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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in history in order to break up protester blockades impeding essential services and trade routes in the country.

The blockades began in late January, protesting against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for crossing the U.S.-Canada border. The protests have been taking place in Ottawa and various other locations along the border.

Exemptions for unvaccinated truckers, which were initially put in place to avoid supply chain disruption, ended on 15th January and 22nd January in the US and Canada respectively, meaning that around 26,000 licensed truck drivers of about 160,000—both American and Canadian—would not be able to cross the border without quarantine.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), which condemns the protests, 85% of the roughly 120,000 Canadian truckers have been vaccinated. The CTA also asserted that many of the thousands of protestors have no connection to trucking.

Canadian flag
Credit: Praveen Kumar Nandagiri

Some of the funding and planning of the protest may have originated with political groups in the USA, where it has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Trudeau’s government also said it would be looking at tightening money-laundering regulations in relation to crowd-funding sites that have been used to support the blockades.

The Emergencies Act gives the federal government broad powers to restore order, but Trudeau said he would not use the military, instead warning of measures that include towing vehicles, freezing the bank accounts of the truckers involved, and suspending insurance on their rigs.

Trudeau described the crackdown as “time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.” The powers will be in effect for 30 days.

On Sunday, the Ambassador Bridge crossing between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, was reopened after a week-long blockade, with police arresting dozens of protestors.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties) also said they had arrested 11 people at the border between Alberta and Montana where they found a cache of guns and ammunition.

Source: Associated Press, The Star, CTA


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