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FEATURED COMMENT – The use of Emergencies Act powers is desperate

Mr. Rothenburger,

From reading the article (Invoking Emergencies Act isn’t the same as War Measures of 1970), I gather your arguments were as follows:

  1. The Emergencies Act will be more effective in ending the trucker blockades.
  2. Important differences between October 1970 and February 2022 indicate that its use is relatively okay.
  3. The suggestion that a vast majority of Canadians are in favour of strong measures to end the situation and, therefore, support using the Emergencies Act.
  4. The indecisiveness of Justin Trudeau is the only complaint in this matter.

To point number 1 then.

  1. The Emergencies Act will be more effective in ending the trucker blockades.

Although this may be true, it does not make this method the best way for ending the blockades.

To begin with, it is useful to reflect on our historical traditions concerning use of force and negotiation. Our Parliamentary Democracy stems from the English Civil War and Glorious Revolution in 1688. If you are not familiar with these events, then to sum them up, it is when Parliament removed the absolute powers of the Monarchy. Thus, it created Parliamentary Sovereignty. Parliament would now make all law in England. As a colony of Great Britain, this tradition carried transferred over to Canada. As part of this tradition, the power of the word was encouraged over that of the sword. Negotiation is our main tool for dealing with those that may disagree with the government. Under absolute monarchical rule, any disagreement was usually met with a swift (and free) prison transport to the Tower of London.

The main point of being is that we must at least attempt to disperse these protests and blockades through negotiation and mediation. Currently, this Federal Government have done neither. Our Prime Minister appears to have inflamed the situation through tagging these protesters as “persons with unacceptable views”. He still refuses to even meet with the organisers.

As Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau does not determine what views are “unacceptable”. Society determines these views and we elect our representatives based on them. Climate Change is the perfect example of this. The main political parties were forced to adopt more climate friendly manifestoes when the views in society became more focused on that issue. Many Canadian Voters do vote based on the climate policies of each party. The people drove this message. They inform Parliament what views are unacceptable.

Although we may disagree with the truckers convoy, escalating the whole situation through tagging them as having “unacceptable views” and invoking the Emergencies Act is contrary to how matters of this nature are dealt with in a democracy.

It is absolutely necessary to use this act when our national sovereignty is in danger (the Second World War for example) but not for truckers whose views we may not like.

Now, I am not stating he should submit to their demands. Indeed, I want the truckers to pack up and go home. However, it is historically important that in a Parliamentary democracy that our government at least attempts to listen to the protesters outside his front door. Indeed, many great men and women have fought for that right since the English Civil War. If this is not done, then we’re entering “let them eat cake” territory. A famous quote by Marie Antoinette that I’m sure you already know.

So, although it is the most effective, that does not mean the use of this act is the right policy for dealing with these blockades. Even if the Military is not deployed, the Prime Minister has essentially used the nuclear option when he had other lighter options available. The main one being to at least listen to the protesters without casting them as unacceptable.

  1. Important differences between October 1970 and February 2022 indicate that its use is relatively okay.

Your article discussed the differences between FLQ bombings and current trucker blockades. You also highlighted how there are no soldiers on the streets like in 1970, and that the act will be focused on specific geographical locations of Canada.

These differences are justified. However, through using this act for protests that have erected blockades, the government has set a low precedent for its use.

According to the act itself, there are a range of reasons as to why it can be enacted. However, one must only read it to realise the legislation is for emergencies that endanger our national sovereignty or citizenry. This is why the War Measures Act was used in 1970. The FLQ were bombing innocents. Canadians were actively in danger and martial law was needed to restore order.

However, the current situation has not shown violence on this scale. There are no bombings, storming of Parliaments, nor assassination of government officials. There have been weapons seizures in Alberta, but 13 weapons hardly justify an enactment of the nuclear option.

By enacting the Emergencies Act, this government has created a low bar for all future Prime Ministers. A future government can enact this legislation for any cross province protest that they may not like, including the Indigenous protests and blockades of 2020. Would you have supported the use of this act for dispersing those blockades?

I certainly would not.

Is our government incapable of moving semi trucks? This should concern all Canadians. Look at what is going on in the world. A Russian build-up on the border of Ukraine. Declining democratic power. A rising China. Do we really want a government to deal with these issues when they can’t even move the semi-trucks without using emergency powers.

  1. The suggestion that a vast majority of Canadians are in favour of strong measures to end the situation and, therefore, support using the Emergencies Act.

Number #3 is quite an astonishing suggestion to make. Especially since you cited no evidence in support of it.

I have seen no poll, nor anything for that matter, to indicate a vast majority of Canadians are in favour of using the Emergencies Act to end this blockade. There are indications that most want the truckers to go home, however, this does not mean that they also want the use of the Emergencies Act to do this.

You must remember, the use of this act is being seen from around the world. The government failed to plan for the truckers’ arrival, verbally attacked them for having different views, and generally just sat around pretending it wasn’t their problem. Other countries have seen our inability to plan for the truckers, deal with it under normal Canadian Law, and then exaggerate by using the Emergencies Act to roll it up.

The use of Emergency powers is desperate to say the least. It is the equivalent of using a rocket launcher to get someone to move their car. This sends a message around the world that our government has no idea what its doing and will resort to desperate measures to avoid embarrassment.

And if this does not end the truckers protests, how much more ridiculous will our country look?

  1. The indecisiveness of Justin Trudeau is the only complaint in this matter.

I agree with this point. This is an astonishing problem. Our Prime Minister cannot make up his mind on anything. Just look at his inaction over rising inflation. This whole situation has been worsened by his verbal slandering of the truckers and then his general laziness throughout.

So why do you not criticize him more? Bad leadership has caused serious divisions in Canadian Society during this Pandemic. The trucker convoy seems to have emerged from this.

To even get to this point where the Emergencies Act has to be used is a sign that the PM has substantially failed. That’s not say all Prime Ministers who use it are failures. I agree with the previous use of the War Measures Act in all three cases. But his father at least waited until bombs began to explode. Violence on this scale has not occurred. The worst threat to the safety of Canadians appears to be few and far between.

HARRY CHADWICK

About Mel Rothenburger (8893 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on FEATURED COMMENT – The use of Emergencies Act powers is desperate

  1. Bill Hadgkiss // February 17, 2022 at 9:09 AM // Reply

    Thank you Harry, it’s good to see some common sense involved in this snafu.

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