Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday he is confident he “made the right choice” in invoking historic emergency powers earlier this year to halt Freedom Convoy protests against Canada’s COVID-19 mandates.
Trudeau defended his actions as testimony before a commission charged with investigating his use of the emergency law to end the truck protest that trapped Canada’s capital, Ottawa, for weeks in January and February. The prime minister said he had no choice but to invoke emergency powers on February 14 after deeming a police plan insufficient to end the weeks-long demonstration.
“It wasn’t that they just wanted to be heard. They wanted to be obeyed,” Trudeau said of the protesters, according to Reuters. “I am absolutely, absolutely serene and very confident that I made the right choice in agreeing to the incantation.”
Trudeau invoked the emergency law for the first time in Canadian history during the February Freedom Convoy protest in the capital, Ottawa. In doing so, he granted temporary powers to the federal government to crack down on truck drivers and others protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions and to freeze the bank accounts of those suspected of supporting the convoy.
The emergency powers were lifted on February 23.
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Trudeau’s actions were highly controversial, with civil liberties advocates questioning whether the circumstances of the protest necessitated his extreme response. Lawyers for the convoy and others said Trudeau ignored a plan by the Ottawa Police Department and argued that the emergency powers were not necessary to end the protest, according to Reuters.
As required by law, an independent inquiry was launched to investigate the Prime Minister’s actions and submit a report to the Canadian government with detailed findings. The report must be submitted by February 20, 2023. Trudeau was the last witness called to testify.
During his testimony, the prime minister said the protests posed a serious threat of violence, accusing local police of putting forward a plan that was “not even in the most generous characterization a plan” to deal with the blocked streets, reported Reuters. .
Additional testimony and documents obtained by the investigation revealed that US officials had been pressuring the Canadian government to stop the protests and lift blockades at border crossings between the US and Canada.
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“They are very, very, very concerned,” Canadian Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland wrote in an email to her staff following a Feb. 10 phone call with White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, reported Politics.
“If this is not resolved within the next 12 hours, all of their car factories in the Northeast will be shut down,” Freeland added in her email.
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According to the report, Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg contacted Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra the same day Deese spoke with Freeland, and Buttigieg pushed for “a plan to resolve the border blockades”.
Alghabra told the committee that Buttigieg initiated the “unusual” call.
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White House aides also reportedly contacted Trudeau staff ahead of a Feb. 11 phone call between the Prime Minister and President Biden.
During that call, Trudeau reportedly informed the president that his administration had a plan to end the protests and blockades.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.