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Canada PM Justin Trudeau invokes emergency powers to quell protests over COVID-19 restrictions

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Canada PM Justin Trudeau invokes emergency powers to quell protests over COVID-19 restrictions

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Justin Trudeau has ruled out using the military and said that the emergency measures will be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.

Canada PM Justin Trudeau invokes emergency powers to quell protests over COVID-19 restrictions
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has invoked emergency powers to try to quell the protests by truck drivers and others who have paralyzed Ottawa and blocked border crossings in anger over the country's COVID-19 restrictions.
Trudeau ruled out using the military and said on Monday that the emergency measures will be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.
For the past two weeks, hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters in trucks and other vehicles have clogged the streets of Ottawa, the capital, railing against vaccine mandates and other virus precautions and condemning Trudeau's Liberal government.
Members of the self-styled Freedom Convoy have also blockaded various US-Canadian border crossings, though the busiest and most important the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit was reopened over the weekend.
This is the biggest, greatest, most severe test Trudeau has faced, said Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa professor and national security expert.
Invoking the Emergencies Act would allow the federal government to declare the Ottawa protest illegal and clear it out by such means as towing vehicles, Wark said. It would also enable the government to make greater use of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal police agency.
One of the protest organizers in Ottawa vowed not to back down in the face of pressure from the government.
"There are no threats that will frighten us. We will hold the line," Tamara Lich said, though several truckers did agree to move their rigs out of a residential area and consolidate them on Parliament Hill to avoid disturbing people living in the neighborhood.
Cadalin Valcea, a truck driver from Montreal protesting for more than two weeks, said he will move only if forced: "We want only one thing: to finish with this lockdown and these restrictions."
Doug Ford, the Conservative premier of Ontario, which is Canada's most populous province and includes Ottawa and Windsor, expressed support for emergency action before the meeting with Trudeau, saying: "We need law and order. Our country is at risk now."
But at least three other provincial leaders from Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan warned the prime minister against taking such a step, some of them cautioning that it could inflame an already dangerous situation.
Over the past weeks, authorities have hesitated to move against the protesters around the country. Local officials cited a lack of police manpower and fears of violence, while provincial and federal authorities disagreed over who had responsibility for quelling the unrest.
An earlier version of the Emergencies Act, called the War Measures Act, was used just once during peacetime, by Trudeau's late father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to deal with a militant Quebec independence movement in 1970.
Invoking emergency powers would be "a signal to both Canadians across the country and also an important signal to allies like the United States and around the world who are wondering what the hell has Canada been up to", Wark said.
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