In a significant development, a federal judge ruled that the Canadian federal government’s utilization of emergency powers to disperse the anti-government Freedom Convoy protests in 2022 was “unreasonable” and violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite this, the federal government announced plans to appeal the decision.
The controversial protests, known as the “Freedom Convoy,” began as a demonstration against the government’s COVID vaccine mandates. The protests got global attention, with hundreds of protesters, including many truck drivers, congregating near Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at various border crossings nationwide.
The government invoked the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022, three weeks into the Ottawa protests, granting them extraordinary powers. These included the authority to ban public assemblies in certain areas and restrict travel, even from foreign nations, into protest zones.
Judge Richard Mosley, delivering the ruling, stated that the decision to give the proclamation under the Emergencies Act did not meet the standards of reasonableness required by law.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Assc. and the Canadian Constitution Foundation had challenged the government’s actions, arguing that the protests did not match the high legal threshold necessary to invoke the act.
Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland defended the government’s decision, describing it as a necessary response to a threat to the nation’s economic and national security. She emphasized that the government acted to secure and protect Canada’s national interests during a challenging period.
In contrast, a federal inquiry conducted last year concluded that the government did meet the “high threshold” for the use of the Emergencies Act. Justice Paul Rouleau, who led the Public Order Emergency Commission, described the government’s move as drastic but not dictatorial. In his February 2023 report, he also criticized the protesters, characterizing their actions as descending into lawlessness and resulting in a national emergency.