Emergency, Canadian style

This past Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared an emergency under Canada’s Emergencies Act of 1988. Its predecessor was the War Measures Act of 1914. Roger Kimball provides a link to the text of the Act in his Spectator column on the declaration.

Trudeau’s emergency is the first such emergency since the enactment of the law. The declaration of emergency was occasioned by the truckers protesting in Ottawa and elsewhere. The truckers don’t like the government’s vaccine mandates for truckers and other restrictions. Their opposition undoubtedly extends in some cases to Trudeau’s Liberal government generally. The truckers present themselves to the public under the rubric of the Freedom Convoy. Surely this cannot stand.

The declaration of emergency authorizes the government to take the kind of actions we associate with martial law. Trudeau’s disclaimer of patently totalitarian measures does not appear to be necessitated by the power with which he is endowed under the Act. Such rights as the protesters retain are more or less at Trudeau’s sufferance.

The Act’s section on orders and regulations, for example, concludes with the power to impose “(i) on summary conviction….a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both that fine and imprisonment, or (ii) on indictment, of a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both that fine and imprisonment, for contravention of any order or regulation made under this section.”

Elliot Kaufman addresses the question of Trudeau’s powers by virtue of the declaration in his Wall Street Journal column on the trucker emergency. Kaufman notes:

This broad authority [under the Act] doesn’t junk the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does, however, include the power to prohibit travel, public assemblies and use of any specified property, to force people or companies to render essential services, to impose fines and imprisonment for violating any of the emergency rules, and to use the military as police, though Mr. Trudeau suggests he won’t do that last one. He says the powers will be used for 30 days, strengthening the federal police, beefing up penalties, dragooning private tow-truck companies and, incredibly, directing financial institutions, without court orders, to freeze personal and corporate bank accounts connected to the protests. Without due process, and used against despised and often caricatured protesters, these powers invite further abuse.

That’s what I’m talking about. The BBC backgrounder on the Emergencies Act reports: “Pressed by reporters about how far he would go in response to the crisis, Pierre Trudeau responded with the famous phrase: ‘Just watch me.'”

The New York Post quotes Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland: “Consider yourselves warned. If your truck is used in these blockades, your corporate accounts will be frozen. The insurance on your vehicle will be suspended. Send your rigs home.” Freeland, who is also the finance minister, said the government will also target crowd-funding sites that are being used to support the blockades. Freeland added that the government will use anti-money-laundering regulations to target crowd-funding sites that are being used to support the trucker blockades.

The Biden administration is of course on board with the Trudeau government. We should all consider ourselves warned.

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