The Emergencies Act was invoked in response to the "freedom convoy" in Canada. I don't understand what makes this convoy so important to put the country in this situation. Why it is invoked?
Why is it being used, according to the government:
Attorney General David Lametti said the decision to use the act was not taken lightly, but it became clear there were gaps in the ability of police and governments to protect institutions, critical infrastructure and the rule of law while blockades in Ottawa and at border crossings dragged on.
What's the act and how does it relate here?
(note: full text)
Two sections seem relevant:
Public welfare emergency The Emergencies Act lists several "public welfare emergencies" which result, or may result, in danger to life or property, services or resources, so serious as to be a national emergency. Public welfare emergencies include natural hazards such as fire, flood, drought, storm, or earthquakes; biological hazards including disease affecting humans, animals or plants; and man-made hazards such as accidents or pollution.
Public order emergency The Emergencies Act provides that a "public order emergency" results from serious threats to the security of Canada. When defining "threats to the security of Canada" the act references the definition provided in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which includes espionage, sabotage, detrimental foreign influences, activities which support the threat or use of violence for a political, religious or ideological objective; or those activities which threaten to undermine or otherwise destroy, or overthrow the Government of Canada. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act specifically notes that "lawful advocacy, protest or dissent" do not constitute "threats to the security of Canada".
From the full text:
AND WHEREAS the fulfilment of those obligations in Canada may be seriously threatened by a national emergency and, in order to ensure safety and security during such an emergency, the Governor in Council should be authorized, subject to the supervision of Parliament, to take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times;
AND WHEREAS the Governor in Council, in taking such special temporary measures, would be subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights and must have regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly with respect to those fundamental rights that are not to be limited or abridged even in a national emergency;
3 For the purposes of this Act, a national emergency is an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that
(a) seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it, or
(b) seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada
and that cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.
I don't know if no other law could deal with the protest, but one could argue that the current police action has been largely subdued and ineffective. Not least due to the logistical challenges of towing big trucks.
Note also that the special measures remain subordinate to the Charter.
These powers are seldom exercised - as it should - the predecessor to this Act, the War Powers Act was invoked 3 times in all. The Act dates from 1988 and this is its very first time.
Do any of these apply?
a sizable proportion of funding is US-sourced.
we do have a medical emergency going on, which the protesters insist should be handled according to their preferences.
public order is not being restored by normal police activity. Ottawa police for one hasn't cleared the blockades to its citizens in their own city, after 3 weeks. Their chief of police has now been forced to resign.
international trade was being disrupted, on public right of way roads, for days on end, both in Ontario and Alberta.
The notion of intent to overthrow isn't completely fanciful here, but it is a stretch:
Last week, organizers also published a manifesto billed a “memorandum of understanding” demanding that the Governor General and the Senate unite to force all levels of government to end any COVID-19 measures and vaccine passports, and re-instate all workers laid off due to vaccine requirements.
That has seemingly pushed protesters and their supporters to flood Rideau Hall’s phone and email lines demanding that Mary Simon act, going as far as demanding that she dissolve government and remove Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from power.
The demands of protesters far outstrip their authority to demand them, in as far as a minority of citizens want to dictate how the Federal and provincial governments should manage Covid.
(Full text of the Facebook statement issued by protesters January 26th, as reported by Fox News). I avoid Facebook so had to get it elsewhere.
There have been threats to life and limb, including a tow truck supporter of the convoy threatened after removing convoy goods at the convoy's demand.
There are certainly precedents to using police force to remove blockades to public goods. Such as the termination of native-led blockades against trains in 2020. Not entirely rejected by the Canadian right:
Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader, said in Parliament on Monday that Mr. Trudeau had caved in to “radical activists” and had equivocated too long before acting, showing weakness and fear.
- Right or wrong, the relative inaction until this point was being contrasted unfavorably with entirely more decisive action taken against natives in the past.
When a rail line was blocked in Edmonton, the province was quick to pass Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, and police immediately moved to enforce it, arresting Indigenous individuals who were peacefully protesting. Calls for the rule of law were loud from the Alberta government.
“Yet, the rule of law doesn’t appear to apply to the occupiers,” said the statement. “There is little to no enforcement while critical infrastructure is blocked, hate speech, intimidation and defacing property is allowed to continue.”
One of the principal organizers, Tamara Lich, has no business draping whatsoever herself in the Canadian flag, considering that she was until very recently a signed-up member of a Wexit party in Alberta.
Truckers, as a whole, do not particularly support the demands being made. Their vaccination rate tracks the Canadian average quite closely. Additionally, the initial pretext for the convoy, dropping vaccination status requirements upon entry to Canada, makes no sense given that the US is itself strictly enforcing vaccination status requirements for entry to the US.
Ontario, the province affected by the Ottawa protests and the bridge blockade, declared its own state of emergency and its premier, from an opposition party to Trudeau's, is somewhat supportive of using the Act.
Could it be overreaction?
One editorial by National Post stated that the convoy could have been dealt with, using the same measures, by exercising the powers already granted to provincial and federal governments outside of this Act.
In any case, usage of the Act should not be normalized. Contrary to some of the comments on the question, the fact that the protests are conducted in an illegal fashion does not necessarily mean that this particular piece of emergency legislation had to be used.
I.e. there is a difference between approving, or not, of the measures taken to clear the protests.
Versus approval, or not, of invoking a full-on "national emergency" act to take the exact same measures. I.e. is the government using a sledgehammer to swat a fly?
One supporting argument for measures at the Federal level (through this Act or other laws) is that the protests are happening at a national level and are coordinated across multiple provinces. Though the above editorial aims to refute that view.
Also, the blockades had, in fact, not been removed very quickly, using the preceding powers and approaches. 6 days of blocking a main import/export thoroughfare, with corresponding economic costs, is unacceptable.