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Bringing minors to protests, supplying fuel can be prohibited under the Emergencies Act

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With the federal Emergencies Act now invoked, federal ministers say “the work begins now” to implement it, with a desire to not have another weekend of protests in the nation’s capital. This comes as the government has revealed part of their motivation for enacting the powers was out of concern for “serious violence” for “political or ideological” achievements.

“We now have the tools to do what needs to be done,” Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told reporters Tuesday following a cabinet meeting. “That work begins now, and we have to continue with that work until we get the job done.”

Not long after, addressing the latest steps—including publishing the order invoking the public order emergency to end the trucker protests and blockades—Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino indicated they’d like to see the now 19-day occupation ended this week.

“No one wants to see another weekend like the last three on Wellington Street. And I'm assured by my discussions with the police that they fully appreciate that, and we now depend on them to do the job,” he said during a press conference, noting that the RCMP and the OPP are assuming command and control over the enforcement operations in Ottawa.

Among what authorities can now prohibit under these emergency powers is:

  • bringing children under the age of 18 to participate in trucker convoy protests;
  • travelling to or from a protest site with the intention of taking part or offering support like supplying fuel;
  • travelling to Canada as a foreign national with the intention of participating in convoy protests;
  • taking part in so-called slow-rolling by motorists intent on impeding the free flow of traffic; and
  • crowdfunding sites have to register with a federal financial oversight body if they are in possession or control of any funds associated with the convoy.

Officials are also designating areas such as airports, ports, truck depots, hospitals, trade corridors, and international crossings as protected.

“These measures will be enforced today,” said a senior official briefing reporters on a not-for-attribution basis.

Over the last three weeks the anti-mandate and increasingly anti-government protesters have engaged in demonstrations at border crossings and around Parliament Hill, capturing international attention and costing tens of millions of dollars in policing costs, as well through interrupting trade, and prompting the shuttering of Ottawa businesses.

NATIONAL SECURITY JUSTIFICATION

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared the public order emergency on Monday, and according to the declaration made public on Tuesday, out of concern in part for the demonstrations being carried out alongside threats or acts of “serious violence against persons or property… for the purpose of achieving a political or ideological objective.”

“There is a state of emergency throughout the country justifying extraordinary measures on a temporary basis,” reads the document. 

Among other reasons given by the government for enacting the Emergencies Act:

  • The risk to Canada’s COVID-19 economic recovery and ongoing economic security;
  • The adverse effects to Canada’s relationship with its trading partners, particularly the United States;
  • The availability of essential goods and implications of supply chain disruptions due to continued border blockages; and
  • The potential for an increase in the level of “unrest and violence,” threatening the safety and security of Canadians.

These additional details on the rationale for enacting the powers were issued in a proclamation published through Order in Council, on Mendicino’s recommendation.

The document states that the public order emergency “exists throughout Canada,” but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the powers will be geographically limited to the regions that need them.

“This is something that is important for Canadians to know, that there will be consequences for people who are breaking the law and people who are supporting those who are breaking the law… People should go home,” said Trudeau on his way into question period on Tuesday, where he faced a flurry of questions from the opposition parties over the major step.

'QUICKLY OPERATIONALIZE'

Mendicino said Tuesday that the declaration will “enable the government to quickly operationalize and bring to life the words which appear in that declaration.”

While the Coutts, Alta. border blockade has been resolved after the RCMP seized a cache of weapons on Monday and arrests have been made elsewhere, a “cautionary tale,” said the public safety minister.

“Yesterday's arrests in Coutts should be a cautionary tale about what it is that we are precisely dealing with here, the seizure of a significant number of illegal firearms by a group that is very committed to the cause, is something that we need to be very sober about,” Mendicino said. “Now, as absurd and as outlandish as the claims may be of this group, one only has to survey the damage that has been caused over the last number of weeks.”

Meanwhile, the news of the new powers has not deterred protesters in Ottawa, where the local police chief resigned on Tuesday. This major development follows the federal government stepping in, in part to ensure what Mendicino has called a “lawless” situation lead by a “small organization with a very extreme ideology” in the nation’s capital is resolved.

“There's an important job yet to be done to restore order and provide effective policing services to the people of Ottawa,” Blair said.

With trucks now condensed more within the parliamentary precinct, participants remain largely dug-in and adamant they’ll hold their ground until the government capitulates and revokes all COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions, a step federal authorities have dismissed.

Asked Tuesday whether the government is anticipating having to use force to remove the protesters who remain intransigent in the face of multiple layers of injunctions and emergency orders, Mendicino said, “we certainly hope not.”

“The invocation of the Emergencies Act and the declaration that follows with it sends a very powerful message and hopefully a deterrent to rational and fair-minded individuals who may think that they're just participating in a peaceful protest, but are actually now co-mingled with something that is much more nefarious.”

During a police board meeting on Tuesday, interim Chief Steve Bell said he believes the service is now in a position to bring an end to the occupation, which board chair and city councillor Diane Deans referred to as a “carnival of chaos,” with 172 active criminal investigations but just 33 charges laid.

Police said that the number demonstrators had dwindled to 150 overnight, amid frigid temperatures, with still approximately 360 vehicles in the downtown core, down considerably from the estimated 4,000 vehicles present at the outset of the protest at the end of January.

'OTHER TEMPORARY MEASURES'

The cabinet order also offered a limited amount of additional detail as to which “special temporary measures” are being enacted under the Act.

Specifically, as announced on Monday, the federal government is:

  • Enabling the RCMP to have the jurisdiction to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offenses and allowing them to integrate into the operations of the local police of jurisdiction;
  • Prohibiting taking part in a public assembly where it’s considered a breach of peace and goes beyond lawful protest, including limiting the travel to, from, or within a specified area;
  • Regulating or prohibiting the use of certain property, including goods used to support the blockades and seeing corporate trucking insurance revoked;
  • Designating secure and protected places and infrastructure that are critical to the economy such as border crossings and airports;
  • Compelling those capable to render essential services to relieve the blockades with reasonable compensation, including “services related to removal, towing and storage of any vehicle, equipment, structure or other object that is part of a blockade anywhere in Canada”;
  • Authorizing financial institutions to essentially stop the financing efforts, including moving to freeze or suspend protest-affiliated accounts or assets and requiring crowdfunding platforms to report certain transactions; and
  • Imposing fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to five years on those who breach any of the above orders.

It also leaves open the nondescript and potentially wide-spanning potential for the government to enact “other temporary measures… that are not yet known.”

Senior officials said Tuesday that the compelling of tow truck drivers will address an element of the enforcement that’s been “impaired” to-date.

“We know that tow truck operators and companies have been either threatened or intimidated or in some instances cooperating with some of the truck convoy. So it has been very difficult for police to manage,” said an official. “I'm very comfortable in saying that, you know, through good dialogue and good communications, there will be agreement between the tow truck operators at this point.”

Facing questions about some concerns being raised that invoking the Act was an overreach, Justice Minister David Lametti said what the government is doing is “quite proportionate given the damage that these blockades are doing.”

Once a declaration of a public order emergency is issued, as it was on Monday, it is considered in effect, and unless the declaration is revoked or extended, it will expire after 30 days.

The government still has to table a motion in both the House and Senate to allow the two parliamentary bodies to confirm it, within seven sitting days, which Government House Leader Mark Holland said Tuesday morning is coming “imminently.”

The clock started ticking for this motion to be presented the moment the Act was put into force.

Both the House and the Senate have the power to revoke the declaration at any time prior to its expiration, as does the government.

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