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Trudeau invokes emergency powers to starve protesting Canadian truckers of funds

Prime Minister acted after concluding that law enforcement could not cope with the protesters, especially in Ottawa, where police have largely stood and watched truckers and demonstrators bring the city to a standstill.

Truckers and their supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Ottawa
Demonstrators gather on Parliament Hill as truckers and their supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Ottawa on February 12, 2022.
BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS
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OTTAWA — Canada is planning to impose emergency measures not used for more than 50 years to cut off funding for truckers responsible for nationwide protests that have gridlocked the nation's capital for weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday became only the second Canadian leader in peacetime to invoke the Emergencies Act, which gives Ottawa broad powers to end three weeks of protests across the country that have hit cross-border trade, angered the United States and brought the center of the capital to a halt.

"This illegal occupation needs to end ... the measure of success will be, can we get our supply chains back? Can we end the disruption to livelihoods of people who rely on trade to the United States?," Trudeau told reporters.

Trudeau acted after concluding that law enforcement could not cope with the protesters, especially in Ottawa, where police have largely stood and watched truckers and demonstrators bring the city to a standstill.

As part of the Act, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a slew of measures to choke off the truckers' funding, saying they could lose their commercial licenses, insurance and access to bank accounts.

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"I suspect following the money and then turning the money off is probably a good strategy and not one that's easily done ... temporary short-term measures that wouldn't normally be acceptable can be put in place," Jack Lindsay, department chair for applied disaster and emergency studies at Brandon University in Manitoba.

"I imagine this will start of week full of political discourse over whether the government overstepped or not."

Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, said he backed Trudeau's decision.

The last leader to invoke such measures was Trudeau's father, Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who clamped down in 1970 after a splinter group of militant Quebec separatists kidnapped a provincial minister and a British diplomat.

But whereas he had broad support, four provinces opposed Monday's move on the grounds they can cope with the protests.

Police in Alberta, one of the unhappy provinces, said on Monday they had arrested 11 people and confiscated a large number of guns. Members of the group had vowed to resist attempts to end a nearby border blockade, authorities said.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association came out against the government's decision Monday, saying the standard for invoking the Emergencies Act "has not been met."

The Act exists for situations that seriously threaten "the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada" and that "cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada," it said in a statement.

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(Reporting by David Ljunggren; additional reporting by Nichola Saminather and Anna Mehler-Paperny; editing by Stephen Coates.)

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