now, and again. . . we will not tolerate it. ”
“My message to the protesters, occupiers: it has to come to an end,” he said, adding they would “lose your [commercial] license for life, lose your car indefinitely. We’re going to throw every tool we’ve got at you ”.
Police cleared the last protesters from the Ambassador Bridge on Sunday, after a judge ordered an end to the blockade and Ford threatened hefty fines and a year in jail for anyone blocking access to roads and bridges.
Matt Moroun, chair of Detroit International Bridge Company that owns the bridge, cheered its reopening and called on authorities to develop a plan that would “protect and secure all border crossings in the Canada-US corridor and ensure that this kind of disruption to critical infrastructure will never happen again ”.
While GM said its production had returned to normal, all three lines at Toyota’s plants in Canada remained closed on Monday, and only some lines are running at three of its US factories that were hit by shortages.
“We expect related disruptions to continue this week, and we’ll make adjustments as needed,” Toyota said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Steff Chavez in Chicago