Remarks regarding the <em>Emergencies Act </em>and additional support for Ukraine
I’m joined today by Deputy Minister Freeland and Ministers Lametti, Mendicino and Blair. I’m here to provide an update on the illegal blockades. I also want to talk about our efforts to support Ukraine as it faces Russian aggression, but of course, we’ll start with the situation here in Canada.
We’re entering the third week of illegal blockades that have been disrupting the lives of too many Canadians. Here in our capital city, families and small businesses have been enduring illegal obstruction of their neighbourhoods. Occupying streets, harassing people, breaking the law; this is not a peaceful protest. At the borders in different parts of the country, the blockades are harming our economy and endangering public safety. Critical supply chains have been disrupted; this is hurting workers who rely on these jobs to feed their families.
Yesterday the Ambassador Bridge was reopened between Windsor and Detroit. Our team and I have been working with Ontario and the city of Windsor around the clock, and I want to thank the officers on the ground, including the RCMP who played an active role. We now have a responsibility to make sure that the bridge stays open.
With each illegal blockade, local law enforcement agencies have been acting to keep the peace within their jurisdiction. Despite their best efforts, it is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement's ability to effectively enforce the law.
On Friday, Ontario invoked a state of emergency to respond to the blockades. This was the responsible and necessary thing to do. Today, to continue building on these efforts, the federal government is ready to use more tools at its disposal to get the situation fully under control.
After discussing with Cabinet and Caucus, after consultation with premiers from all provinces and territories, after speaking with opposition leaders, the federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the blockades and occupations. I want to be very clear: the scope of these measures will be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address. The Emergencies Act will be used to strengthen and support law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country. This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions.
Here's how the measures we're taking today will help get the situation under control.
The police will be given more tools to restore order in places where public assemblies can constitute illegal and dangerous activities, such as blockades and occupations, as seen in Ottawa, the Ambassador Bridge and elsewhere. These tools include strengthening their ability to impose fines or imprisonment. The government will designate, secure, and protect places and infrastructure that are critical to our economy and people's jobs, including border crossings and airports.
We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue.
The Emergencies Act will also allow the government to make sure essential services are rendered, for example, in order to tow vehicles blocking roads. In addition, financial institutions will be authorized or directed to render essential services to help address the situation, including by regulating and prohibiting the use of property to fund or support illegal blockades. And finally, it will enable the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences where required.
This is what the Emergencies Act does.
Let me be equally clear about what it does not do.
We're not using the Emergencies Act to call in the military. We're not suspending fundamental rights or overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are not limiting people's freedom of speech, we are not limiting freedom of peaceful assembly, we are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally.
We are reinforcing the principles, values, and institutions that keep all Canadians free.
After discussing with Cabinet and Caucus, after consulting with the premiers of all the provinces and territories, and after speaking with opposition leaders, the federal government has invoked the Emergencies Act to supplement provincial and territorial capacity to address the occupations and illegal blockades.
I want to be very clear: these measures will be time-limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they pose to the security of Canada. The Emergencies Act will be used to strengthen and support the work of police. We’re not using the Emergencies Act to call in the military. We’re not suspending fundamental rights set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We’re not limiting people’s freedom of speech or their right to peaceful protest.
We want to keep Canadians safe, protect people’s jobs, and restore confidence in our institutions.
The Emergencies Act is not something that’s been used ever, but it exists for a reason. Invoking the Emergencies Act is never the first thing the government should do, nor even the second. The act is to be used sparingly and as a last resort. Right now, the situation requires additional tools not held by any other federal, provincial, or territorial law. Today in these circumstances, it is now clear that responsible leadership requires us to do this.
These measures must be, and will be, compliant with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms; indeed, the Emergencies Act was created in the late eighties to flow from and uphold the Charter. We'll always defend the rights of Canadians to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression, but these blockades are illegal. And if you're still participating, the time to go home is now.
On a separate track from the Emergencies Act, I want to reassure people that the Canadian Border Services Agency is already turning back non-Canadians trying to enter Canada to participate in blockades. And of course, while we get the situation under control, we'll continue to have Canadians’ backs. I want to remind affected businesses that if you're facing revenue losses, support is available through our wage and rent subsidy programs. We know that downtown Ottawa businesses in particular have been hard-hit by these illegal activities. In the coming days we'll be launching specific support for those businesses.
I know that everyone is tired of this pandemic.
We're hearing your frustration with COVID and even with the temporary measures that we had to put forward to keep people safe. I know people are frustrated; I hear it. You have a right to express that frustration, and even your anger with the government or government policies; it's something we'll always defend in this free and democratic country. But blockading streets and critical infrastructure and depriving your neighbours of their freedoms is a totally different thing.
It has to stop.
Everyone is tired of the pandemic.
There are other ways to express yourself than to participate in illegal and dangerous activities. As Minister Duclos said last week, public health measures are constantly being reviewed, and we’ll continue to make changes to them based on science. We’ll be making some announcements about that in the next few days.
Today I also want to speak briefly about our support for Ukraine.
On Saturday I spoke with President Zelensky to reaffirm Canada's steadfast support and to continue to do whatever we can to support Ukraine.
On the weekend, I also had calls with President of the European Council Charles Michel, German Chancellor Scholz, and Polish President Duda.
As part of the collective G7 response to support Ukraine's economic resilience, today we're announcing that Canada will offer a loan of up to $500 million to the government of Ukraine.
I want to thank Deputy Prime Minister Freeland for her leadership on this file, and underline that this is in addition to the $120 million loan offered earlier in January.
On top of financial support, Canada has already taken steps to help Ukraine defend itself, including with the extension of the training mission Operation UNIFIER. In light of the seriousness of the situation, and following conversations with our Ukrainian partners, I've approved the provision of $7.8 million worth of lethal equipment and ammunition. This responds to Ukraine's specific request and is in addition to the non-lethal equipment we've already provided. The intent of this support from Canada and other partners is to deter further Russian aggression.
Because of the seriousness of the situation, and after careful consideration, I’ve approved Ukraine’s request to send them arms and ammunition. Canada joins the United States, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland in sending arms. The intent of this support from Canada and our other partners is to deter further Russian aggression.
We're not seeking confrontation with Russia, but the situation is intensifying rapidly, and we are showing our resolve. It's important for Canadians and the world to know that Canada will continue supporting Ukraine and its independence, integrity, sovereignty, including its right to defend itself.
Thank you, everyone.