Politics

MPs to resume debate on Emergencies Act after police make gains against protesters

The House of Commons will resume debate of the government's controversial decision to invoke the Emergencies Act on Saturday after being shut down in anticipation of the police operation Friday that resulted in more than 100 arrests outside Parliament buildings in the capital.

Liberal government defends controversial decision as protesters arrested in Ottawa

Police from across the country enforce an injunction against protesters camped near Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

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The House of Commons will resume its debate of the government's controversial decision to invoke the Emergencies Act on Saturday.

Liberal House Leader Mark Holland confirmed the reopening of Parliament late Friday evening after a day of furious police action against the convoy protest.

The House of Commons and Senate were shut down Friday in anticipation of the disruptive encounter between police and protesters, which resulted in more than 100 arrests and hours of tense standoffs outside the Parliament buildings.

Ottawa police said on Friday that the federal government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act helped expedite its action against the convoy protest.

Interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell said the act and the provincial state of emergency provided police with the resources they needed to push back and end the demonstration.

"The three levels of government that have come together to support our efforts in this have led us to be able to have the success we're starting to see right now," he said.

"Without the authorities provided to us through these pieces of legislation, we wouldn't be able to be doing the work we are today."

More than 100 arrested

In a dramatic show of force, a line of police officers — some armed with weapons, face shields and gas masks — moved steadily along Rideau Street throughout Friday, pushing protesters west and making arrests along the way.

By early Friday evening, police had taken more than 100 people into custody and had towed 21 vehicles. However, dozens of protesters were still refusing to clear the area after sunset.

PHOTOS | Scenes from police operation to end Ottawa protest: 

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland earlier in the day defended her government's decision to invoke the emergency powers now being used to clear downtown Ottawa, saying Canada's economy and democracy are being threatened.

"A liberal democracy must be prepared to defend itself," she told a news conference Friday as police continued to take into custody protesters demanding the elimination of all pandemic measures who have gridlocked the capital city for nearly three weeks.

The federal government triggered the Emergencies Act earlier this week for the first time in the legislation's history. It brought in new measures prohibiting public assemblies that disrupt the movement of people, goods and trade, or that support the "threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property."

Sen. Vernon White, who served as Ottawa police chief from 2007 to 2012, also said the act made Friday's police action more successful.

"I support it. I felt we were at a point of no return," he told CBC's Power & Politics.

WATCH | Former Ottawa police chief on Friday's action against protesters: 

Former Ottawa police chief backs Ottawa's use of Emergencies Act

9 months ago
Duration 8:20
Ontario Sen. Vernon White, a former Ottawa police chief, says he supports the government's use of the Emergencies Act to address the protest in Ottawa and border blockades.

Others have continued to criticize the use of the act, including Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen. 

She blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the state of affairs as police were facing off against protesters.

"This situation was created by the PM & his desire to divide Canadians," Bergen said on Twitter.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) plans to sue the federal government over its decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, arguing that it violates Charter rights. Amnesty International has also raised concerns that the act could violate human rights.

Government says protests a threat to Canada

The government published its reasons for triggering the Emergencies Act late Wednesday, calling the situation across the country "concerning, volatile and unpredictable."

"The protesters have varying ideological grievances, with demands ranging from an end to all public health restrictions to the overthrow of the elected government," the government statement reads.

"Ideologically motivated violent extremism adherents may feel empowered by the level of disorder resulting from the protests."

The statement also said border blockades threaten Canada's economic security. 

"The impact on important trade corridors and the risk to the reputation of Canada as a stable, predictable and reliable location for investment may be jeopardized if disruptions continue," it reads.

WATCH | 'It's painful for me that this is happening in Canada,' says Freeland: 

Freeland: 'It's painful for me that this is happening in Canada'

9 months ago
Duration 1:36
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the protests now being cleared from Ottawa's streets are attempting to undermine Canada's democracy and economy.

For six days last week, protesters blocked access to the Ambassador Bridge which connects Windsor and Detroit. The vital trade link was reopened to traffic on Sunday after police moved in.

On Friday, an Ontario judge granted an extension to the injunction that prohibits anyone from blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge. The previous order was set to expire Monday.

Debate delayed

Debate in the House of Commons on the government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act was temporarily suspended as the police operation overtook the parliamentary precinct's doorstep.

House leaders previously reached a deal to debate the use of the Emergencies Act on Friday and throughout the weekend, from 7 a.m. ET to midnight, with a vote planned for Monday. The vote will still take place Monday evening, despite the cancellation of Friday's sitting.

    The extraordinary powers provided by the legislation have been in effect since Monday, but the Emergencies Act stipulates that the federal government also must go before Parliament to seek approval from MPs and senators.

    WATCH | A timeline of the convoy protest that has paralyzed downtown Ottawa:

    From convoy to encampment to arrests | Protest timeline

    9 months ago
    Duration 3:10
    Protesters have shut down border crossings and paralyzed downtown Ottawa over the past three weeks. Here's how they got there and how it might end.

    A note sent to senators on Friday morning asked them to stay away from the downtown core.

    NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party plans to support the Emergencies Act declaration — which would carry it through the minority Parliament — but is ready to pull its support if the measures are no longer necessary or if the government takes on additional powers.

    Key organizers arrested

    On Thursday, police arrested Chris Barber and Tamara Lich, key organizers of the protest convoy that began as a demonstration against vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

    Barber has been released on bail and ordered to leave Ottawa within 24 hours. Lich is scheduled to appear in court Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

    According to police, Barber is charged with counselling to commit the offence of mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobeying a court order and counselling to commit the offence of obstructing police. 

    Lich has been charged with counselling to commit the offence of mischief, police said.

    CBC News has confirmed another of the convoy leaders, Pat King, was among those arrested Friday.

    CBC special coverage

    • News and analysis will continue on CBC News Network with Power & Politics and Canada Tonight, and on The World at 6 on CBC Radio One and the CBC Listen app.

    • Watch The National starting at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network for the latest news and analysis.
    • And follow cbcnews.ca for breaking news, analysis and updates.

      ABOUT THE AUTHOR

      Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliament Hill bureau, where she covers national security and the RCMP. She worked previously for CBC in Nova Scotia. You can reach her at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca

      With files from J.P. Tasker

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