CANADA – After three days of debate in the House of Commons in Ottawa, 185 MP’s voted in favour of maintaining the Emergencies Act while 151 voted against.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, the reworked War Measures Act, Monday, Feb. 14 as a result, he says, of the freedom convoy which had entrenched itself in the streets surrounding the Parliament buildings in Ottawa for some 22 to 23 days prior to being removed over this past weekend.
The act, established in 1988, gives the federal government extended powers in what is deemed a “national emergency” according to the Government of Canada website.
“A national emergency is an urgent, temporary and critical situation that seriously endangers the health and safety of Canadians or that seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada,” states the website. “It must be a situation that cannot be effectively dealt with by the provinces and territories, or by any other law of Canada.”
The act can be used in cases of a public welfare, public order, international, or war emergency.
The vote passed on the backs of the Liberal Party and NDP, while the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois voted against its use.
“Even with blockades all shut down, Justin Trudeau insisted on keeping extraordinary powers,” said Southwest N.B. MP John Williamson in an email to the Courier.
“After Monday’s vote in Parliament, two Liberal cabinet ministers said they would not rule out extending the emergency measures beyond 30 days. This is after the finance minister already said the Liberal government is looking to make some provisions permanent.”
Trudeau also said Monday voting against the use of the act showed a lack of confidence in the Liberal government, which implied should the vote fail the Liberals, who hold a minority government, could fall and trigger an election.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said while he supported the vote, he will remove the support of his party at any time should he feel there is an overreach of civil rights.
The act must also now be voted on in the Senate, and would be in place for a maximum of 30 days.
The act does state it can be used in instances of moving blockades and public assemblies “other than lawful advocacy, protest or dissent.”
The act remains held to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and as such any action taken under the umbrella of the act must be in accordance with maintaining the constitutional rights of Canadians under that legislation.
“The Emergencies Act was invoked to give the federal government and police sweeping and never before used powers, including the ability for Ottawa to freeze an individual’s bank accounts without even being charged for a crime or a judge approving the seizure,” said Williamson.
“This will chill political discourse across Canada because it makes protesting risky. Protesting and the right to disagree with our government were guaranteed civil liberties but the Trudeau Liberals now has the power to punish protesters they don’t like.
“I have already signed a parliamentary petition with dozens of other MP’s calling for a review of these unnecessary federal powers and a vote in the House of Commons next week to repeal them.”
The full description of the Emergencies Act can be found at www.canada.ca/en/department-justice/news/2022/02/canadas-emergencies-act