Canadian Civil Liberties Association to sue federal government over Emergencies Act

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) announced on Thursday that it plans to sue the federal government over its decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to ongoing protests and lockdowns.

“Emergency powers cannot and should not be standardized,” said CCLA Executive Director Noa Mendelsohn.

She said the use of the law “seriously violates the Charter rights of Canadians.”

The Emergencies Act was invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday in response to ongoing protests against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccination mandates.

The convoy protest in Ottawa paralyzed downtown for more than 20 days, while other protests blocked international border crossings in Windsor, Ont. and Coutts, Alta.

The federal government has argued that the protests pose a threat to the Canadian economy and the safety of citizens. It is the first time the law has been triggered since it was approved by Parliament in 1988.

WATCH | The At Issue panel breaks down the parliamentary debate on the Emergencies Act:

Defending and Criticizing the Use of the Emergencies Act | A tissue

The At Issue panel breaks down the parliamentary debate over the implementation of the Emergencies Act, how the government defends it and criticism from opposition parties. 11:14

Mendelsohn acknowledged reports of “violent, racist and homophobic acts” at the protest in Ottawa, but said the presence of these elements did not justify the introduction of measures that the CCLA considers a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The law gives the federal government temporary powers to suppress protests, including banning entry to protest areas and prohibiting people from bringing minors to unlawful assemblies. The law also allows the federal government to restrict protesters’ access to bank accounts.

“Protest is how people in a democracy share their political messages of all kinds, whether they are environmental activists, students taking to the streets, indigenous land defenders, striking workers, people who know that black lives matter and others who oppose government action of all kinds,” Mendelsohn said.

“Not everyone can agree with the content of every move.”

WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defends the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act:

Trudeau defends use of Emergencies Act in House debate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Emergencies Act would not interfere with the rights of Canadians, but would allow the lifting of ongoing blockages in Ottawa and across the country. 1:17

Trudeau defended his decision Thursday morning in the House of Commons, where MPs are engaged in an all-day debate on the law.

“Blockades and occupations are illegal,” Trudeau said. “And they are a threat to public safety.”

The NDP said they would likely support the legislation in Parliament. It has been in effect since it was invoked on Monday.

In a statement released on Thursday, Amnesty International also expressed concern over the act, saying in a French press release that it “raises concerns and questions relating to respect for human rights”.

Andrew B. Reiter