Canada Invokes Emergencies Act in Response to ‘Freedom Convoy’ Protests

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By Kayla Wong, 2L

For the first time in history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for the enactment of Canada’s Emergencies Act to bestow the government added powers in times of national crisis. The recent call for emergency powers comes after protesters blocked a major international bridge for nearly a week. The Canadian Ambassador Bridge ties Windsor and Ontario to Detroit; experts estimate that approximately 10,000 commercial vehicles cross the bridge each day. Nearly 25% of trade between the United States and Canada crosses the Ambassador Bridge, at almost $360 million in cargo daily. While the blockade on Ambassador Bridge was fully dispersed due to a series of arrests, a Michigan-based consulting firm estimates that the closure cost automakers a total of $155 million in just one week—about $144.9 million of the loss is lost direct wages. While the bridge has now reopened for travel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still requesting additional governmental powers through the Emergencies Acts as the protestors, commonly referred to as the Freedom Convoy, continue with protests in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. 

The Freedom Convoy, consisting of thousands of trucks and other vehicles, started their protest on January 29 in Canada’s western provinces. Their goal was to reach Ottawa. Much of the convoy are truckers fighting a vaccine mandate that requires all truckers to be fully vaccinated when crossing the U.S.–Canadian border or they will face a two-week quarantine in their homes upon returning to Canada. While the Freedom Convoy is vocalizing their stance against the nation’s vaccine mandate, they have garnered support from thousands of Canadians who want an end to all COVID–19 preventative measures, including mask mandates and lockdowns. The Freedom Convoy state that they will remain in Ottawa until all mandates associated with COVID–19 are dropped, however long that may take. In addition to protests in Ottawa, crowds protesting the mandates have also emerged in other large Canadian cities and towns, such as Toronto, Quebec City, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. The Freedom Convoy now remains stationed near the area of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. To curb the protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asking Parliament to grant additional governmental powers under the Emergencies Act. 

The Emergencies Act is a temporary 30–day measure and requires consultation with the premier of any impacted provinces and territories before issuing a Declaration. Once a Declaration is issued, the motion must pass a vote within both parliamentary chambers: the House of Commons and the Senate. If the motion is rejected by either chamber of the bicameral Parliament, the motion is revoked. The Emergencies Act, among other things, allows the government to bar travel to or from specific areas and order the evacuation of people and parties from certain areas. Under the Act, banks have the authority to freeze accounts funding the demonstrations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his intention in invoking the Emergencies Act is to restore the freedoms of residents of impacted communities, not to suppress peaceful protests.

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