Montreal

François Legault says Trudeau's invoking of Emergencies Act 'not necessary' in Quebec

Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he understands why the federal Emergencies Act might be useful in other parts of the country, but he feels applying the measure in Quebec right now would be divisive

Legault says it's not time to 'throw oil on the fire'

Premier François Legault told reporters at a news conference in Longueuil Monday that protests against public health restrictions haven't been a problem in Quebec, and the federal Emergencies Act here 'would not help the social climate.' (Ivanoh Demers)

Premier François Legault said Monday he doesn't want to see the federal Emergencies Act applied in Quebec.

Speaking to reporters in Longueuil, Legault said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers Monday morning of his intention to invoke the act to deal with the various protests against public health measures across the country over the last few weeks.

"I think that I was very clear with the prime minister that the federal Emergencies Act should not, must not apply in Quebec," Legault said.

"We don't have any problems in Quebec so far. The Sureté du Québec has everything under control," Legault said, referring to largely peaceful protests that unfolded in Montreal over the weekend and in Quebec City the previous weekend.

"I can understand that enough is enough in Ottawa. You can protest, but you can't do what they've been doing for two weeks," he said, referring to the ongoing demonstration there.

WATCH | François Legault says applying federal Emergencies Act in Quebec could be like 'throwing oil on the fire':

Legault doesn't want Emergencies Act applied in Quebec

3 months ago
Duration 1:41
Quebec Premier François Legault says he understands the prime minister's motivations given the situation in Ontario, but says he doesn't want more divisiveness in Quebec.

But Legault said applying emergency measures in Quebec would divide Quebecers at a time when he wants to bring them together by gradually reducing public health restrictions.

Still, Quebec exporters and manufacturers applauded the prime minister's move.

"Manufacturers were asking the federal government to intervene and we applaud any measure that will put an end to the blockades and prevent any others from forming," said Véronique Proulx, CEO of the Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec.

"We want order re-established at the border because these disruptions affect our companies and the Canadian economy," Proulx said in a statement. "We must restore Canada's reputation as a reliable commercial partner."

'Oil on the fire'

"I think that at this moment, it would not help the social climate. There's a lot of pressure right now, and I think we have to be careful," Legault said.

"We really don't need to throw oil on the fire," he said.

Legault was asked if his reluctance was based in part on the history of the War Measures Act in Quebec, where it was invoked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during the October Crisis of 1970.

The act allowed police to search and arrest hundreds of Quebecers without warrants, and to detain them indefinitely without charges. It was repealed in 1988 and replaced by the Emergencies Act.

"Of course I thought about that," Legault said.

The leaders of all three opposition parties at the National Assembly said on Twitter Monday that they agreed with Legault that applying the act in Quebec was unnecessary.

The premiers of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan also spoke out against invoking the act Monday.

Trudeau says application of act will be 'targeted'

Trudeau said Monday afternoon that application of the act would be "geographically targeted." 

"These are not blanket powers across the country," the prime minister said.

"These will be tools that can be used where and when necessary so that the police of jurisdiction dealing with blockades or occupations have the tools necessary," he said.

"Ideally, the premiers who say they've had the situation in hand will continue to do so," Trudeau said.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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