Canadian Lawmakers Extend Emergency Act Powers to Tackle 'Freedom Convoy' Blockades
02:35 GMT 22.02.2022 (Updated: 03:45 GMT 22.02.2022)
© REUTERS / Blair GableCanadian police officers stand guard as they work to restore normality to the capital while trucks and demonstrators continue to occupy the downtown core for more than three weeks to protest against pandemic restrictions in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 19, 2022. Picture taken February 19, 2022
© REUTERS / Blair Gable
During a Monday news conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told protesters who had engaged in the 23-day protest that although 'Freedom Convoy' demonstrators have a right to disagree with him and other elected officials, they cannot "hold a city hostage."
With a 185-154 vote, Canada's lower legislative house has voted in favor of extending the use of special emergency powers invoked by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.
The measure, which requires approval in the upper house, authorizes authorities to designate areas as 'no-protest zones,' subjecting violators to possible jail time. It also allows certain services, such as tow truck companies, to remove vehicles from those areas.
A vote in the Canadian Senate is expected as early Tuesday.
If invoked, the extension would be one of the most severe responses by a Western government to protests launched in opposition to COVID-19-related public health orders.
"The situation is still fragile, the state of emergency is still there," Trudeau said on Monday, days after hundreds of Canadian police officers in riot gear cleared demonstrators from the streets near the besieged capital's Parliament buildings.
"After these illegal blockades and occupations received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canada’s democracy, it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order," Trudeau said, pointing out the "flood of misinformation and disinformation washed over Canada" amid the 'Freedom Convoy' protests.
© REUTERS / Carlos OsorioA vehicle is towed from Kent Street, as Canadian police worked to evict the last of the trucks and supporters occupying the downtown core, three weeks after a protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates began in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 20, 2022
A vehicle is towed from Kent Street, as Canadian police worked to evict the last of the trucks and supporters occupying the downtown core, three weeks after a protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates began in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 20, 2022
© REUTERS / Carlos Osorio
The Canadian government has also moved to freeze bank accounts of those caught participating in illegal demonstrations.
"The list that was provided to Financial Institutions included identities of individuals who were influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement. "At no time did we provide a list of donors."
The RCMP statement came in response to a viral tweet from Canadian MP Mark Strahl, who claimed without providing evidence that a single mom's bank account was frozen after providing $50 to the 'Freedom Convoy' protest.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair noted on Sunday that the emergency act is not "targeted at small donations."