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Trudeau to defend use of wartime measures in Feb. crackdown on trucker protests

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 attends a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, during trucker-led protests on February 28, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to testify at a public inquiry on Friday in defense of his government’s use of wartime measures in suppressing trucker protests that paralyzed the capital city earlier this year.

The Public Order Emergency Commission will hear Trudeau's statement on the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act in February, invoked after weeks of trucker-led protests that brought Ottawa to a standstill and disrupted trade.

The so-called "Freedom Convoy” protests started with cross-border truckers rejecting the COVID-19 vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate and extended to include people opposing all coronavirus-related restrictions announced by the Trudeau government.

The Canadian premier said at the time that police needed "more tools to restore order" after more than three weeks of "dangerous and unlawful activities," including harassment of Ottawa residents by the big rigs' incessant honking and diesel fumes.

Pointing to "evidence of increased ideologically motivated violent extremism activity across the country," Trudeau claimed that the protesters had received "foreign funding to destabilize Canada's democracy."

Trudeau’s invocation of the rarely used powers to suppress the protests was slammed by political opponents and civil liberties groups, with organizers of the convoy protests defending their actions as legitimate pushback against "evil" policies of the Canadian government.

"We weren't there to disrupt the city residents," trucker Brigitte Belton was quoted as saying in media reports. "We were there to be heard."

Canada's National Security adviser Jody Thomas, however, said she recommended invoking the Emergencies Act as the protests were "causing significant economic instability. The violent rhetoric was increasing rapidly and exponentially, (and) the number of threats against public figures was increasing."

Canada's Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino also said he had been warned about "a hardened cell of individuals" in the Alberta border town of Coutts "armed to the teeth with lethal firearms, who possessed a willingness to go down with the cause."

Trudeau’s Friday testimony will close out Canada’s Public Order Emergency Commission hearings ongoing over the past weeks.


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