While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history Kamloops’ MP said he needs more time to digest the legislation before taking a position on the measure.
Trudeau made the announcement Monday afternoon (Feb. 14), describing the blockades as illegal and not about peaceful protest. He said invoking the act is being done to curb pandemic protests and border blockades ongoing for weeks in response to COVID-19 mandates —
Trudeau said the measures being brought in will give police “more tools to restore order in places where public assemblies can constitute illegal and dangerous activities, such as blockades and occupations as seen in Ottawa, the Ambassador Bridge and elsewhere.”
He said these tools include more power to impose fines or imprisonment.
The government will use the act to force towing companies to remove big rigs and other vehicles blocking highways and other critical infrastructure, and establish zones where public assembly is not allowed, such as at airports and border crossings. The act also requires banks to suspend or freeze accounts suspected of supporting the blockades, including those belonging to companies whose trucks are part of the convoy. Those trucking companies will also have their insurance suspended.
The act also forces crowdfunding platforms and cryptocurrencies to follow Canada’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.
A leaked document detailing the names of those who have donated to the cause includes 126 Kamloops and area residents who collectively gave $39,000.
The government will enable the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws through the act, as well.
“We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue,” Trudeau said, noting the scope of the measures will be time-limited and targeted to specific locations of the country. He said they will be proportionate to the threats they are meant to address, adding the act does not involve bringing in the military.
This is the first time the Emergencies Act has been invoked since it came into force in 1988. It replaced the War Measures Act and has two key differences — invocation of the act must be reviewed by Parliament and any temporary laws made under the act are still subject to the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms.
Parliament now has seven days to decide whether to approve the government’s move to invoke the emergency measures and Trudeau’s Liberal minority government will require help from the opposition. If the House and Senate vote to approve, the emergency measures are in effect for 30 days. If the motion is defeated, the Emergencies Act is revoked.
On Monday, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party would be willing to back the move if it means ending the protests.
The government is invoking the act under the public order section, meaning they believe the blockades are a threat to national security.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Frank Caputo has not said whether he supports the government invoking the Emergencies Act.
“Unfortunately, there is more to digest before I can give you a position on the Emergencies Act,” he told KTW via text message. “I am sorry that I cannot further comment, but will be sure to contact you when I can.”
Caputo previously told KTW he was reviewing the act more thoroughly and wants to consider the parameters of Trudeau’s proposal. Caputo also said he is considering what could justify enabling the Emergencies Act that can’t be done already under current laws.
“I really want to flesh this through because this is a historic moment and, when we vote on this type of thing, we need to make sure we do it right,” Caputo said.
— with files from the Vancouver Sun