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Justin Trudeau declares national emergency in response to 'Freedom Convoy'

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C), pictured in Washington, D.C., on November 18, 2021, said the truckers' protest is "illegal and dangerous." File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
1 of 5 | Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (C), pictured in Washington, D.C., on November 18, 2021, said the truckers' protest is "illegal and dangerous." File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday declared a national public order emergency in an effort to quell the protests by a convoy of truckers that have disrupted the nation's border for weeks.

The decision to invoke the Emergencies Act would allow the federal government to expand measures to reopen blocked border crossings and clear the blockade of about 400 trucks in the nation's capital in Ottawa, which Trudeau said has illegally obstructed neighborhoods, disturbed residents and harmed the economy.

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"We will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue," he said. "The time to go home is now."

Trudeau also asserted the convoy of truckers and other protesters who united to oppose COVID-19 mandates, like masks and vaccines "is not a peaceful protest."

"We are not limiting people's freedom of speech," he said. "We are not limiting freedom of peaceful assembly. We are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally."

Trudeau called the move, which marks the first time the Emergencies Act has been invoked in half a century, a "last resort."

Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, invoked the War Measures act while serving as Canada's prime minister in 1970 and sending troops to Montreal to respond to a violent Quebec separatist group. It marked the first time the war act was applied in peacetime.

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The Emergencies Act was introduced in July 1988 to replace the War Act.

The announcement came as the busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada reopened on Monday after it was shut down for a week.

The Ambassador Bridge, which links Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, reopened late on Sunday after Canadian authorities cleared out the protest and arrested dozens of people.

The blockage of the bridge impacted the Canadian and American economies, particularly auto industry components -- as Detroit and Windsor are both industry hubs with a number of auto-related factories.

A few days ago, a top court in Ontario had granted an injunction barring protesters from blocking the Ambassador Bridge, which facilitates hundreds of millions of dollars in imports and exports per day.

"The Detroit International Bridge Company is pleased to announce that the Ambassador Bridge is now fully open allowing the free flow of commerce between the Canada and U.S. economies once again," bridge representative Esther Jentzen said in an email to The Detroit News.

The mass demonstration, known as the "Freedom Convoy," began on Feb. 7 and added more demonstrators as the days passed. The protest has inspired similar demonstrations against COVID-19 measures in other countries including France, Australia and New Zealand.

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U.S. authorities said last week that they are monitoring possible activity in the United States. They were concerned about a possible protest interrupting the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on Sunday, but nothing significant materialized at the NFL's championship game.

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