Remarks regarding the Emergencies Act
I’m accompanied today by Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, and Ministers Lametti, Mendicino, and Blair.
These past weeks have been incredibly difficult for the people of our capital city, and they’ve been stressful and disturbing for all Canadians. The situation is not anything anyone wanted, and quite frankly, not anything we’d want to see again.
Last Monday, after consulting with the provinces and territories, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act. On Tuesday, the border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, was reopened, and on Wednesday, the blockade in Emerson, Manitoba, was removed. Today, families and workers in Ottawa are getting back their neighbourhood and their freedom.
I want to take a moment to thank the law enforcement agencies from across the country who joined the operations, and I want to continue to thank them as they ensure that, among other things, Canada’s border crossings remain open, including in Windsor, and that all communities are safe.
We didn’t want to use the Emergencies Act. It’s never something to turn to without serious consideration. But, after weeks of dangerous and unlawful activities, after weeks of people being harassed in their neighbourhoods and small businesses forced to close, after billions of dollars were stalled in trade, putting peoples’ jobs and livelihoods at risk, after the national war memorial was desecrated, after evidence of increased ideologically motivated violent extremism activity across the country, after a flood of misinformation and disinformation washed over Canada, including from foreign sources, after these illegal blockades and occupations received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canada’s democracy, it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order and keep people safe.
For the past few days, parliamentarians have been debating the Emergencies Act and will be voting on it tonight. I ask all members of parliament to take action against illegal blockades, and to stand up for public safety, and for the freedom of Canadians.
Invoking the Emergencies Act has been necessary. Law enforcement agencies relied on it to set up secured areas in downtown Ottawa, and at border crossings. It prevented foreign money from continuing to fund illegal blockades, and it’s making sure our borders remain open. It has been the responsible thing to do.
We now have a choice to make as a society; we can choose to keep reliving these scenes that tear at the values that bind us as Canadians, or we can choose to remember who we are, and the best vision of what Canada can be. What we’ve seen in these past weeks is not the story of this pandemic. The story of this pandemic is one of unity and solidarity.
The story of this pandemic is one of health workers, who show up for work each and every day, regardless of how tired they are and the challenges that await them. It’s the story of truckers and frontline workers who keep our economy running. It’s the story of children and seniors who have remained strong and resilient. We’ve seen people across the country working and adapting together to save lives. We’re among the world leaders in rates of vaccination. We’ve all made sacrifices, and yes, it’s been hard: 36,000 Canadians have died of COVID-19. They were grandparents, parents, children, friends, and neighbours. But through it all, we’ve been there for each other.
Through this pain and heartbreak, Canadians answered the call because Canadians are good people. We’re among the world leaders in vaccination and health outcomes, as well as in economic recovery and job creation. It took courage, it took resilience, but we did it together, and despite the many challenges that we faced, our democratic institutions remain strong.
We don’t always agree, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s not only healthy to have debates in a democracy, it’s necessary. Our government will always defend freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. These values are at the core of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They’re at the core of who we are as Canadians. In a democracy, you can protest, you can share your opinion at the top of your lungs. You can disagree with elected officials; you can certainly disagree with me.
But you can’t harass your fellow citizens who disagree with you. You can’t hold a city hostage. You can’t block a critical trade corridor and deprive people of their jobs. You can’t attack journalists for reporting, which is essential to our democracy. What you can do is vote. What you can do is run for office. That’s how change happens in a democracy.
We’re all tired of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to participate in illegal blockades and occupations, or to put others in danger; and it’s unacceptable to attack journalists for doing their job, or to use intimidation and violate freedom of the press. There’s no doubt that the last few weeks have been difficult, that the past few years have been painful, or that there are still challenges we’ll have to face. But we can’t let anger divide us
More than ever, now is the time to work together. It’s also the time to reflect on the kind of future we want for our country. There’s a lesson for all of us in what happened this month. We don’t know when this pandemic is going to finally end, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start healing as a nation, and it starts with all of us. If you spend a lot of time online, try looking outside your social media bubble every now and then. If you have a cousin who you haven’t seen in a while because they’re unvaccinated, or because they’re vaccinated, give them a call. If a political conversation got heated during a recent gathering and a friend or relative left early, pick up the phone. Not to try to convince them, not to argue, but simply to ask how they’re doing.
Look, in the heat of the moment, we can all get carried away trying to win an argument, but not every single conversation has to be about winning an argument. Sometimes, it’s more important to just be there for one another. As a country, let’s aim for more decency in our public discourse, not less. Let’s cherish the democracy that we have, and let’s commit ourselves every day to working together to make it even better.