PM Justin Trudeau invokes powers last used by his father to battle Quebec separatists in 1970
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history on Monday, citing the threat of "Freedom Convoy" trucker protests in Ottawa and several border crossings in the US.
"This is not a peaceful protest," Trudeau said in a speech on Monday afternoon, adding that "illegal blockades" have been "disrupting the lives of too many Canadians."
After consulting premiers, government and opposition, "the federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act," Trudeau said, confirming media reports from earlier in the day that he would do so.
The measures will be "time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address," the PM said. It does not involve calling in the military, or suspending fundamental rights and freedoms.
"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions," he said. "We are reinforcing the principles, values and institutions that keep all Canadians free."
Trudeau noted that it was the first time a Canadian government has invoked the Emergencies Act, which was passed in 1988 to replace the War Measures Act of 1914. The WMA was used during both world wars to intern Canadians of German and Japanese origin and impose restrictions on the economy, among other things. It was most recently invoked in 1970 by Trudeau's father Pierre to crack down on Quebec separatists who had assassinated a lawmaker. Close to 500 people had been arrested on that occasion.
Thousands of Canadian truck drivers and their sympathizers have taken part in nationwide protests since January 22, with a "Freedom Convoy" driving across the country to picket the parliament in Ottawa starting on January 29. The protesters demand an end to Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates.
Trudeau has denounced the truckers as a "fringe minority with unacceptable views" and accused them of bigotry, racism, Nazism and violence, refusing to meet with them. Though several Canadian provinces have announced the end of pandemic restrictions, Trudeau is still refusing to lift the federal mandates.