‘Keeping Canadians safe': Is Canada right invoking Emergencies Act over Freedom Convoy?
- On January 23, 2022, a Canadian truckers group “Freedom Convoy” protested against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers starting their trek in Vancouver to reach the capital city of Ottawa on January 28, 2022. By February 9, 2022, the group was holding daily demonstrations calling for “all vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions [to be] lifted.”
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enacted the “never-used” Emergencies Act to attempt to halt protests by the Freedom Convoy on February 14, 2022. If passed by Parliament, the government would be able to stop travel, require essential services, and potentially call on the military. Trudeau stated, “This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s job and restoring confidence in our institutions.”
- On February 7, 2022, Trudeau tweeted, “Canadians have the right to protest [...] They don’t have the right to blockade our economy, or our democracy, or our fellow citizens’ daily lives.”
- The Freedom Convoy 2022 noted, “We are taking our fight to the doorsteps of our Federal Government and demanding that they cease all mandates against its people” on their Go-FundMe page that has amassed $7 million CAD in donations.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada announced a traveler vaccine mandate on January 13, 2022, asserting several service providers, including truck drivers, “will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated [...] for entry into Canada.”
While many of the truckers, protestors, and supposedly aggrieved individuals who have brought Ottawa and other Canadian cities to a standstill for the past several weeks would like to convey their actions as peaceful protests and expressions of free speech, the fact of the matter is these protests have gotten completely out of hand and can no longer be protected by the Canadian right to free expression. The protests have brought trade to a halt, made transportation of goods impossible, and made the lives of those living in the area miserable. The right to free expression simply does not allow one to infringe on the basic liberties of everyone else as a result of disruptive behavior. Further, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows the government to limit free speech when it becomes dangerous, such as in extremely disruptive circumstances like these. The necessity of this was made acutely clear following the arrest of eleven individuals associated with the Freedom Convoy, who were in possession of a large cache of weapons, ammunition, and allegedly the will to use them against police.
As Prime Minister Trudeau explained, the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act was made in consultation with provincial leadership, meaning this is not some heavy-handed federal government crackdown but rather a necessary step, taken with input and cooperation from local leaders to resolve an untenable situation. Local residents and larger businesses who have suffered from the protests have asked the government to intervene. The government has rightly invoked the act with geographic and 'time limited' parameters, clearly a smart, limited, and necessary action.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have taken the unusual step of enacting the country's Emergencies Act as a means for attempting to quell the truckers convoy that has established itself in Ottawa. The Emergencies Act, which has been on the books since 1988, has never been invoked. It allows the government to 'take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times' to deal with an emergency.
In a national address on Monday, Trudeau said without a hint of irony, 'This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions.' For the past two years, the Canadian government has made it a point to effectively destroy jobs, damage the economy, and trample on civil liberties in the name of COVID 'safety.' Few things could damage Canadians' faith in their institutions more.
Make no mistake, this is an 'emergency' created entirely by the Canadian government. It was totally avoidable. The bar to invoke the act is supposedly set quite high. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others have argued, the effects of the trucker protests do not meet the standard to have invoked the Emergencies Act.
As other countries are relaxing or outright ending their COVID mandates due to rapidly falling infection rates, Canada doubled down on the vaccine mandates for truckers. In an effort to strong-arm the truckers, the government has made itself look both weak and tyrannical, unwilling to give up the power it grabbed that forced Canadians into lockdowns, masking, isolation, and making daily, routine activities illegal during COVID.