The Canadian government will appeal a court ruling that Ottawa’s use of emergency powers in early 2022 to end anti-government protests was unreasonable, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said earlier this week.
A Canadian court recently ruled that the government was not justified when it used sweeping policing, censorship and surveillance powers to break up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called “illegal and dangerous” protest blockades across the country two years ago.
In his decision, Justice Richard Mosley wrote that the move was “unreasonable and ultra vires [beyond one’s powers]” and led to infringement of Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms.
The ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest, which began in January 2022, involved a huge number of truckers flooding into Canada’s capital, Ottawa, with their vehicles, to protest the cross-border vaccine mandate between Canada and the US, which they claimed threatened their ability to work and infringed on their bodily autonomy and medical freedom.
Although the protest initially targeted vaccine mandates enforced against cross-border truckers moving between the US and Canada it later grew into a broader anti-mandates demonstration.
Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act – the first use of the act since it passed in 1988 – as a means of allowing a powerful police crackdown on the protests and the forced removal of the vehicles blocking the streets.
The act also allowed the Canadian government to freeze the bank accounts of those suspected of supporting, orchestrating and participating in the protests, with no due process, appeals process or court order necessary.
At the time, crowdfunding site GoFundMe was accused of bowing to political pressure when it froze a fundraising account holding $8million in donations given by Canadian citizens in support of the Freedom Convoy protesters.
In pursuing this novel form of politically motivated financial censorship, Prime Minister Trudeau was following in the footsteps of Russian President Vladmir Putin, who in 2019 ordered his government to freeze bank accounts linked to opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said in a statement that the court’s decision “sets a clear and critical precedent for every future government.”
However, the country’s Finance Minister – and Deputy Prime Minister – Chrystia Freeland has since reiterated the government’s belief that the decision to invoke emergency powers was appropriate, because the public safety of Canadians and national security were under threat.
“We respect very much Canada’s independent judiciary. However, we do not agree with this decision, and respectfully, we will be appealing it,” Freeland said while speaking reporters in Montreal.
“I was convinced at the time it was the right thing to do, it was the necessary thing to do. I remain and we remain convinced of that,” she said.