Canadian lawmakers on Monday voted to extend the emergency powers that the Trudeau government says police need to throttle the reemergence of “Freedom Convoy” protests against the Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
Lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 185 to 151 to approve the extension under the Emergencies Act, with the minority Liberal government backed by the left-leaning New Democrats.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau said earlier that the powers were required despite the police ending the occupation of Ottawa. He noted that there were still truckers outside the capital who might be planning a future blockade.
“The situation is still fragile, the state of emergency is still there,” the prime minister said.
Following the House’s endorsement, the Senate must also vote on whether to confirm the use of the act.
Last week, Mr Trudeau took the unprecedented step of invoking the Emergencies Act to bring an end to the protest, bringing criticism from both the domestic opposition and US conservatives.
Under the act, authorities can declare certain areas as no-go zones. It also allows police to freeze protesters’ personal and corporate bank accounts and compel tow truck companies to haul away vehicles.
There’s no doubt the past few weeks have been difficult, that the past few years have been painful, or that there are still challenges we’ll have to face. But we cannot allow anger to divide us. Now is the time to work together – and to start healing as a nation. pic.twitter.com/XUjxHKMGUL
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 22, 2022
The three-week-long protest closed the busiest land crossing between Canada and US for six days and shut down key parts of the capital. While the protest initially began against vaccine mandates, it eventually turned into a broader demonstration against the Trudeau government.
Police cleared the protesters out of Ottawa by Friday and removed their big rigs over the weekend, which had disrupted the lives of local residents with honking and diesel fumes.
Nearly 200 people, including two of the self-proclaimed protest leaders, have been arrested so far.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, those who had their bank accounts frozen were “influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area”.
Finance minister Chrystia Freeland said anyone affected with the emergency has an easy way to have their accounts unfrozen: “Stop being a part of the blockade.”
Mr Trudeau called for people to work together, saying “we don't know when this pandemic is going to end, but that doesn't mean we cannot start healing as a nation”.