The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has reacted to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invoking of the Emergencies Act to deal with trucker protests across Canada, saying it sets “a dangerous precedent.”
“The CCF is concerned by the federal government’s historic invocation of the Emergencies Act,” said the organization in a statement on Monday. “The government has set a dangerous precedent for the right to freedom of assembly and protest, declaring the protests occurring in Ottawa and elsewhere across the country to be unlawful.”
The Emergencies Act defines a national emergency as “an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it.”
According to the CCF, provincial police forces already have power to enforce the law, which was shown when the Ontario Provincial Police cleared truck drivers and other protesters from the Ambassador Bridge.
The CCF went on to say they are concerned about the policies announced by the government concerning the freezing and seizure of financial assets from crowdfunding platforms and banks. It remains unclear how these policies will work, the CCF says, but the new powers appear to allow banks to freeze and suspend accounts without a court order.
“These measures present the clear opportunity for undermining rights to property and privacy,” they said.
Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history to give the federal government more powers to handle the trucker protests.
“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” Trudeau said.
He declared that the Emergencies Act would give police more power to restore order where public gatherings become illegal and dangerous, including blockades and occupations.
The RCMP, he said, would be able to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences where needed.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that under the Emergencies Act, crowdfunding platforms would have to register with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). She added that they must report large and suspicious transactions to FINTRAC.
“We are making these changes because we know these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity, which is damaging the Canadian economy,” said Freeland.
The premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec have openly opposed Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, although Trudeau does not require their approval.
Ontario premier Doug Ford, however, said that he supported Trudeau.
“Those participating in illegal blockades in Ontario and across Canada need to know there are serious consequences for their actions,” said Ford.
Ford said that he told Trudeau these measures should “be targeted and time-limited, but that we need to do what it takes to restore law and order in our country.”