Manitoba's Premier says now would not be the right time to apply the federal Emergencies Act in our province.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a first ministers meeting to consult Canada's premiers on the federal government potentially invoking the federal Emergencies Act in light of protest and blockade action in Ottawa and some international U.S. border crossings, including Emerson.
Invoking the Emergencies Act could allow the federal government to forbid more large trucks from rolling into the gridlocked area around Parliament Hill. Security expert Wesley Wark says declaring a public order emergency under the never-used law would give the government power to control streets near the Hill now jammed with vehicles. Wark, a senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, says it means the government could prevent travel in and out of that protected zone.
The Emergencies Act also permits the regulation or prohibition of any public assembly expected to lead to a breach of the peace. Philip Boyle, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo who studies public safety, says in such a scenario the RCMP would likely be responsible for establishing checkpoints and regulating assembly in the downtown Ottawa area.
Manitoba Premier Heath Stefanson says all premiers are deeply concerned by the situation in Ottawa and the now-resolved blockade on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. However, she says there is a clear sense and broad consensus that the situation in each province and territory is very different.
"I am not currently satisfied the Emergencies Act should be applied in Manitoba," said Stefanson in a statement Monday afternoon. "Winnipeg's situation is dramatically different from the one in Ottawa. The Emerson border situation is very different than the one faced in Windsor."
Stefanson says the sweeping effects and signals associated with the never-before-used Emergencies Act are not constructive in Manitoba, where caution must be taken against overreach and unintended negative consequences. She notes this ultimate federal legislation should only be considered on a measured and proportional basis, in locations where it is truly needed.
"In Manitoba, I have taken and will continue to take the advice of the law enforcement professionals in the RCMP and Winnipeg Police Service," says Stefanson." I am being briefed on a daily basis by Manitoba Justice officials, who are in regular and ongoing communication with law enforcement. These agencies remain satisfied that they have all the tools necessary and they have full tactical control over operations."
Stefanson says as a government, the Conservatives respect democratic, peaceful and lawful protests. However, she notes respect for the freedoms and legal rights of others is equally important to our peaceful and democratic society. Stefanson says unlawful action such as blockades that disrupt borders and critical infrastructure and impair trade, jobs and our economy, or that unduly infringe the rights of neighbours and communities cannot be tolerated.
"All of the protesters have been heard," adds Stefanson. "Our advocacy with the federal government over border and travel measures, and trucking mandates, continues. But it is time for the protests to end and for the rights of all Manitobans to be respected."