Truck blockade leaves Canada’s capital, but Trudeau says emergency powers still needed

TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that emergency powers are still needed despite the end of police border blockades and the occupation of the nation’s capital by truckers and others angry at Canadian restrictions related to COVID-19.

“The situation is still fragile, the state of emergency is still there,” Trudeau said.

Parliament lawmakers will vote on Monday evening to allow police to continue to use emergency powers. Opposition New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party would support him, ensuring Trudeau should have enough votes.

Trudeau noted that some truckers who are just outside of Ottawa may be planning further blockades and his Minister of Public Safety noted that there was an effort to block a border crossing into British Columbia over the weekend. end.

READ MORE: Trudeau says protests must end, truckers brace for crackdown

The Emergencies Act allows authorities to declare certain areas as no-go areas. It also allows police to freeze truckers’ personal and company bank accounts and forces tow truck companies to tow vehicles.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said those whose bank accounts were frozen were “influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said anyone affected has an easy way to unfreeze their accounts: “Stop being part of the blockade,” she said.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said allowing police to designate downtown Ottawa as a no-go zone has been particularly effective. There are about 100 police checkpoints left.

“We saw calm, peace and quiet,” Mendicino said.

Singh, the NDP opposition leader, said he knew protesters were waiting around Ottawa and in the capital itself. “They need to be evacuated,” Singh said.

Singh also noted that convoys have been intercepted.

“This is an attack on our democracy. This is a group of people who are very clearly tied to the far right,” Singh said. “The organizers are clearly aiming to undermine democracy. that we cannot afford to continue.

Protests by truckers escalated until a handful of border crossings between Canada and the United States were closed and key areas of the capital closed for more than three weeks.

But all border blockades have now ended and the streets around the Canadian Parliament are quiet. Ottawa protesters who have sworn never to give up are largely gone, chased away by police in riot gear. The incessant howl of truckers’ horns has died down. A large police presence remains in Ottawa and some areas are fenced off.

The protests, which initially targeted a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for cross-border truckers but also encompassed fury over the range of COVID-19 restrictions and hatred of Trudeau, reflected the spread of the disinformation in Canada and the populist and right-wing movements that were simmering. anger.

The so-called Freedom Convoy shook Canada’s reputation for civility, inspired convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and disrupted trade, causing economic damage on both sides of the border. Hundreds of trucks eventually filled the streets around Parliament, a demonstration that was part protest and part carnival.

For nearly a week, the busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada, the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, was blocked. The crossing sees more than 25 percent of the trade between the two countries.

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Authorities moved to reopen border crossings, but Ottawa police only issued warnings until Friday, even as hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters blocked city streets and besieged the Parliament Hill.

Authorities launched the largest police operation in Canadian history on Friday, arresting a series of protesters in Ottawa and ramping up that pressure on Saturday until the streets in front of Parliament were cleared. Eventually, police arrested at least 191 people and towed 79 vehicles. Many protesters backed down as the pressure mounted.

Trudeau said Ottawa residents had been harassed for weeks and billions of dollars of trade had been blocked by border blockades, putting people’s jobs at risk.

The protests have been cheered across the United States by Fox News personalities and conservatives like former US President Donald Trump. Millions of dollars in donations crossed the border for the protesters.

“A flood of misinformation and misinformation has swept over Canada, including from foreign sources,” Trudeau said.

“After these illegal blockades and occupations received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canadian democracy, it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order.