Canadian Civil Liberties Association Group Files Lawsuit Against Emergencies Act

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons on the implementation of the Emergencies Act as truckers and their supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Ottawa, Ontario. on February 17, 2022.PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

The federal government faced a constitutional challenge Thursday for its historic invocation of the Emergencies Act, as police began moving in on protesters with large trucks crippling the heart of the nation’s capital.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said using the Emergency Act was a last resort measure to end the illegal and undemocratic blockades that had plagued Canadians for nearly three weeks.

He made the remarks during a debate in the House of Commons over his government’s decision to use the law for the first time since it was introduced in 1988. The Tories have accused the Prime Minister of failing to try to defuse the conflict before turning to emergency powers. .

Trudeau said using the law was not the government’s first, second or even third choice.

“We did this to protect families and small businesses, to protect jobs and the economy,” the Prime Minister said. “We did this because the situation could not be resolved by any other law in Canada.”

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Hours later, the federal government was told it would face legal action over its decision, as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association announced it was seeking judicial review of the law’s invocation. the government.

The group told a news conference in Toronto that it did not want to downplay the effects of the protests across the country, but added that it was unclear whether the protests were endangering life, health or safety of Canadians so seriously as to constitute a national emergency.

“The government has introduced an extreme measure which should be reserved for national emergencies, a legal standard which has not been met. Emergency powers cannot and should not be standardized,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, executive director of the civil liberties association.

Police deal with complex law enforcement issues every day and have lifted several border checkpoints across the country without emergency powers, the association said.

The group’s director of criminal justice, Abby Deshman, said the Emergencies Act orders don’t just apply to Ottawa and in fact affect the rights of every Canadian.

The group believes the measures are clearly unconstitutional and will ask the courts to intervene to uphold the rule of law and the constitutional rights of all people in the country, she said.

“Local police across the country have removed several highly disruptive border blockades and are successfully managing many other protesters in communities across the country, all without emergency powers,” Deshman said.

Through the Emergency Measures Act, new powers have been granted to freeze the bank accounts of protest participants and prevent people from congregating in specific locations or joining protests that threaten trade, critical infrastructure, people or property.

It is also now illegal to bring children within 500 yards of blockades or provide supplies or property to attendees.

The new powers came into effect earlier this week, but both the House of Commons and the Senate must vote to confirm the use of the Emergencies Act.

Debate in the House will continue through the weekend and into Monday with a vote scheduled for 8 p.m. ET that day. If the motion fails, the act will be immediately suspended.

The Senate will begin debating the motion on Friday and, at some point, will hold its own vote.

Trudeau said the law does not prohibit lawful protests, including by those who disagree with the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said such lockdowns are illegal and in financed by foreign nationals, and threaten Canada’s economy, trade and public relations. security.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference that bank accounts had already been frozen and more would be suspended in the coming days. But she declined to say how much, or even state whether accounts could be frozen for people who are not taking part in the blockade but who have donated to the convoy’s various online fundraisers.

The Emergency Measures Act was passed in 1988 to replace the War Measures Act, which had been used to suspend civil liberties during both World Wars and the October Crisis of 1970. The new law includes more checks and balances than the previous one, including parliamentary oversight and the obligation to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said her party did not support the use of the law because the government had failed to prove the protests posed a serious threat to sovereignty, security or integrity territorial jurisdiction of Canada and could not be dealt with under existing laws.

“The prime minister is doing this to save his own political skin,” she said. “But Mr. Speaker, this is not a game. This is done at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Bergen said many of those protesting were neighbors, constituents and Canadians who just wanted to be heard and “even a little respected” by Trudeau.

She repeated her allegation that Trudeau himself was responsible for raising the temperature of the convoy by refusing to meet them and accused the Prime Minister of hiding during the first week of the blockade.

This prompted Green MP Elizabeth May to retort that Trudeau was not hiding – he had COVID-19 and was in isolation.

Bergen, who took over as interim leader on Feb. 2 following a caucus vote against Erin O’Toole, supported the protest early on, posing for photos with attendees and having dinner with some of them. them in a restaurant in Ottawa. She said reports of hate symbols and harassing behavior were the exception among the crowd, not the norm, and asked Trudeau to extend an “olive branch” to protesters in a bid to put end to the deadlock.

The Conservatives also pushed a motion asking the government for a timetable to end federal pandemic restrictions and mandates, but the motion fell through when the Liberals and NDP voted against it.

As the Ottawa blockade stretched into its second week, Bergen said it was time for the convoy to head home because the protesters had been heard.

On Thursday, Bergen also slammed NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Singh said his party would reluctantly support the use of the law because the lockdowns are a national crisis, even as the NDP criticizes Trudeau for letting things go this far.

Bergen said “history will not be kind to the leader of the NDP or his members on this particular issue.”

Singh pushed back to Bergen for supporting the convoy at all times, when “it is no secret that the objective of this convoy, brazenly displayed on their website, reiterated no later than the start of this week at a press conference, was to overthrow a democratically elected government.”

“The interim leader of the Conservative Party said: ‘We heard you, we will continue to stand up for you.’ Do you regret having endorsed a convoy that attacks the fundamental democracy of our country? Do you regret endorsing and supporting an occupation that harassed citizens?

Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, whose riding of Ottawa Center includes Parliament Hill and downtown Ottawa, said his community “has been held hostage” by protests that are not peaceful. He asked if MPs who had supported the convoy and encouraged protesters to keep honking their horns would tolerate protesters in their constituencies harassing their constituents.

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Ida M. Morgan