Everything on table to end illegal protests but threat of violence a concern: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says illegal border blockades must end and they will end but that bringing in the military to quell the protests is not something his government is “seriously contemplating” at this time.

At an afternoon news conference, Trudeau reminded Canadians that the federal government does not direct police, but he says the RCMP is seized with the protests.

Trudeau says unfortunately he cannot say when the protests might end because of fears of violence, adding the government is a long way away from calling in the military, though of course it must be ready for anything.

He says deploying the military against civilians is an action to be avoided at all costs and that’s why the focus right now is on using police to enforce the law.

Trudeau says the blockades seeking to take Canada’s economy hostage and the collective COVID-19 fatigue everyone is feeling are separate issues. He says the protesters’ frustrations with public health measures have been heard and it’s time for them to go home or face legal consequences.

The prime minister also says he spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden Friday morning about the blockades that have impacted both countries’ economies as well as stopping the flow of foreign funding to protesters.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Biden and Trudeau spoke by phone about the blockades during a sidebar from a larger call with various world leaders about the situation in Ukraine.

Psaki says the two leaders agreed that the actions of the individuals who are obstructing travel and commerce between the two countries are having significant direct impacts on citizens’ lives and livelihoods.

She says Biden expressed his concern that U.S. companies and workers are experiencing serious effects, including slowdowns in production, shortened work hours and plant closures.

Psaki says Trudeau promised quick action in enforcing the law.

Ontario is moving to invoke a state of emergency so it can hike fines and introduce jail time for people refusing to leave the blockades.

While publicly most politicians say they want the protests to end, tensions between the federal and provincial governments have been mounting. Ottawa tried to hold trilateral meetings with the province and city this week, but the province refused to attend.

A senior provincial government source, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said provincial ministers were already talking to their federal counterparts and the so-called “trilateral table” was not going to add any value.

Two sources close to the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not public, told The Canadian Press a phone call Wednesday between federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney was extremely tense.

Alghabra said five days ago he planned to talk to Mulroney about using provincial powers over highways to revoke commercial truck licences and go after their insurance, and raised that in the call, but the sources said Mulroney only wanted to hear what Ottawa would do.

The federal government doesn’t have the authority to stop protests on provincial highways, but the province does, said one of the sources who spoke about the call between Alghabra and Mulroney.

On Friday Mulroney tweeted that the province’s decision to invoke a state of emergency came because the federal government wouldn’t do anything.

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