Nov 25, 2022 - World

Trudeau defends use of emergency powers to quell trucker protests

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau testifies before the Public Order Emergency Commission public inquiry on November 25. Photo: Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his decision earlier this year to invoke emergency powers to quell protests against the country's COVID-19 public health restrictions while testifying before a public inquiry on Friday.

Driving the news: The protests had began in Ottawa as opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers, but since expanded to include general opposition to public health restrictions and spread to other provinces.

  • Trudeau's invocation of the emergency powers in February was the first time Canada's Emergencies Act had ever been invoked.
  • Trudeau revoked the powers less than two weeks later, after he said the situation was "no longer an emergency."

State of play: The emergency powers were invoked after Trudeau and his cabinet determined that the protests had met the threshold of constituting "threats of serious violence," CBC News reported.

  • The purpose of it was "to be able to give us in special temporary measures, as defined in the Public Order emergency act, that would put an end to this national emergency," he said. 
  • Asked what led to the conclusion that there were threats of serious violence, Trudeau cited the "weaponization of vehicles," with cars ramming into other cars and trucks with "unknown interiors."
  • "There was the use of children as human shields, deliberately," he added, adding that there were weapons at some of the protests and that police enforcing laws were met with "active resistance."

What they're saying: “There wasn’t a sense that things were dissipating,” Trudeau said, Al Jazeera reported.

  • “We were seeing things escalate, not things get under control," he added.

The big picture: Friday marks the final day of the six-week inquiry by the Public Order Emergencies Commission.

  • Earlier this week, David Vigneault, the head of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), told the inquiry that he had believed invoking the Emergencies Act to be necessary and had advised Trudeau to do so, Global News reported.
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