Canada parliament backs Trudeau on emergency powers

City employees clean up Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Canada’s Parliament has backed the government’s decision to impose emergency powers to deal with weeks-long protest blockades against Covid-19 restrictions.

The motion passed with 185 votes to 151 on Monday, with the support of the Liberals and the left-leaning NDP. Over the weekend, police cleared the final protest site in Ottawa on streets around Parliament Hill.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act early last week. Earlier on Monday, the Liberal prime minister defended the continued use of the temporary emergency measures, saying that the situation across the country “is still fragile” and they are needed to prevent new blockades. He said the powers would not be kept in place for “a single day longer than necessary”.

Members of the Conservative Party – the official opposition – and the Bloc Quebecois voted against the Emergencies Act motion. The never-before-used Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, gives the government added powers in times of national crisis. These expire after 30 days unless renewed.

It has been used over the past week to impose bans on public assembly in some areas of Ottawa, and to prohibit travel to protest zones, including by foreign nationals, among other measures. It also gives authorities the ability to freeze bank accounts. On Saturday, the federal government said it had frozen at least 76 accounts linked to the protests, representing C$3.2m ($2.5m; £1.8m) under the emergency measures.

The protest began in January as a truck convoy headed to Ottawa to oppose a vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the US-Canada border, and grew into a broader opposition to pandemic restrictions and Mr Trudeau’s government, with supporting protests across the country.

Authorities cleared the most economically damaging blockade – a bridge linking Windsor, Ontario, with the US state of Michigan – in mid-February. Trucker protests at other border crossings in Coutts, Alberta, Surrey, British Columbia, and Emerson, Manitoba, ended this past week.

On Friday, police moved in to clear the Ottawa protest site that had paralysed much of the city centre in the Canadian capital since 28 January. On Sunday, police said they had made 191 arrests and had removed dozens of vehicles.

Two “police-involved” incidents from the weekend are being reviewed, the Special Investigations Unit – a police oversight organisation said on Sunday.


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