Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the unprecedented step on Monday of invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time in the 34 years since the law was passed.
“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” Trudeau told a news conference Monday afternoon.
He said the blockades that have choked off supply chains at key border crossings and have created havoc in Ottawa for the past two weeks are “no longer a lawful protest at a disagreement over government policy” but have instead become “an illegal occupation.”
“Right now the situation requires additional tools not held by any other federal, provincial, or territorial law. Today, in these circumstances, it is now clear that responsible leadership requires us to do this,” the prime minister said, calling the action a “last resort.”
Trudeau said the measures will be geographically targeted and “reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.”
Through deployment of the Emergencies Act, the government will now be able to:
- Enable the RCMP to have the jurisdiction to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offenses;
- Prohibit taking part in a public assembly where it’s considered a breach of peace and goes beyond lawful protest;
- Regulate the use of certain property, including goods used in blockades;
- Designate secure and protected places and infrastructure that are critical to the economy such as border crossings and airports;
- Compel those capable to render essential services; e.g., ordering tow truck drivers to remove vehicles blocking roads;
- Authorize financial institutions to essentially stop the financing efforts, including immediately freezing or suspending affiliated accounts without a court order; and
- Impose fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to five years on those who breach any of the above orders.
The government’s declaration of a public order emergency has immediate effect; however, the government still needs to go to Parliament within seven days to get final approval. Should either the Commons or the Senate vote against the motion, the emergency declaration would be revoked, otherwise, it will expire after 30 days. According to Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti, the government hopes the legislation can be revoked “much sooner” than that.