Canada, Covid, and the Crisis at the Border

2/15/2022 7:12 PM

A country most unlikely to do so, Canada has nevertheless ignited protests worldwide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a national public order emergency on Monday in an effort to end a three week long protest against mandatory vaccination for truckers that has stalled traffic in the nation’s capital and blocked entrance to Ambassador Bridge, Canada’s busiest link to the US. In late January, protesters parked more than 1,000 vehicles on streets surrounding the Parliament building in Ottawa and last week blocked entrance to Ambassador Bridge. The protests have sparked international support with sympathy convoys and road blocks in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and the US.

Although protesters had a variety of grievances, they were unified by one: frustration over restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus and weariness of the toll the pandemic has taken on the economy and their lives.

The invocation of the Emergencies Act confers enormous temporary (up to 30 days) powers on the federal government, allowing it to do what is necessary, including overriding civil rights, to restore public order. But Mr. Trudeau stressed repeatedly that the act would not be used to suspend fundamental rights. “We are not limiting people’s freedom of speech,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We are not limiting freedom of peaceful assembly. We are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally.” He also said to the protesters “The time to go home is now.” Mr. Trudeau said he would not use his authority under the Emergency Act to bring in the military. Canada’s justice minister, David Lametti, outlined some special powers now at the government’s disposal. The police will be able to seize trucks and other vehicles used in blockades and the government will formally ban blockades in designated areas such as border crossings, airports and the city of Ottawa.

Canadians are asking: Will Mr. Trudeau’s declaration of a national public order emergency bring an end to the protests and turmoil? Only time will tell.