Concerns about “serious violence” for political and ideological gain are among the reasons cited by the federal government for invoking Canada’s Emergencies Act over the so-called “Freedom Convoy.”
An executive order issued on Tuesday formalized the decision, which comes as the convoy blockade of the nation’s capital enters its nineteenth day with no clear end in sight.
“This is not a peaceful protest,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.
The order-in-council lays out exactly why the government views the convoy as a threat to national security, which is a key requirement in triggering the Emergencies Act.
The executive order describes the reasons for declaring an emergency, the first of those being:
“The continuing blockades by both persons and motor vehicles that is occurring at various locations throughout Canada and the continuing threats to oppose measures to remove the blockades, including by force, which blockades are being carried on in conjunction with activities that are directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property, including critical infrastructure, for the purpose of achieving a political or ideological objective within Canada.”
Put in plain language, that means the government says that there is an emergency because of the blockades, and because of the vows by those involved to push back at efforts to clear them, which officials believe involved plans to use “serious violence” for “a political or ideological objective.”
While the order does not use the word “terrorism,” the rationale provided uses language similar to that included in the definition of terrorism in Canada.
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act or omission, whether in or outside of Canada, that is committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.”
That definition also states such an act is defined as one committed “in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.”
Those activities, under the law, have to have the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm, endanger someone’s live, cause serious risk to the health or safety of the public, cause substantial property damage, or that “causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private.”
Advocacy, protest and dissent are exempted from this if they do not include the intent to cause any of the serious effects listed in the law.
Multiple sources told Global News that Ottawa Police Service Chief Peter Sloly resigned on Tuesday.
It comes amid fierce criticism from Ottawa residents and officials about his handling of the blockades.
Earlier in the week, RCMP arrested 13 people and seized more than a dozen long guns, hand guns, ammunition and body armour from what they described as a small organized group within the larger Coutts border blockade in Alberta.
“The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade,” RCMP said in a news release.
On Monday, organizers of the blockade in Ottawa kicked out a journalist who asked during a press conference whether they are aware of the presence of any firearms among members of the convoy in the capital.
That came amid efforts by police to locate some 2,000 firearms that are still missing following the theft of a trailer over the weekend from a Peterborough trucking company.
It is not clear at this time who stole the truck or where the guns could end up.
What are the other factors for the emergency order?
The executive order declaring a federal state of emergency lists four other factors alongside concerns about “serious violence.”
Those include the “adverse effects on the Canadian economy” caused by the blockades, and threats to the country’s economic security specifically from the blockades at border crossings.
The government also cited “the adverse effects resulting from the impacts of the blockades on Canada’s relationship with its trading partners, including the United States, that are detrimental to the interests of Canada” as well as the “breakdown in the distribution chain.”
The fifth and final reason cited is “the potential for an increase in the level of unrest and violence that would further threaten the safety and security of Canadians.”‘