Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued an emergency order to end the blockades caused by “Freedom Convoy” nationwide anti-vaccine mandate protests, which have shut down key bridges and U.S. border crossings — marking the first time a Canadian prime minister has invoked the law meant for national emergencies.
Trudeau invoked the 1988 Emergencies Act, which will give authorities tools and resources to prevent illegal protests, Trudeau said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
Trudeau said the act will not be invoked to call in the military and that it will not be used to suspend Canadian’s rights to freedom of speech or peaceful assembly.
Blockading streets and critical infrastructure – like border crossings – is “a totally different thing [and]
it has to stop,” said Trudeau.
Canada’s Parliament has a week to approve Trudeau’s move to make it official, and will have the power to revoke the emergency measures at any point.
The protests are largely unpopular across Canada, with a recent poll showing that only 20% of respondents support the truckers.
Canada’s 1988 Emergencies Act allows the federal government to implement temporary measures that supersedes province-level government orders during any national emergency that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians.” Trudeau is the first prime minister to invoke the law, though his father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, used an earlier version during the October Crisis, when Quebec separatists kidnapped two high-ranking officials.
Starting late last month, demonstrators first descended on Ottawa to protest Canada’s vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border, but the rallies have since expanded to include the country’s other vaccine restrictions. Much of Ottawa remains virtually shut down as hundreds of truckers and other protesters continue to occupy the area around Parliament Hill for the third week. A blockade of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit – the busiest trade route in North America – lasted six days before ending Sunday after police cleared out protestors. The Pacific Highway border in British Columbia and smaller crossings in Alberta and Manitoba remain closed. The closed borders have affected U.S.-Canada trade, particularly the American auto industry, much of which is based in Detroit. Canada has faced pressure to control the blockades from U.S. officials like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.