Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday declared a national public emergency so as to legally justify the use of force in order to end protests against his anti-COVID-19 restrictions.
This extreme resource had last been used by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau -Justin's father- during the so-called October Crisis in 1970, when a Canadian politician and a British diplomat were kidnapped by a terrorist group known as the Quebec Liberation Front. And before that it was during the two world wars.
Demonstrations, largely headed by truck drivers who opposed vaccination and perennial testing when carrying goods across the US border, have paralyzed trade at the country's capitall Ottawa as well as all exchanges with Canada's only mainland neighboring country.
Under Trudeau's measure, the Government may now temporarily suspend civil liberties to restore public order. But Parliamentarian approval is needed within a week for the decision so stand.
The protests began on January 29 when hundreds of lorry drivers convened in Ottawa to show their rejection to Trudeau's vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate as well as other pandemic restrictions, in addition to other policies of Trudeau's administration.
Protests are hurting our economy and endangering public safety, Trudeau told a news conference. We cannot allow these dangerous and illegal activities to continue.
The so-called Freedom Convoy caused millions in losses to the two neighboring countries and especially affected the automotive industry.
These blockades are illegal, and if you are still participating, the time to go home is now, Trudeau said. The Prime Minister invoked the 1988 Emergencies Act, which allows the federal government to override the authority of Canada's provinces. He also said the new emergency measures will be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.
An earlier version of the act has been used in 1970 after a militant group of Quebec separatists kidnapped a British diplomat and a provincial Cabinet minister.
Canadian police cleared a convoy of vehicles blocking the Ambassador Bridge connecting Canada and the United States between Windsor and Detroit after the province of Ontario declared a state of emergency to break up the demonstration. Convoys have blocked several smaller border crossings with the United States.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford Monday said he would lift several pandemic restrictions in the province, but claimed he was not bowing to pressure from demonstrations. Among his measures is the lifting of a proof of vaccination requirement in two weeks, earlier than originally scheduled. Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave, we are able to fast-track our reopening plan, Ford said.
The Canadian protest movement has been mirrored in other countries, such as Israel, New Zealand, the Netherlands. Belgium and France while there was already a conflict involving truckers trying to cross from Argentina into Chile as the latter tightened up its sanitary protocols, causing long delays which severely affected services from all of Mercosur exporters trying to reach ports on the Pacific shore.
In Ottawa, the ranks of protesters swelled to what police said was 4,000 demonstrators. The city has seen that on past weekends, and loud music played as people milled about downtown where anti-vaccine demonstrators have been encamped since late January.
Trudeau has so far rejected calls to use the military, but had said that all options are on the table to end the protests that have affected the economy on both sides of the border. Trudeau has called the protesters a fringe of Canadian society.
Ottawa police said in a statement late Saturday that a joint command center had now been set up together with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They said that would beef up enforcement capabilities that had been limited by safety concerns — arising from aggressive, illegal behavior by many demonstrators — limited police enforcement capabilities.
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