Canadian Prime Minister revokes emergency powers enacted to shut down freedom convoy

international politics, Politics

Danielle O’Brien, Editor

On Feb. 14, 2022, in a 185 to 151 vote, the Emergencies Act was approved in the Canadian Parliament marking the first time in Canadian history in which these powers were invoked. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked these emergency powers for the first time due in part to the demonstrations taking place along the northern board outside of Canada’s capital of Ottawa which blocked an estimated $500 million a day of cross-border trading. The “freedom convoy” was a group of truckers protesting against Canada’s national vaccine mandate. The emergency powers allotted the Canadian government the power to arrest protestors of the convoy. What has made the enactment of these emergency powers (the likes of which have since been revoked) so controversial was that it broke up demonstrations which is the right of Canadian citizens to perform. Nevertheless, Trudeau asserted in his enactment of the emergency powers that these demonstrations were “no longer a lawful protest at a disagreement over government policy” but rather “an illegal occupation” as public protests such as blockades and or occupations constitute illegality in Canada. The blockade did have a surprising effect on the automotive industry for the time that it was in place.

 One of the key points connecting the North American and Canadian border, the Ambassador Bridge, was also choked by the convoy. As a result, essential automotive parts which were being sent from Detroit to Ontario through the bridge were inaccessible due to the convoy. Trudeau enacted a two-day state of emergency in Canada on Feb 15. escalated the tensions of wrapping up the demonstrations as protestors who refused to disperse after the enactment of the emergency powers were threatened with vehicle seizures, fines of around $80,000 USD, imprisonment of up to a year, and suspension of commercial licenses. 

The emergency powers allotted the Canadian government the power to cut off the group’s finances which worked more efficiently to strangle the protests. Trudeau’s finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, announced at the present conference on Feb. 14. Under the Emergencies Act, crowdfunding platforms that have been upholding these protests must be registered with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC). This aspect of the emergency powers came as the convoy had large financial support through a GoFundme page of more than $8 million, the profits and accessibility of which were thus halted by GoFundme under the powers. The freedom Convoy also tried to access financial support through bitcoin, however, an estimated $3.8 million in virtual currency was also frozen under the emergency powers. 

As of Feb. 23, with Canadian police reporting that the state of emergency powers allowed them to arrest over 200 demonstrators with 400 criminal charges being issued in total, Prime Minister Trudeau rescinded the emergency powers, concluding that “the federal government will be ending the use of the Emergencies Act. We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are now sufficient to keep people safe.” Americans especially livid about the vaccine mandate claim that the application of these types of powers towards protests was an abuse of Canadian emergency powers on the prime minister’s end.

Interestingly, over 90 percent of Canada’s truckers are fully vaccinated. The nation’s transport minister, Omar Alghabra, has said that Canada’s main trucking association denounced the protests. Nevertheless, Canada’s enactment of its emergency powers for the first time in its history to address a protest over vaccine mandates may serve as a comment on today’s political atmosphere.

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