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Trudeau wins parliament vote on ending anti-vax protests with emergency law

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference after police ended three weeks of occupation of the capital by anti-vaccine protesters seeking, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on February 21, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Canada's parliament has approved Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial decision to invoke rarely-used emergency powers to end trucker-led anti-vaccine protests that have for weeks been held in the capital city Ottawa.

The approval came on Monday night after 185 votes were polled in favour and 151 against the move in the parliament, as the government received support from left-leaning New Democrats.   

Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act last week in a bid to quell anti-vaccine trucker protests.

The unprecedented move came as thousands of protesters in trucks and other vehicles blocked the streets of Ottawa, as well as two border crossings, to vent their frustration over the COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The measures were decried by some opposition politicians as unnecessary and an abuse of power.

Under the ordinance, the Canadian police would be granted additional powers to detain demonstrators and seize their trucks in order to clear blockades, as well as banning the funding of protests.

The so-called "Freedom Convoy” protests started with cross-border truckers protesting against the COVID-19 vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate, but later broadened to include people opposing all coronavirus health measures announced by the Trudeau government.

Earlier on Monday, Trudeau said his government still needed temporary emergency powers, citing "real concerns" about threats in the upcoming days.

"This state of emergency is not over. There continue to be real concerns about the coming days," Trudeau told reporters.

Canadian police made 191 arrests and towed 79 vehicles during a three-day operation to clear protesters from the downtown Ottawa. The operation ended on Sunday.

The plan has drawn widespread condemnation from Canadians, including the premier in Quebec, Francois Legault, who said Trudeau's announcement risked putting "oil on the fire."

Some members of the official opposition Conservative Party slammed Trudeau for abusing his powers, with Legislator Dean Allison denouncing what he called "authoritarian military style measures" against the demonstrators.

Green Party member Mike Morrice, who voted against the ordinance, also criticized invoking the act as an "inappropriate" response to a failure in policing.

"As many other parliamentarians have shared, the use of the Emergencies Act sets a worrying precedent for future protests," he said.

The Emergencies Act must now be debated by the Senate.

The trucker-led demonstrations in Canada have been replicated in France, Australia and New Zealand in recent weeks, with US truck drivers mulling similar rallies.

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