The ‘Overstatement’

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A Canadian judge ruled this week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of extraordinary powers to quell the 2022 Freedom Convoy protest against Covid-19 vaccine mandates was unconstitutional, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The case centers on the weeks-long demonstrations in the capital and at US-Canada border crossings at the beginning of 2022. Many truckers and tens of thousands of others set up blockades to protest against the social restrictions and vaccine mandates meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In response, the government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time, which gave authorities extraordinary powers to remove and arrest demonstrators, as well as freeze the finances of those connected to the protests, Canada’s CBC added.

Officials said the emergency powers were needed due to a national security threat, but the Federal Court of Canada dismissed that justification this week.

In his ruling, Justice Richard Mosley countered that the government’s application of the Emergencies Act “does not bear the hallmarks of reasonableness – justification, transparency and intelligibility – and was not justified in relation to the relevant factual and legal constraints that were required to be taken into consideration.”

He noted that the act’s use “infringed” provisions in the constitution. He also criticized the characterization of the security threat as an “overstatement,” noting that local and provincial authorities were effectively managing other protests.

The government said it would appeal the verdict, with legal analysts noting that the case will likely end up in Canada’s supreme court.

The decision marks another setback for Trudeau and his ruling Liberal Party as they struggle in public opinion polls with an election over a year away.

It also contrasts a 2023 judicial inquiry, which justified Trudeau’s emergency powers due to information about threats of serious violence.

However, the act’s critics noted that the government overstepped by freezing protesters’ assets for what they deemed a localized policing issue.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association welcomed the court decision, adding that it sets a precedent for future governments employing the Emergencies Act.

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