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'The job's not yet done': Blair says risk that prompted Emergencies Act still exists

Even after nearly 200 arrests made in Ottawa over the past couple of days in an effort to crack down on “Freedom Convoy” protesters, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says the job is “not yet done.”

Following a briefing with law enforcement officials on Sunday morning, the minister said threats that prompted the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act are ongoing.

“It's still clear that although they've made very significant progress, and we're pleased with the progress that they've made, the job's not yet done,” he said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period. “The reasons why we had to bring forward these measures, unfortunately, still exist.”

While calling the measures “effective” and “critical” in bringing protests such as the one in Ottawa under control, Blair also said many demonstrators remain active.

“Although most of the blockades have been removed, there are still very many people there who, quite frankly, insist on either being arrested or continuing in their illegal activities,” said Blair.

First invoked on Feb. 14, the Emergencies Act will continue to be enforced for 30 days unless parliamentarians vote to revoke it. The federal government is already facing obstacles from the opposition, with interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen stating the party would not support the motion allowing the federal government to enforce the Emergencies Act. However, the Conservatives would not be able to revoke the Emergencies Act without also obtaining votes from members of other parties.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also said the province will challenge the constitutionality of the Emergencies Act, after calling it “unnecessary” and “disproportionate.” However, a letter obtained by CTV's Evan Solomon revealed that Kenney's government had asked for federal assistance when convoy protesters blocked the U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta.

Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver sent the letter on Feb. 5, addressed to both Blair and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, requesting "federal assistance that includes the provision of equipment and personnel” in order to remove obstructions from the highway to ensure the free movement of people, vehicles, and goods and services.

According to Blair, the province was clear that the situation they faced “exceeded the capacity of the RCMP,” which was why the federal government included a provision in the Emergencies Act that orders tow truck drivers to move vehicles blocking roads.

“One of the challenges Alberta was facing is they couldn't get any tow trucks down to that site to remove those trucks,” said Blair. “We put that measure right in the Emergencies Act in direct response to their request but also the requests we received from Manitoba and Ontario.”

According to Blair, another crucial component of the Emergencies Act involves authorizing financial institutions to immediately freeze or suspend bank accounts affiliated with the protests without a court order. So far, at least 76 financial accounts have been frozen as a result of the new measures, representing about $3.2 million.

In terms of the scope of these new powers, Blair said they would be “focused” and “targeted,” while still compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“It will be subject, in part, not just a parliamentary oversight, but to judicial review,” said Blair. “There's a lot of safeguards in place.”

According to Blair, powers granted by the Emergencies Act will only be in place for as long as they are necessary.

“We will only keep these measures as long as they are required to do the job that we put them in place to do and so I believe it's a measured and proportionate response,” he said. “We would be very happy to end this as quickly as we can and we're going to continue to engage with our law enforcement officials and other officials right across the country.”

Still, debate on whether or not the Act will remain in effect continues on Monday, with a vote expected in the evening.

With files from Sarah Turnbull, Rachel Aiello and Tom Yun.



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