Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on Monday afternoon, February 14, and announced the use of the Emergency Measures Act to end the blockages. “illegal” demonstrators opposed to the health measures in progress in the country for more than two weeks.
“The federal government is invoking the Emergency Measures Act 1988 to complement provincial and territorial powers and deal with lockdowns and occupations”he said, adding that the army would not be deployed and that the new measures would be “limited in time and geographically”. This law can be invoked in case of “national crisis” and gives the federal government more power to end it by allowing it to authorize “temporarily extraordinary measures”.
It comes into effect immediately and applies to the whole country, even though the Prime Minister has assured that it will not have a “concrete impact” only in regions where it is necessary, particularly in Ontario, the province in which the capital, Ottawa, is located.
Mr. Trudeau said on Friday that “all options were on the table” to put an end to these occupations “illegal” that harm the country and its economy.
The protest movement, which began at the end of January, started from truck drivers protesting against the obligation to be vaccinated to cross the border between Canada and the United States. But the demands extended to the refusal of all health measures and, for many demonstrators, to a rejection of the government of Justin Trudeau and was copied in a few foreign countries, in particular in France, without taking the same magnitude.
Opposition from several provinces
Even before Justin Trudeau’s announcement, several Canadian provinces have expressed their opposition to the use of this law. “We do not want to have a state of emergency in Quebec”reacted the premier of the province, François Legault, considering that this ” is not necessary “ and that it is rather “time to come together, not divide”. The latter also explained that the Belle Province was studying the possibility of “remove the vaccination passport”.
In central Canada, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said she was not “convinced that the law on emergency measures should be applied” in his province. Speaking about the national situation, the only female leader of a Canadian province said that among all prime ministers, “a clear consensus that the situation in each province and territory is very different”. His New Brunswick counterpart, Blaine Higgs, echoed: “I don’t think it’s necessary to add any additional measures at this time”said Mr. Higgs, during a press conference.
This is the first time this specific law has been used, but its ancestor had only been used once in peacetime, by Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister himself, during the “October Crisis”, in 1970 in Quebec, but also during the two world wars, under another name. However, Trudeau’s government has no intention of using the military, according to the CBC.
Protests in Ottawa against measures to combat the Covid-19 epidemic have entered their third week, even as the blockade of the main border crossing between Canada and the United States, in Windsor, Ontario, ended Sunday after six days.
Abandonment of the Health Passport in Ontario
For his part, the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, announced on Monday that the vaccine pass would be lifted in the province. “We are going to drop the passports” 1er March, announced Mr. Ford during a press conference, where he explained that a majority of people were vaccinated and that the epidemic peak due to the Omicron variant had passed. This lifting of sanitary measures is demanded by the protesters who block Ottawa.
In Ontario, starting February 17, “we will remove all gauges except in concert halls, theaters and sporting events, where they will be capped at 50%”added Mr. Ford. “We are able to accelerate our reopening plan” thanks to the decline in hospitalizations and the number of cases, he said.
Premier Ford and Minister @celliottability make an announcement https://t.co/o8booF6cqz
Ontario is the most populous province in Canada and had reimposed, like other provinces at the end of December 2021, some of the most restrictive measures in the world. Doug Ford added that he would support Justin Trudeau if he proposed new measures to quell the protests. “We need law and order. Our country is in danger now”he added.
Opponents of health measures still occupied the streets of the city center of the capital on Monday evening. Some 400 trucks are installed, supported by a well-established organization: tents to warm up, campfires, food stands…
Since the establishment of the state of emergency on Friday, they risk receiving a fine of up to 100,000 Canadian dollars (69,500 euros), or even a year in prison.