Parliamentarians held a historic debate on Thursday morning in which they exchanged stings over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act and give the government never-before-used powers to roll back lockdowns of convoys in progress.
MPs will vote on the motion Monday at 8 p.m. EST and debate the motion daily until midnight until that vote. If the vote on the motion fails, the state of emergency will be revoked.
Live Coverage – MPs debate Emergencies Act as fences go up around Parliament Hill
Trudeau kicked off the debate with a speech in the House of Commons at 10 a.m. EST, in which he said the law was invoked because “the situation could not be resolved under any other law in Canada.”
While he defended the first-ever use of the law as “time-limited and targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate”, Trudeau acknowledged in French that its use was a “last resort”.
He took steps to reassure Canadians that the Emergencies Act would not override the protections enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
An expert opinion on whether the invocation of the Emergencies Act is justified
“We don’t use the Emergency Measures Act to call in the military, we don’t limit people’s freedom of speech, we don’t limit freedom of peaceful assembly, we don’t stop people from ‘exercise their right to protest, legally,'” Trudeau said.
“Blockades and occupations are not peaceful protests. They must stop. »
Conservative critics in the House of Commons on Thursday questioned the Liberal government’s basis for invoking the Emergencies Act, citing concerns over the powers given to financial institutions.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen argued during the debate that the Emergencies Act gives the government the power to “shut down Canadians’ bank accounts on a whim.” However, the law does not — it requires banks to review accounts and freeze anything associated with the convoy, and allows federal institutions to share more information with banks about their involvement in the convoy.
Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino both said Thursday that the Emergencies Act is specifically subject to the Charter, including section 8, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. .
Bergen also accused the Prime Minister of jumping to use the Emergency Act after failing to take action to address the roots of protesters’ frustrations, which began as opposition to COVID-19 mandates and have since evolved into a largely anti-government movement. .
“How did the Prime Minister go directly from ignoring truckers to turning to the Emergencies Act? Why did the government rush into this without doing anything to lower the temperature first? ” she asked.
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Bergen, who has previously voiced her support for protesters during the Wellington Street blockades and reiterated on Thursday that the Tories “will continue to stand up for them”, went on to say that she wants “a peaceful and speedy end to the trucks blocking streets of Ottawa”. ”
She told reporters on Wednesday that the Conservatives will “oppose” the implementation of the Emergencies Act.
“We haven’t seen the legislation. We have to see it. I don’t think anything we see will change your mind,” Bergen said at the time.
The government has justified the use of the Emergency Measures Act by arguing that the lockdowns are an emergency and saying those involved have vowed to push back efforts to remove them with plans that officials say could include “serious violence” for “a political crisis”. or ideological objective.
Prime Minister pointed to the dismantling of the Coutts border blockade in southern Alberta earlier this week, where RCMP made 13 arrests and seized a cache of guns and ammunition from protesters, as an example of recent success in dismantling the protests.
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As Ottawa police prepare to erect fences and issue warnings Thursday morning to remaining convoy participants in the city’s downtown core, Trudeau argued that law enforcement now has ” more tools and resources to give the people of (Ottawa) their jobs, their neighborhoods and the freedom to return.
However, not everyone in the House supports the decision. While NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said before the debate began that his party would support the motion – which should give it enough votes to pass, he reiterated during the debate that he intended to withdraw this support if the government went too far with the powers.
“We will pay close attention to the implementation of the (Emergency Measures Act) and we are ready to withdraw our support at any time if it becomes clear that there is an abuse of power,” did he declare.
“We want to ensure that it is used only for the purpose of dealing with this convoy and this national crisis so that Canadians can have restored confidence in the ability of this country to function properly, to protect them and to ensure their safety. .”
Bloc Québécois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, meanwhile, spoke out against the law, saying current police powers should be sufficient to allow Ottawa police and the RCMP to evacuate protesters. of the region.
He reiterated that opposition in the House of Commons on Thursday, saying “those in Quebec,” including the provincial government, don’t want the Emergencies Act.
“I will always defend freedom…especially those of my nation. Quebec is free to make its choices,” he said.
While the motion has yet to be voted on in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner has already written to Canada’s privacy watchdog asking it to investigate the order.
In his letter, dated February 17, Rempel Garner calls on Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien to “investigate the use of these powers in light of existing privacy laws and of the concept of proportionality.
Therrien has not yet made a decision regarding a possible investigation.
The motion will give the government a number of new powers. The regulations make participating in blockades, staying or helping protesters with things like food or fuel a punishable offence. They also prohibit children under the age of 18 from traveling “to or within 500 metres” of any of the convoy demonstrations.
The rules also establish new requirements for financial institutions, including an order to report to the RCMP and CSIS if they discover blockade participants using their services.
Violating these new rules could result in a fine of up to $5,000 or up to five years behind bars.
— with files by Amanda Connolly of Global
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