Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the Emergencies Acts gives powers not only to the feds but also to municipalities and provinces, after Ottawa’s mayor said two days earlier said that he wanted the vehicles towed during police operations against protesters to be sold to cover the city’s costs incurred by the protests of the past three weeks.
“I talked about federal powers. There are also powers that lie with the municipalities and provinces,” Freeland said in response to a reporter’s question at a Feb. 21 press conference held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had told the CBC on Feb. 19 that his city has the power to sell the vehicles due to the Emergencies Act invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Feb. 14.
“We actually have the ability to confiscate those vehicles and sell them,” he said, adding that “I want to see them sold. I don’t want the return to these people who’ve been causing such frustration and angst in our community.”
At the Feb. 21 press conference, Trudeau also said the federal government will continue pursuing the Emergencies Act even though protesters have now largely been cleared from downtown Ottawa.
Dubbed the “Freedom Convoy,” trucks began arriving in Ottawa on Jan. 28 and 29 to stage a protest against federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers travelling between Canada and the United States. It turned into a much larger movement after many Canadians from across the country began joining in or voicing their support for ending the various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Police began escalating their operation against the protesters in Ottawa on Feb. 18, announcing in the afternoon of Feb. 20 that they had made 191 arrests, laid 389 charges, and towed away 79 vehicles. Another 20 vehicles were towed that night.
In the context of blockades or occupations, the Emergencies Act allows the government to compel tow truck companies to remove vehicles blocking streets or lanes, which those companies had previously refused to do in relation to the protest in Ottawa.
The act also gives the state additional powers to, without a court order, freeze the protesters’ personal and corporate bank accounts and cancel the vehicle insurance coverage of companies linked to the protests.
Watson said independent reviews have been planned at both the federal and municipal levels to determine how the protest evolved and to prevent similar ones from happening again.
By Isaac Teo