Speed Reads

Freedom Convoy

Canada's Justin Trudeau wins parliamentary approval for emergency powers declaration

Canada's House of Commons voted 185 to 151 on Monday to authorize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's invocation last week of the Emergencies Act to quell disruptive protests that used trucks and other large vehicles to blockade border crossings and paralyzed much of Ottawa for 23 days.

Trudeau's Liberal Party and the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) voted to extend the emergency powers past the initial seven-day window while the opposition Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois opposed the measure. The first-ever invocation of the 1988 Emergencies Act will face a vote in the upper house of Parliament as early as Tuesday, and the courts will also consider its legal propriety. It automatically expires in 30 days without another vote in Parliament.

The remaining border blockades were cleared last week, and police finished pushing the "Freedom Convoy" protesters and their trucks out of Ottawa on Sunday. 

Trudeau said many of the big rigs and other vehicles that left Ottawa before being towed drove only about 60 miles away, to a private field in the small town of Vankleek Hill, indicating "a desire, or an openness, of returning to blockades right now." The government doesn't want to keep the emergency declaration "in place a single day longer than necessary," he told reporters before the vote, but "the situation is still fragile."

Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen called the emergency measures an "overreach" and demanded to know "the criteria for this emergency to be declared over," as well as an exact date. Trudeau told the House of Commons "we hope to only keep it in place for a number of more days." 

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said his party is "reluctantly supporting the vote today in the interest of national unity, in the interest of protecting Canadians, and in the recognition of this real threat," but the NDP will withdraw its support "as soon as we believe it is no longer necessary."

Police said they arrested 191 protesters and towed 79 vehicles in their campaign to clear Ottawa. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the emergency measures had also been used to freeze more than 200 financial accounts of "influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area." Donors to crowdfunding campaigns to support the truckers were not targeted, police said.