Will Trudeau’s Act of Desperation Succeed?

I want to address the prime minister: No matter what you do, we will hold the line. There are no threats which will frighten us. We will hold the line.

— Tamara Lich, convoy organizer, 14 February 2022

Canada’s Charter of Rights
Justin Trudeau had cornered himself by grotesquely smearing the trucker convoy and its supporters as racist, misogynist, fringe, anti-science, vandals, and otherwise holding unacceptable views. He is unable to negotiate a peaceful outcome because he has refused to speak to the pro-freedom/anti-mandate protest movement.

Many of the truckers have insisted they aren’t leaving the capital of Ottawa. This is despite Trudeau trying his darndest to get them to leave. In addition to his invective against the truckers, he tried to have their funding cut off, he had jerry cans bringing fuel to the truckers seized, and he beefed up the police presence to cower them. All to no avail.

Meanwhile, Trudeau’s popularity has been tanking among Canadians. Desperate, he resorted to a nuclear option from his father Pierre Trudeau’s days. In Pierre’s case, he invoked the War Measures Act during the October Crisis in 1970 to fight the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec), terrorists seeking Quebec’s separation from Canada. The FLQ had kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and Quebec labor minister Pierre Laporte, the latter being killed by the FLQ.

The situation in Pierre’s day was decidedly different from the situation now for Justin’s invocation of, what is now called, the Emergencies Act. Justin has undertaken an extraordinary action to grab extra powers to handle the pro-freedom protests across the country. Perversely, Justin’s power grab would further diminish freedoms. One can only imagine how the truckers, who have vowed not to leave Ottawa until the mandates are removed, will react to the increased diminution of freedoms.

One side will be crushed in this final showdown.

“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” said Trudeau.

Effectively enforcing constitutional law is what former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford is seeking, citing Justin’s mandates as abrogating Canada’s Charter of Rights. These charter rights were enacted by Pierre Trudeau’s government along with nine provinces, one of which was Peckford’s.

Justin Trudeau calls the emergency measures “reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.”

Is the convoy a threat? Up to now, the demonstration has been peaceful. However, the convoy poses a threat to the political viability of Justin Trudeau. And as for threats, Trudeau’s tweet sounds eerily close to a threat, even toward the kids of truckers:

Make no mistake: The border cannot, and will not, remain closed. Every option is on the table. So, if you’re participating in these illegal blockades that are taking our neighbourhoods and our economy hostage, it’s time to go home – especially if you have your kids with you.

The Emergencies Act also allows the government to direct banks to freeze money for the protestors.

Cryptocurrency exchanges surely welcome such an action.

To invoke the Emergencies Act, the government must demonstrate that a state of emergency exists, and it must be approved by the parliament within seven days.

Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa, opined, “If you look at what’s happened not just in Ottawa but at the Ambassador Bridge and Coutts, Alberta and in BC, essentially we have a national emergency.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) demurs:

The federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act. This law creates a high and clear standard for good reason: the Act allows government to bypass ordinary democratic processes. This standard has not been met.

Mendes argues that asking poses a national security threat: “You have this small group basically asking the government to do whatever they want. That’s the national security problem.”

It is true that relative to the Canadian population the truckers are a small group. However, that argument applies more so to the federal government. The members of parliament are a small group demanding, not asking, Canadians comply with mandates.

For whatever likes on a tweet are worth, the CCLA tweet (14 February 5:36 PM) has received 52.3 K likes while Trudeau’s tweet (14 February 8:36 PM) making clear the government’s position has received 5470 likes.

Granted, it is a ballsy move by Trudeau, but even more ballsy has been the “righteous dissidence” of the convoy of truckers in taking on the government and its gendarmes by behaving peacefully, being friendly, and keeping the streets clean. Crime has dropped during the protest.

The lines have been drawn. One of two likely outcomes will likely prevail: either Canadians will sacrifice their freedoms and comply with the mandates or the mandates will be repealed and Trudeau will have to step down.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.