PM Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act for 'illegal' blockades

Emergencies Act invoked

UPDATE 1:50 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has invoked the Emergencies Act to bring to an end antigovernment blockades he describes as illegal and not about peaceful protest.

Trudeau says the act will be used to protect critical infrastructure such as borders and airports from the blockades, and is creating time-limited powers that do not already exist.

That includes giving banks the power to suspend or freeze accounts of blockade supporters without a court order, and force crowdfunding platforms and cryptocurrencies to follow anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland also says companies with trucks involved in the illegal blockades will have their corporate bank accounts frozen, and their insurance suspended.

The government will also enable the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws.

This is the first time the Emergencies Act has been invoked since it came into force in 1988.

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will tell Canadians later today he is invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time as antigovernment blockades continue.

Trudeau consulted premiers about using the Emergencies Act earlier Monday about the use of the act, which could give the federal government temporary and extraordinary powers to curtail the demonstrations. That followed an urgent meeting with his cabinet Sunday night.

Trudeau was set to appear at a news conference later Monday alongside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti. They were to be joined by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

The plan to invoke the Emergencies Act was confirmed by two sources with knowledge of the matter, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Not every premier is on board with the idea.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson all said Monday they do not think the added powers are needed in their provinces.

Opposition Conservative MP Michael Barrett says there are many questions about whether using the Emergencies Act is truly necessary.

Barrett says Trudeau was slow to act in the first place and now wants to use the "biggest hammer" the federal Liberal government has, which should give Canadians pause.

The MP say the never-before-used legislation carries many implications for civil liberties.

Barrett says he wants to know what rationale Trudeau is using to invoke the act and pointed out Ottawa's mayor is still asking for more police resources.

UPDATE 11:10 a.m.

Invoking the Emergencies Act could allow the federal government to forbid more large trucks from rolling into the gridlocked area around Parliament Hill.

Security expert Wesley Wark says declaring a public order emergency under the never-used law would give the government power to control streets near the Hill now jammed with vehicles.

Wark, a senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, says it means the government could prevent travel in and out of that protected zone.

The Emergencies Act also permits the regulation or prohibition of any public assembly expected to lead to a breach of the peace.

Philip Boyle, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo who studies public safety, says in such a scenario the RCMP would likely be responsible for establishing checkpoints and regulating assembly in the downtown Ottawa area.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is consulting the premiers about using the federal emergency law as antigovernment blockades immobilize downtown Ottawa and cause havoc at certain border crossings with the United States.

ORIGINAL 8:50 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is consulting the premiers about using the Emergencies Act as antigovernment blockades continue to paralyze Ottawa and shutter multiple border crossings with the United States.

Trudeau met with his cabinet for an urgent meeting Sunday night and is on a phone call with provincial and territorial premiers today.

A source aware of the planned conversation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, confirms the prime minister is talking to the premiers about using the legislation as the Emergencies Act's criteria requires.

Trudeau also briefed his caucus early this morning in a virtual meeting held two days before the Liberals' regularly scheduled Wednesday gathering.

The Emergencies Act allows a government to invoke temporary measures, including barring people from gathering or travelling to certain locations, to protect national security, public order and public welfare.

It has never been used before. Trudeau consulted the premiers about using it in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago, but has said repeatedly it was not needed because the powers to address the pandemic were already in place.

The Emergencies Act replaced the War Measures Act in 1988 and is more limited in what it can do, including requiring parliamentary oversight. All measures invoked under the Emergencies Act must also comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The War Measures Act was used three times, including in both the First World War and Second World War, and during the FLQ crisis in Quebec in 1970.

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