Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act to treat like terrorists the trucker protest in the capital city of Ottawa and at key Canada-U.S. border crossings. Citing a “public order emergency,” Trudeau can now deploy the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, forbid any public assembly, control private companies, cut off supplies, and seize bank accounts to stop the “emergency.”
“Without a court order, banks will be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked to the protests,” noted Aaron Kheriaty.
These powers are unilateral, neither requiring court orders nor approval from the Canadian parliament until such time as the parliament sees fit to end the declaration or for 30 days. The Emergencies Act has never been used since its inception in 1988.
Beginning in late January, truckers amassed in a convoy across Canada to protest the country’s vaccine requirements for border crossings and other Covid restrictions. Dubbed “The Freedom Convoy,” the demonstration consists of several hundred big rigs and personal vehicles.
This moving protest culminated in a week-long blockade of one of the busiest Canada-U.S. border crossings, the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor, Ontario with Detroit, Michigan. While the bridge blockade has been dissipated by national, provincial, and local police, Ottawa remains in gridlock, which prompted the PM’s seizure of emergency powers.
Trudeau is playing a very dangerous game here. As a truck driver myself, I warn my friends and family to not mess with truckers. Normally, I’m talking about not cutting us off in traffic, passing on the right, or pulling out in front of big rigs on busy highways and streets. People should also be warned not to mess with a trucker’s money, home time, and most especially his rigs and equipment.
Furthermore, officials ought to know that getting any two truck drivers to agree on anything is a monumental task. When you get several hundred of them in solidarity and willing to forsake cash, time at home, and even their own trucks, you’d better believe that whatever they’re after is deadly serious.
Fortunately, no one has been killed or even injured during the convoy and blockades, but introducing threats of government force greatly increases the likelihood of that possibility. Knowing truckers and their respect for both law enforcement and the rule of law, the ideal outcome will be that the drivers simply go home having made their presence and voices known in noble fashion. Trudeau loses in this situation because he comes off as an unimaginative tyrant whose creativity to deal with peaceful political expression is limited to bringing in storm troopers.
A less desirable outcome for this authoritarian power grab is that the PM arrests the truckers and their families, dragging them out of their rigs, while forcing tow trucks to come in and haul them away. Trudeau and his party will pay dearly as their political opponents use those images ad infinitum to win future elections. Truckers 2. Trudeau 0.
Trudeau’s best option at this point is negotiation, but he’s refused to do even a little. He should have used that option as his opening salvo. He could have saved face and stayed the protests when the convoys began.
No one wants violence to be the result of these demonstrations. Still, armed officers making arrests while clearing blockades can go sideways very quickly, and it’s likely Trudeau knows this and wants to bait truckers into violence. Fighting words, aggressive behavior, and even bad moods can ruin a trucker’s day on the road, and the same goes for law enforcement. These lines of work are dangerous, stressful, and exhausting jobs.
And all this for what? To protect Covid restrictions that are quickly being revoked across the world and Canada, expiring or due to expire early next month? There is no obvious upside for the PM here, and he is daily proving his incompetence as Canada’s leader. His response is extreme and vacuous on the merits.
At any rate, Trudeau’s sophomoric name-calling has quickly escalated into a potentially violent situation that presents no good effects for him or Canada and only elevates the message of the trucker convoy-protest to worldwide recognition. Truckers in New Zealand and France have followed the lead of the Canadian demonstrations with similar results. Starting on Feb. 23, U.S. truckers are planning a nationwide convoy beginning in California, picking up drivers through the “Crossroads of America” in Indiana, and converging on Washington DC.
These truckers are merely asserting their rights to decide what goes into their bodies and to speak freely and peaceably about their political views. Like U.S. Democrats, Trudeau may believe it’s a good idea to label his peaceful political opponents as domestic terrorists, but this will in the long run only embitter them and provoke more anger instead of bringing about a peaceful resolution to these citizens’ concerns.