Canada: Truckers protest against Covid restrictions
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The Canadian Prime Minister has taken the unprecedented step to crack down on the “Freedom Convoy” protests – carried out largely by truckers – which have engulfed the capital and US border for almost three weeks. Mr Trudeau said the scope of the measures would be “time-limited”, “reasonable and proportionate” and would not see the military deployed. On Monday he declared a rare national public order emergency to try and end the trucker protest.
This is the first time such an emergency has been declared in 50 years.
Under the public order emergency rules, banks and other financial service providers have the power to immediately freeze or suspend an account of anyone linked to the protest without a court order.
The Canadian Prime Minister has been accused of hypocrisy by Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale, the Head of Foreign Affairs for the Bharatiya Janata Party in India.
Dr Chauthaiwale pointed out that Mr Trudeau voiced support for farmers in India who blocked major highways to New Delhi for a year in 2021, saying at the time: “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest.”
The “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations began as a protest against the new Covid requirement for truckers to quarantine if they are unvaccinated and cross the border with the US.
The truckers have driven to the capital, Ottawa, and ambushed the city with the noise of truck horns while more protesters blockade traffic along the border.
In Ottawa, between 400 to 500 trucks have been parked in the city centre for 18 days.
Protesters have also been blockading border crossing at Coutts, Alberta, and Emerson, Manitoba.
Following the announcement of sweeping new powers, Mr Trudeau said: “This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs.”
The police will also be given “more tools” to imprison or fine protesters and protect critical infrastructure while vehicle insurance for participants can also be suspended.
The Emergencies Act requires a high legal bar to be invoked.
It may only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians” – lawful protests do not qualify.
Speaking on Monday, Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti argued these conditions had been met.
But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association disagreed, warning that the move “threatens our democracy and our civil liberties”.
The Canadian Prime Minister faces similar criticism on social media.
Twitter user Ciarán Foy said: “What’s happening in Canada is dangerous. Government passing emergency legislation to freeze bank accounts. People like Justin Trudeau are not good leaders. They’re weak, dangerous men.”
Meanwhile, Hollywood actor Randy Quaid chimed in with: “When Justin Trudeau says I’m freezing your bank account to a Canadian he is really saying you are going to freeze to death and your children will die of hypothermia and starvation, YOU ARE OUT OF CONTROL FIDEL TRUDEAU AND AMERICA SEES YOU!”
Liam Duffy, adviser at the Counter Extremism Project, noted: “Alarmism and mislabelling protests, no matter how inconvenient, boisterous – or even how odious you might find them – as terrorists, insurrectionists, white supremacists has only served to manufacture consent for incredible state overreach like this.”
Ottawa protest leader Tamara Lich dismissed Mr Trudeau’s move to financially blackmail demonstrators.
She said: “There are no threats that will frighten us. We will hold the line.”
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