The Canadian Federal Court has ruled that the Government’s use of the Emergencies Act to shut down the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa two years ago was “not justified” and thus unlawful.
The protests brought central Ottawa to a standstill for three weeks in early 2022 in opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
“I have concluded that the decision to issue the Proclamation does not bear the hallmarks of reasonableness – justification, transparency and intelligibility – and was not justified in relation to the relevant factual and legal constraints that were required to be taken into consideration,” stated Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley.
Mosley added that “there can be only one reasonable interpretation” of the Emergencies Act and CSIS Act, and that he believes “the legal constraints on the discretion of the GIC to declare a public order emergency were not satisfied”.
It was the first time the extreme legislation had been triggered since it was enacted in 1988 and it empowered banks to freeze the personal accounts of protesters without the permission of a court. The Government also extended “terrorist financing” rules to cover the protestors at the same time. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was heavily criticised as the time for such an unprecedented and heavy-handed response.
The Emergencies Act stipulates that it may only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians”. Lawful protests do not qualify.
Speaking at the time, Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti said the Government believed these conditions had been met, saying the crisis was national in scope and exceeded the power of existing laws to respond.
Today the Federal Court disagreed.
Read the full ruling here. The Government has indicated it will appeal the decision.