House of Commons votes to approve use of Emergencies Act

A vote on the Trudeau government's unprecedented move to invoke the Emergencies Act has passed. Adrian Ghobrial with what the polarizing vote means and reaction from downtown Ottawa businesses who remain on edge.

The House of Commons has voted to approve the use of the Emergencies Act against the Ottawa convoy protests with a vote of 185-151. It will now move up to the Senate.

The motion passed with support from the Liberal and NDP while Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted against it.

The emergency measures, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave law enforcement the tools they needed to successfully clear the demonstrations that have occupied the nation’s capital and international border crossings across the country, will now stay in effect for 30 days.

Trudeau said in a news conference Monday even though blockades are lifted, the state of emergency is not over and there are concerns about more demonstrations in the days ahead.

“We didn’t want use the Emergencies Act,” said Trudeau. “It is never something to turn to without serious consideration.”

“Invoking the Emergencies Act has been necessary, law enforcement agencies relied on it to set up secured areas in downtown Ottawa and at border crossings.”

Trudeau said invoking the act prevented foreign money from funding illegal blockades and has ensured that all international borders stay open.

He says his government has no intentions of keeping the act in place a day longer than they deem necessary. At any point, the Senate, House or government could pull support and the extraordinary powers stemming from the emergencies law would be torn up.

There was debate over whether this motion would be considered a confidence vote of Trudeau’s minority Liberal government. When asked by the Speaker of the House whether this was a confidence vote, the Government House Leader Mark Holland just said, “It’s time to vote.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party had always seen the vote as a confidence matter.

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The Emergencies Act was invoked on Feb. 14 for the first time since it became law in 1988 and gives police temporary additional powers when territorial tools are no longer sufficient. It also gives the government the power to ban public gatherings in specific areas, take control of public services it deems necessary to deal with the situation, and issue fines and jail time to those who breach public orders.

Singh said early Monday the act was needed because all three levels of government had failed to take the threat posed by the convoy seriously until it was too late.

“Our support from the beginning has always been reluctant,” he said. “We were reluctant because it should have never got to this point.”

Many Conservative MPs had argued the federal government have overstepped their bounds by invoking temporary measures. In the last two house sittings, interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen has vocally expressed her disdain for the measures.

“This is historic and it is extremely disappointing,” Bergen said. “He has failed to meet the high threshold set out by the Emergencies Act to justify it. This act is already invoked and is the new law of the land.”

“Police could not have done the job they did, the way they did it, without the powers provided by the act,” says Halifax Liberal MP and cabinet minister Andy Fillmore.  “That comes from the senior commanding operator for the operation.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association agreed the government had not met the threshold to invoke the act and is seeking judicial review.

Trudeau also encouraged Canadians to engage in more civil discourse during his remarks on Monday. over political disagreements during his Monday remarks. He says it is time to start mending the rifts across the country after a month of protests.

“Now is the time to work together,” Trudeau said. “It’s also the time to reflect on the kind of future we want for our country.”

Police arrested 196 people in Ottawa over the weekend as they cleared the demonstration, 110 individuals are charged, 89 were released upon the condition they stay out of the red zone and 115 vehicles were towed.

Two of the people who were charged had been arrested on Friday, but released and returned to the protest site where they were re-arrested and charged.

Officials in the city say residents can expect to see a large police presence for the foreseeable future.

Ottawa police are reassuring businesses that closed their doors during the three-week occupation of the downtown core that they should now feel safe to reopen.

The secured area has also been reduced to no longer include Byward Market. Those who have a “lawful” reason to be in the secured area will be let through.

They posted a tweet last night advising people that some streets in the Parliament Hill area that were closed because of the demonstration have since been reopened to both pedestrians and vehicles.

The Emergencies Act became law in 1988, replacing the War Measures Act used by Pierre Elliott Trudeau during the October crisis.

With files from the Canadian Press

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