Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will take emergency action to deal with an “illegal” blockade of anti-epidemic protests that began more than two weeks ago, news outlets reported.
Within seven days, Parliament must either approve the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers on the exercise of emergency powers, or reject it.
The protests paralyzed part of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and stopped traffic on the main bridge connecting Canada to the United States for six days.
“Blockades are hurting our economy and threatening public safety,” Trudeau said at a press conference. “We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue.”
He stressed that military force would not be deployed to exercise emergency powers, and measures would be reasonable, commensurate with threats, limited in time and extended to individual regions.
As the protests entered their third week, tensions mounted and criticism of the authorities for failing to act tough enough on the protesters. Despite efforts, it is now clear that law enforcement cannot do its job, Trudeau said.
The Emergency Act of 1988 allows the federal government to authorize the use of special temporary measures to provide security in emergencies.
Formerly known as the War Measures Act, the law has only been enforced three times in Canadian history: during two world wars and in 1970 by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, father of Justin Trudeau. The “October Crisis” when Quebec separatists kidnapped a British diplomat and a Quebec minister.
The province of Ontario announced that this week it will be lifting coronavirus-related capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars, casinos and other venues, and waiving vaccination certification requirements effective March 1.