Published:February 21, 2022
Premier Jason Kenney announced on the weekend the province will launch a court challenge of the federal government’s Emergencies Act, calling it an “unnecessary and disproportionate measure.”
The premier posted a video online in which he decries the “unjustified use of the Emergencies Act,” and says the province is filing a court challenge and might intervene in support of other court challenges of the federal government’s actions, including that of the Canadian Liberties Association and the Canadian Constitution Foundation.
The never-before-enacted Emergencies Act was invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Feb. 14 to address blockades across the country and public disorder in the nation’s capital caused by people protesting vaccine mandates and COVID-19 public health measures.
The House of Commons passed a motion to approve the Emergencies Act on Monday evening.
“We need to take action to defend, yes the law and order, but also civil liberties and our Constitution in Canada. Alberta will be doing just that,” Kenney said in the video posted Saturday.
“The federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act is an unnecessary and disproportionate measure that can violate civil liberties, invades provincial jurisdiction and creates a very dangerous precedent for the future. And it’s not necessary.”
Kenney said the ending of the blockade at the Coutts border crossing is an example of how unnecessary the Emergencies Act is to resolving the protests across the country that are clogging roads and infrastructure.
“Provincial law enforcement authorities are able to deal with illegal road blockades,” said Kenney.
“Unprecedented extrajudicial powers are being used for no compelling reason. Parliament must vote down this arbitrary power grab by the Trudeau government.”
There was no compelling reason to invoke the Emergencies Act a week ago. The blockades at Windsor and Coutts had been resolved using ordinary legal means.
Now that order has been restored in Ottawa, the extension of these extraordinary powers is obviously massive over reach.
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) February 21, 2022
The Alberta government did, however, formally request assistance from the federal government to deal with the Coutts blockade a few days before the prime minister invoked the Emergencies Act.
On Feb. 5, Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver sent a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to request help removing obstructions from the highway to get the border crossing back in operation. The letter specifically requests the provision of equipment and personnel to move about 70 semi-tractor trailers and another 75 personal and recreational vehicles from the area.
In a tweet Sunday, McIver confirmed the provincial government sent the letter but clarified it “did not ask the federal government to grant itself unprecedented powers to suspend civil liberties under the Emergencies Act.
“These are two very different matters,” said McIver. “The Government of Canada did not grant Alberta’s request for federal assistance. Ultimately, Alberta RCMP was supported by additional personnel transferred from British Columbia RCMP and the Government of Alberta procured the necessary heavy equipment to remove commercial vehicles.”
Protesters illegally blocked the Coutts border crossing for 18 days before protesters voluntarily left shortly after RCMP seized weapons, ammunition and body armour, and arrested 13 people near the blockade.
Trudeau said Monday that the federal government remains on guard to the possibility that trucks and protesters could return to the national capital after police spent the weekend arresting protesters and dispersing blockades on Ottawa’s streets.
The prime minister added that a convoy from Fort McMurray en route to Ottawa was turned away at the Manitoba border a few days ago “based on the laws and the powers in the Emergencies Act.”
“Now, this is not something that we want to imagine continuing indefinitely in Canada. We hope to only keep it in place for a number more days. We will re-evaluate every single day,” said Trudeau.
Calgary Skyview and Liberal MP George Chahal said in a statement Monday he would vote in favour of confirming the invocation of the Emergencies Act because of the immediate positive effect it had on restoring order.
“Local authorities in both Alberta and Ontario were unable to restore order for weeks, allowing protesters to cause massive economic damage,” Chahal said.
My statement on the Emergencies Act: pic.twitter.com/BfJSGnKBTC
— George Chahal (@ChahalGeorge) February 21, 2022
He also voiced his disagreement with Kenney’s decision to challenge the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
“It is unfortunate that Alberta’s premier, who is facing an imminent leadership review, continues to meaninglessly posture instead of putting the best interests of his province above his own personal political survival,” said Chahal.
There will be an inquiry to review the use of the Emergencies Act. A report must be tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate by next February.