Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revoked Canada’s Emergencies Act, just nine days after invoking its special power so police could remove a three-week occupation of downtown Ottawa by opponents of vaccine mandates, as well as blockades of key U.S.-Canada border crossings.
“The situation is no longer an emergency: We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are now sufficient to keep people safe,” the PM told a news conference after the Cabinet approved the revocation. The revocation will become official when signed by the Governor General.
Police agencies from across Canada combined last weekend to remove the Ottawa occupation, making more than 170 arrests, meeting with some physical resistance and hauling away dozens of vehicles. A blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, was removed last week. The bridge carries a quarter of all traffic between the U.S. and Canada, and is vital to automobile plants on both sides of the border.
A large arms cache was discovered last week, as police acted to remove a blockade of trucks at Coutts, Alberta, a major crossing point for agricultural trade between the two countries. There were also brief closures at the Pacific Highway crossing, which carries commercial traffic between Surrey, British Columbia, and Blaine.
South-of-the-border supporters of the Ottawa occupation, notably Fox News commentators, raged when Trudeau evoked emergency powers on Feb. 14. Trudeau “suspended democracy and proclaimed a dictatorship,” said Tucker Carlson. He went on to say that the PM had “revoked civil liberties” of children brought by parents to the occupation and “authorized men with automatic weapons to haul them to jail.” As with much of what Carlson says, none of this was true.
Canada’s House of Commons debated the Emergencies Act on Monday, and approved Trudeau’s action by a 185-151 vote. The PM’s Liberal Party and the left-of-center New Democratic Party supported using the 1988 law, while opposition Conservative Party and Bloc Quebecois lawmakers voted in opposition. The Emergencies Act gave the government powers to freeze bank accounts and credit cards of protesters – including two leaders of the Ottawa occupations – and provided for an investigation of the most disruptive protest Canada has seen in decades. The probe will go on and is expected to last 60 days.
Groups of protesters remain in Ottawa, but downtown streets and business have reopened. In invoking the Emergencies Act, Trudeau explained: “As the weeks went by it became obvious that the provincial and local authorities needed more tools in order to enforce the law and protect Canadians. That’s exactly what the Emergencies Act provided. It was the responsible and necessary thing to do.”
In 1970, the PM’s father, then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, evoked a previous law called the War Measures Act after kidnappings by Quebec separatists of British trade commissioner James Cross and Quebec politician Pierre LaPorte, who was killed by his captors. What was he prepared to do? “Just watch me,” the elder Trudeau told a TV interviewer. Troops were deployed and homes searched.
The New Democrats were the only party to vote against invoking the War Measures Act. But they supported use of the Emergencies Act. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said it should be revoked as soon as possible. He voiced satisfaction Wednesday, saying: “We said from the beginning that it should be revoked as soon as it was no longer needed. We’re glad to see that has been done.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said sufficient “emergency tools” remain in place to deal with any revival of the anti-vaccination protests. The “Freedom Convoy” protests began as an action by some truckers – angered that proof of vaccination is required to enter Canada – but was embraced by a variety of anti-vaxxers and right-wing groups. South of the border, it was embraced by ex-President Donald Trump, who called Trudeau a “left wing lunatic” who “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates,” as well as by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. U.S.-based donors gave millions of dollars to support the protests.
The “Freedom Convoy” movement disrupted the opposition Conservative Party almost as much as residents of downtown Ottawa. Right-wing Members of Parliament met with and praised the demonstrators. As the protests grew on, however, interim party leader Candice Bergen (not the star of Murphy Brown) called for the demonstrators to go home. Still, far-right Conservatives opposed using the Emergencies Act. Days into the Ottawa occupation, the 119 MPs of the Conservative caucus voted to oust party leader Erin O’Toole, after his defeat at the hands of Trudeau in Canada’s national election last September.
As Trudeau revoked emergency measures, Leader Bergen tried to strike a critical note, saying: “Today’s announcement is proof that the Prime Minister was wrong when he invoked the Emergencies Act.”
The PM’s announcement came on a day when truckers in Long Beach, Calif., were launching a Washington, D.C.-bound convoy, designed to reach the U.S. capital in time for President Biden’s State-of-the-Union speech. A flat tire briefly delayed the sendoff, but it received ample coverage on Fox News.