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House approves Trudeau for Emergency Act use

  • UPDATE [3:40 p.m. February 23, 2022]: Today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revokes the Emergency Act he invoked last week and the House of Common’s approved on Monday.

OTTAWA, Canada – February 23, 2022 – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada won the House of Commons vote 185-151 on Monday to extend the Emergency Act to stop protests against COVID mandates across the country. The Emergency Act gives Trudeau and the federal government broad powers to quell the protests that the prime minister has deemed “unlawful.” 

Jagmeet Singh, NDP MP for Burnaby South | openparliament.ca
Jagmeet Singh

The measure gained support from the New Democratic Party (NDP), despite leader Hon. Jagmeet Singh originally expressing concern.

“We will withdraw our support if these powers are misused,” Singh said in a statement in the House of Commons. “We share the concerns of many Canadians that the government may misuse the powers in the Emergencies Act. So I want to be very clear: we will be watching.”

During the vote, CPC members booed and heckled the first few NDP members who voted in favor of the measure and applauded the many Bloc Québécois MPs who voted against it. The two Green Party members were split. 

Photo - Hon. Candice Bergen - Click to open the Member of Parliament profile
Candice Bergen

Immediately after the vote, CPC interim leader Hon. Candice Bergen moved to recall the use of the Emergencies Act. Her motion was ruled out of order. 

Even before the Emergency act passed in the House, the Liberal government has used its power to tow trucks of the convoy protestors, arrest the leaders of the protests and blockades, and threaten to impound and potentially put down protestors’ dogs, according to a Tweet by the Ottawa Municipality.

Since the act was approved, the federal government has empowered the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada’s financial intelligence unit, to police bank accounts and financial assets of those involved in the protests, without so much as a court order. 

According to Mike Duheme, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) deputy commissioner of federal policing, the RCMP has frozen over 200 bank and corporate accounts and shared 253 bitcoin addresses with currency exchangers as of Saturday night. Dozens of truckers have also had their cryptocurrency wallets blacklisted. 

Though Trudeau claims he will not hold the emergency powers “a single day longer than necessary,” members of the Liberal Party od Canada have already indicated that some of his new powers may be made permanent, particularly the federal regulation of financial assets. 

“Some of those tools, we will be putting forward measures to put those tools permanently in place,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. “The authorities of FINTRAC, I believe, do need to be expanded to cover crowdsourcing platforms and their payment providers.”

The Liberal Party of Canada claims only the financial assets of those involved in the convoy protest will be seized, but Conservative MP Mark Strahl alleges that one of his constituents had her bank account frozen after donating to the convoy. 

“Briane is a single mom from Chilliwack working a minimum wage job. She gave $50 to the convoy when it was 100% legal. She hasn’t participated in any other way. Her bank account has now been frozen. This is who Justin Trudeau is actually targeting with his Emergencies Act orders,” Strahl wrote

If Strahl’s claim is true, this seizure would contradict the federal government’s claim that only those actively involved in the protests will be targeted. 

“The RCMP has given to the financial institutions names of leaders and organizers of the protests and of people whose trucks were part of occupations and blockades. That is the only information given, according to the RCMP, that the RCMP has given to financial institutions,” Freeland told the Toronto Sun.

This is the first time in Canadian history that the Emergency Act has been used. The act is a replacement of the War Measures Act, which was only used during World War I, World War II, and the 1970 October Crisis under then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “The Emergencies Act can only be invoked when a situation ‘seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada’ & when the situation ‘cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.’”

Though the Senate still needs to vote on the request, the federal government may keep the measures in place until mid-March.

Update to Story 3:40 p.m. Feb 23, 2022

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