Sunday, December 04, 2022

Canada: Trudeau struggles with civil liberties

After the trucker protests against the Covid 19 measures were broken up, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau was criticized. The use of the state of emergency law and the threat to freeze donor accounts is seen by many as excessive.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Comes Under Fire For His Handling Of Ottawa'S Trucker Blockade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comes under fire for his handling of Ottawa’s trucker blockade.

Adrian Wyld / Imago

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the emergency law on February 14 to keep his options open for ending the trucker protests, criticism of this radical measure was limited. Residents of the capital, Ottawa, had had enough of the three-week occupation by the honking truck drivers and their sympathizers, and the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, the main border crossing into the United States, had caused about a billion dollars in economic damage. Weapons were also found on demonstrators and there were indications of radical, violent elements among the organizers. One had to reckon with the fact that an eviction would escalate. Luckily that didn’t happen. The protests at both the Ambassador Bridge and in Ottawa passed without major incident.

Although Parliament also approved the application of the emergency law on Monday, the decision nevertheless caused sharp criticism of Trudeau. Many politicians, journalists and ordinary Canadians wonder if he is exaggerating. Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that the state of emergency would be lifted. Since the situation has calmed down, there is no longer any reason to do so. Whether that will silence the criticism of his actions is still an open question.

Freeze donor bank accounts

His threat to freeze both private and business bank accounts from which monetary donations were made to the “Freedom Convoy” gave particular cause for criticism. After all, the protests were peaceful, and donating money to protesters is legal. The Ottawa Police Chief also announced that participants in the demonstration would be identified and punished through the analysis of surveillance camera footage.

It is understandable that the government, after long letting the truckers do as they please, finally backed down and took a heavy hand. But actually she could now breathe a sigh of relief and say “It’s all good that ends well” and return to normality as quickly as possible.

The whole trucker protest against the Corona measures was somewhat anachronistic in that the restrictions in Canada, like almost everywhere else, are probably coming to an end. But the fact that Trudeau has so far made no move to relax the measures seems stubborn – or like a reaction of defiance addressed to those who are dissatisfied. Compared to other Western countries, Canada imposed extraordinarily strict restrictions, which – at least until recently – were supported by the population. But like people around the world, Canadians are increasingly weary and longing for normalcy.

The question is who is endangering democracy

With his exclusion and criminalization of dissenters, Trudeau fuels the frustrations instead of soothing them. The Emergencies Act is also indicated in a national crisis when the state itself is threatened. It has never been used since it was introduced in 1988. In fact, Trudeau may have feared that the blockade could spiral out of control and lead to a Jan. 6-like situation in Washington DC. But Trudeau stuck to the emergency law long after there was no longer any talk of a state-endangering situation.

Critics are more likely to wonder whether Trudeau, the figurehead of the Liberal Party, is not showing increasingly illiberal traits. «Will Canadian Democracy Survive Justin Trudeau?» is an article by Canadian columnist Michael Taube in the Washington Post: “Will Canadian democracy survive Justin Trudeau?”

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