Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken the step, previously unprecedented, of invoking the Emergencies Act to bust those who participate in anti-vaccine mandate protests.
Trudeau said that he does not see the military being deployed, and the scope of the measures would be limited by time as well as “reasonable and proportionate.”
As Trudeau would not need court orders under the Emergencies act, banks would be able to freeze the personal accounts of anyone participating in the protests against the vaccine mandate for truckers.
Still, hundreds of demonstrators are still occupying the Canadian city of Ottawa. Police cleared anti-mandate protesters on Sunday at the Ambassador Bridge, which is a crucial pathway for Canada-US trade, following a weeklong standoff.
The Emergencies Act, which was passed in 1988, requires a high legal bar in order for it to be legitimately invoked. Its language notes that it can only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians.”
Lawful protests do not qualify under the Act. But Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti argued that the conditions had been met, while speaking on Monday.
Still, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association disagreed with Lametti, saying that the move to invoke the Act “threatens our democracy and our civil liberties.”
As the protests began against the rule that truckers had to be vaccinated to cross the U.S.-Canada border, or quarantine after returning, has evolved into a general challenge to all Covid-19 restrictions on the basis of public health interest.
At a news conference on Monday, Trudeau said, “This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs.” He added that police would be given “more tools” to be able to imprison or fine protestors and protect infrastructure.