Canadian truckers blocking passages in protest of COVID-19 mandates have not backed down, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau using unprecedented powers to crack down on protests across the country.
The Freedom Convoy remained in Ottawa until Tuesday, facing arrests and confiscations of their trucks under Canada’s Emergency Situations Act as authorities focused on clearing key U.S. border crossings.
One of the truckers leading the first column to the country’s capital said he was not intimidated by the demonstrators.
“Anything [Mr. Trudeau] throws at us who we can handle, ”Harold Jonker told DailyMail.com. “We have received cries of hope, joy and excitement from the public because of what we are doing here.”
Mr Trudeau on Monday imposed emergency powers to disperse protests that have swept the country since late January.
The Emergency Situations Act gives the Canadian federal government broad powers to crack down on protesters, although Mr Trudeau ruled out the use of the military.
Mr. Trudeau is the first Canadian leader to cite the Emergency Situations Act since the law was passed in 1988.
Deputy Prime Minister Christia Freeland has also announced that the government will crack down on crowdfunding sites used to support protests under expanded anti-money laundering rules.
The escalation has been criticized by some Canadian officials and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), who said the move was an excessive effort to silence dissent.
“Governments regularly deal with difficult situations and do so using the powers given to them by democratically elected representatives,” the CCLA said in a statement on Tuesday. “Emergency legislation cannot be normalized. It threatens our democracy and our civil liberties. “
The move also sparked some U.S. lawmakers.
“Just as leaders abused emergency powers during COVID, they are now using emergency powers to prevent peaceful protests,” said Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky.
Mr Paul, a staunch opponent of COVID-19 mandates in the US, said last week that he wanted truckers in the states to stage a Canadian-style protest, saying he hoped they would “clog everything” with a demonstration against pandemic mandates. .
Last week, President Biden called on Mr Trudeau to use federal powers to quell protests after demonstrations at U.S.-Canada border crossings began to affect an already weak supply chain.
Late last week, police began lifting a blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, a key border crossing with Michigan, forcing U.S. carmakers to cut production due to a shortage of spare parts.
Earlier this week, authorities began clearing the Coutts, Alberta, Montana border crossing.
On Monday, the Royal Canadian Police (RCMP) seized a weapons depot and arrested 13 and confiscated a weapons cache in connection with the blockade.
The RCMP said Tuesday that four protesters at the Coots border crossing were accused of conspiracy to commit murder in addition to weapons possession charges.
Demonstrators began clearing the crossing when police raided it, and Canada’s public security minister announced Tuesday afternoon that the Coutts border crossing had officially opened.
But Mr Jonker said truckers in Ottawa were not holding back.
“What Trudeau is trying to do is scare us the most. Because, after all, he has no means to actually close us down, ”he said. “No matter what he tries to do, the Canadian public immediately regulates how they support us and they will support us.”