With protests in Canada against the government's Corona policy heating up for weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to use emergency legislation for the first time."The federal government has invoked the Emergency Powers Act to supplement the capacity of the provinces and territories to deal with the blockades and occupations," Trudeau told reporters Monday.
The historic move against mostly right-wing protesters in Ottawa, the capital, among other places, would briefly give Trudeau the power to suspend civil liberties to restore public order.The Liberal government's plans to crack down on street blockades in Ottawa with the first use of the law since it was enacted in the 1980s had previously been reported by public TV station CBC, among others.
Weapons cache unearthed from protesters
Trudeau had met with his crisis team over the weekend. "We will continue to ensure that the relevant authorities at the city, provincial and national levels have what they need to end these blockades and protect the safety of the population," he announced.Earlier, Trudeau had not ruled out forcibly breaking up blockades in light of the trucker protests that have been ongoing for about three weeks, calling the blockades illegal. With Ontario, one of the affected provinces has already declared a state of emergency.
Over the weekend, authorities had already cleared the important Ambassador border bridge, which connects the Canadian province of Ontario with the U.S. metropolis of Detroit. Other border crossings as well as the capital Ottawa, located in Ontario, continue to be blocked.
On Monday, Canadian police arrested a heavily armed group of demonstrators during protests against the Corona measures. Eleven participants in a blockade of the border crossing in Coutts, Alberta state, were taken into custody, police said.Officers had searched three trucks following indications of a "small organized group" with access to a weapons cache. According to police, several rifles and handguns were seized, as well as protective clothing, a machete and "large quantities of ammunition."
"The group was reportedly prepared to use violence against police if attempts were made to disrupt the blockade," police said.
Long-running protests against Corona policy
For weeks, thousands of people in Canada have been demonstrating against Corona measures and vaccination regulations. With so-called freedom convoys, truck drivers are currently blocking not only border crossings, but also the capital Ottawa.The subject of the protests was first vaccination regulations for truck drivers and then government pandemic restrictions as a whole. In January, a regulation came into effect that also requires truck drivers returning from the U.S. to present proof of vaccination.
Large segments of the population had supported Trudeau's sometimes very strict anti-Covid course over the past two years. Recent studies, however, indicate a possible reversal of the trend, even if the picture is not yet clear.Some supporters of the 50-year-old also perceived measures owed to the rampant omicron variant, such as new travel restrictions and closures of the interiors of bars and restaurants imposed by local governments, as excessive.
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