Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced he will be invoking the Emergencies Act in an effort to end anti-vaccine mandate protests.
Trudeau made the announcement late Monday afternoon following discussions with the federal Liberal caucus, premiers, and Opposition leaders.
"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions," Trudeau said.
The Emergencies Act, which replaced the War Measures Act in 1988, gives the federal government special temporary powers to ensure safety and security during national emergencies.
This is the first time this legislation has been used in Canadian history.
By triggering the act, police will be given more tools to make arrests and impose fines. Trudeau said the Canadian military will not be called in to enforce the law, and the use of the act respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He added that the use of the act will be geographically specific and implemented where necessary.
"I know people are frustrated, I hear it. You have a right to express that frustration and even your anger with the government, or government policies. It's something we'll always defend in this free and democratic country, but blockading the streets and critical infrastructure and depriving your neighbours of their freedoms is a totally different thing. It has to stop," Trudeau said.
Trudeau stated the Emergencies Act will serve to protect infrastructure, such as borders and airports, from blockades. The declaration of the emergency will remain in place for up to 30 days, unless renewed if needed.
Some other measures of the act includes giving financial institutions the power to suspend or freeze, without court order, any accounts suspected of being used to fund blockade supporters, and force funding platforms and cryptocurrencies to follow anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws. The RCMP will also be used to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences where required.
Additionally, businesses with trucks involved with illegal blockades will suffer consequences including having their corporate bank accounts frozen and their insurance suspended.
Interim Opposition Leader Candice Bergen expressed concerns over the decision.
"Conservatives want the barricades to come down, we want this to end quickly and peacefully, but in a way that Canadians feel that they have been listened to and that their Prime Minister respects them. We are concerned that this measure will have the opposite effect," Bergen said.
On Monday, Conservative Members of Parliament put forward a motion calling for a plan to end all COVID-19-related mandates and restrictions. The motion failed 185-151.