Canada: PM Justin Trudeau says 'emergency not over' after blockades

Canada's parliament has voted to extend emergency powers for police.

Published : Feb 22, 2022 17:11 IST

Trucks and trailers were towed away this weekend after weeks of occupying central Ottawa.

Trucks and trailers were towed away this weekend after weeks of occupying central Ottawa.

Canadian lawmakers voted on February 21 night to extend emergency powers that police can invoke to break up blockades by protesters against COVID-19 restrictions. The country's House of Commons voted 185 to 151 in favour of extending the powers.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier on February 21 that he would continue to use emergency powers to stop the "dangerous and unlawful" protests that choked the streets of Ottawa for weeks and created havoc for one of the country's major trade arteries. "Right now... people [are] out there indicating that they are ready to blockade, to continue their illegal occupations to disrupt Canadians' lives. We feel that this measure needs to remain in place," he said. Trudeau was speaking to reporters for the first time since authorities broke up the long-standing blockade after he invoked the country's Emergencies Act for the first time since it became law in 1988.

The Canadian capital was thrust into the spotlight after convoys of long-haul truckers and their supporters descended on the city on January 29 to protest a COVID vaccine mandate for their profession. Although 90 per cent of Canada's truckers are vaccinated, and both major trucking unions disavowed the protest, the movement managed to keep Ottawa at a standstill for much of February and clog trade routes, blocking a bridge for days between the Canadian city of Windsor and the U.S. city of Detroit. The protest was also criticized for providing a platform for conspiracy theorists and far-right ideologies.

State of emergency headed to a vote

Later on February 21, Canada's Parliament will vote on whether to extend the state of emergency for a further 30 days. Trudeau stressed his government did not want to use the measure but felt it had been boxed into a corner. "After weeks of dangerous and unlawful activities, after weeks of people being harassed in the neighborhoods, [and] after evidence of increased ideologically motivated violent extremism activity across the country," local authorities needed "more tools to restore order," he said. Critics of Trudeau have called the move heavy-handed, and he has been sued by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union. In response, the prime minister has argued that the movement was co-opted by dangerous foreign elements.

Trudeau said that "a flood of misinformation and disinformation washed over Canada" during the protests, including from foreign sources, and the blockades and occupations "received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canada's democracy." Canadians have every right to disagree with him, Trudeau added, "but you can't harass your fellow citizens who disagree with you. You can't hold a city hostage. You can't block a critical trade corridor and deprive people of their jobs."

es/fb (AFP, Reuters)

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