TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday emergency powers are still needed despite the progress police have made in stamping out weeks long paralyzing protests by truckers and others angry over Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“The situation is still fragile, the state of emergency is still there,” Trudeau said. .
Lawmakers in Parliament will vote Monday night whether to allow police to continue to use emergency powers.
Trudeau noted there are some truckers that are just outside Ottawa that may be planning further blockades and his public safety minister noted there was an effort to block a border crossing in British Columbia on the weekend.
“Even though the blockades are lifted across border openings right now, even though things seem to be resolving very well in Ottawa, this state of emergency is not over,” Trudeau said. “There continues to be real concerns about the coming days.”
The prime minister said he’s confident lawmakers will vote to continue to allow police to use emergencies act, which allows authorities to declare certain areas as no go zones. It also allows police to freeze truckers’ personal and corporate bank accounts and compels tow truck companies to tow away vehicles.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said that targeted measures in the act allowed police to designate a wide swath of Ottawa’s downtown core to become a no-go zone and that tool alone has been extremely effective.
“We saw calm, peace and quiet and that was certainly a sense of relief for all of us,” Mendicino said.
The trucker protests grew until it closed a handful of Canada-U.S. border posts and shut down key parts of the capital city for more than three weeks.
But all border blockades have now ended and the streets around the Canadian Parliament are quiet. Ottawa protesters who vowed never to give up are largely gone, chased away by police in riot gear. The relentless blare of truckers’ horns has gone silent. A large police presence remains in Ottawa and some areas are fenced off.
The protests, which were first aimed at a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers but also encompassed fury over the range of COVID-19 restrictions and hatred of Trudeau, reflected the spread of disinformation in Canada and simmering populist and right-wing anger.
The self-styled Freedom Convoy shook Canada’s reputation for civility, inspired convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands and interrupted trade, causing economic damage on both sides of the border. Hundreds of trucks eventually occupied the streets around Parliament, a display that was part protest and part carnival.
For almost a week the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing, the Ambassador bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, was blocked. The crossing sees more than 25% of the trade between the two countries.
Authorities moved to reopen the border posts, but police in Ottawa did little but issue warnings until Friday, even as hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters clogged the streets of the city and besieged Parliament Hill.
On Friday, authorities launched the largest police operation in Canadian history, arresting a string of Ottawa protesters and increasing that pressure on Saturday until the streets in front of Parliament were clear. Eventually, police arrested at least 191 people and towed away 79 vehicles. Many protesters retreated as the pressure increased.
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