Ottawa, Feb 14 (EFE).- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he has invoked the Emergencies Act to crack down on anti-vaccine mandate protests that have brought this capital to a standstill and wreaked havoc at border crossings.
He said in a televised address that he made the decision following weeks of protests and the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, which links the US city of Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, and was cleared on Sunday night.
It marks the first time the Canadian government has invoked emergency powers since 1970, when then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current head of government, used the so-called “War Measures Act” to combat a militant Quebec separatist group – the Front de liberation du Quebec – that had kidnapped the vice premier of Quebec and a British diplomat.
“It is no longer a lawful protest at a disagreement over government policy. It is now an illegal occupation. It’s time for people to go home,” Trudeau said.
He made the announcement after a virtual meeting with the leaders of Canada’s provinces on Monday morning, adding that the measures invoked will be “reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.”
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland for her part revealed the steps to be taken to prevent any further funding of the protests.
“All crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use must register with FINTRAC (the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, the national financial intelligence agency),” she said. “And they must report large and suspicious transactions to FINTRAC.”
Freeland, who also is deputy prime minister, said that will help mitigate the risk of those platforms receiving illicit funds, adding that those changes are necessary because the platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity that are harming Canada’s economy.
The government also is issuing an order under the Emergencies Act “authorizing Canadian financial institutions to temporarily cease providing financial services where the institution suspects that an account is being used to further the illegal blockades and occupations,” Freeland said, adding that the order covers both corporate and personal accounts.
Two border crossings with the US – in Coutts, Alberta, and Emerson, Manitoba – remain blockaded by protesting truckers and farmers. And downtown Ottawa, where some 400 trucks and hundreds of people have gathered outside the Parliament Buildings, has been paralyzed since Jan. 29.
The invoking of emergency powers came shortly after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced the arrest of 11 armed participants in the blockade of the Coutts border crossing in western Canada.
Meanwhile, traffic on the Ambassador Bridge flowed normally on Monday after a week-long blockade by truckers and activists opposed to pandemic-related restrictions.
Canadian police on Sunday cleared that protest and arrested 42 people who had participated in the blockade of the bridge, which normally handles an estimated $400 million in goods per day and is one of the main border crossings between Canada and the United States. EFE