Illegal and “very damaging” demonstrations, according to the Liberal minister
The federal government warned Friday that protesters who block international border crossings and disrupt downtown Ottawa are hurting Canada’s economy and could face fines and criminal charges if they don’t stop. .
“A group of people acting in a way that is illegal and very, very detrimental to the Canadian economy and the jobs of their fellow citizens is not a valid and peaceful expression of disagreement with public policy,” the Minister of Business said. intergovernmental, Dominic LeBlanc. As it happens host Carol Off in an interview Friday.
Many protesters criticized public health measures, including mandates and restrictions on vaccines.
“What I saw on the streets of Ottawa today was not a group of people who disagree with certain pandemic measures. These are people who are very active and in a very illegal and unpleasant way, disrupting people’s lives in Ottawa,” LeBlanc said.
His remarks came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told protesters to go home or face “serious consequences” and promised Canadians that “illegal” protests would end.
Hours later, the Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted an injunction to end the blockade of Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge.
Earlier Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency following the protests. Ford said he would convene the cabinet to “urgent enact orders that will make clear that it is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure.”
Here is part of Minister LeBlanc’s conversation with Carol Off.
Minister LeBlanc, we just heard Premier Ford warn that protesters will face consequences. Why are we not talking about these consequences until two weeks after this mess started?
We were very encouraged and very pleased with what the Ontario government announced today. We believe this will be an important step, we hope, in ending both the blockades at the border crossings and the occupation of the city of Ottawa. Law enforcement, Carol, has been working together, obviously since the start of this protest convoy that’s taking shape. So there was a very active and committed collaboration.
I spoke, for example, this week alone with Prime Minister Ford, I think at least twice, the Prime Minister did, so we found ways to work together to end this unacceptable situation.
But Ottawa had powers, you have all kinds of powers even before you get to really powerful things like the Emergencies Act. Why has Ottawa not acted?
Because the Emergencies Act is obviously something of a last resort. Provinces and municipalities have considerable powers with respect to, for example, the regulation of the trucking industry, the imposition of fines, the seizure of vehicles. The American administration has said that it is happy, for example, to prohibit the entry into the United States of truckers convicted of one of these offenses in Canada. So the international dimension is something we can work on, but in our constitutional system, it’s frustrating.
I know it has been confusing, but the legal authorities, in many cases, to resolve these issues are in the hands of local and provincial authorities.
Are you saying that…the Government of Ontario should have acted sooner, that it had those powers, and that it could have stopped a lot of things a lot sooner?
No, I’m not saying that. I say that they have been collaborating with us since the beginning of this circumstance. Of course, they hoped, for example, that the municipal authorities of Ottawa would have concluded that two and a half weeks ago. Well, that didn’t happen.
So the Ontario government is stepping in with increased powers and powers to impose very serious fines and economic consequences on people who act in a way that is clearly illegal.
There is a lot of speculation, including from the Chief of Police in Ottawa…that there are other forces behind these blockades and this protest in Ottawa, in particular. That it seems to be [a] spontaneous outburst from frustrated people, but that there are people pulling the strings…there is an organization there. What do you mean? What do you think could be behind what we see on the streets?
I think this is a very important issue, and it is one that the Prime Minister has discussed with [U.S.] President Biden today and, as I said, my colleagues with their American counterparts for several days. Of course, any foreign interference or foreign funding or support for what would be illegal activities in Canada is completely unacceptable. And those who do so on either side of the Canada-US border face the appropriate legal consequences.
I think people are right to conclude that the way these protests have evolved, to say that there is a group of people who are organizing and colluding and trying to disrupt the Canadian economy or peaceful life as much as possible people who live and work in downtown Ottawa, which is obviously completely unacceptable.
I have participated in a number of briefings, including with the Prime Minister and other Cabinet colleagues, where Canada’s intelligence services assure us that they share all the information they have with the authorities law enforcement authorities. So this work is…in progress.
And then, what do you mean by this work? Who or what is behind all this? If you are in the process of…receiving briefings of this nature, what can you tell us about what you hear there?
When you receive an intelligence briefing, you don’t speak about it publicly, so no one is in a position…
No, but what can… I’m just asking what can you tell us? What…ideas can you actually share?
Of course, we can say that Canadian security and intelligence officials are very engaged, as you would expect, in following these events and working with the appropriate local, provincial and national law enforcement authorities, as appropriate.
So everyone is working hard and everyone is obviously concerned about anything that appears to be foreign interference, incitement to fund what has become an illegal occupation in Ottawa or an illegal blockade at several Canadian-U.S. border points in across the country.
We have seen what measures are being put in place to stop this. If they are not effective, what will the federal government do? People wonder if we’re going to have that moment where we see Mr. Trudeau, the Liberal government, invoke something like the Emergencies Act. Do you see a place, do you see it might come?
We sincerely hope that we will not arrive at this very difficult moment. We are confident that responsible provincial and municipal authorities, supported by federal law enforcement, will be able to resolve this issue, but it must be resolved quickly. The Prime Minister said again today that this will be resolved. These are the discussions he had with President Biden.
But at this time, Carol, we remain confident that provincial local authorities have the existing capacity to resolve this. But we share the sense of urgency and have had it for many days. But we are also ready and have so far said yes to all requests from local and provincial police authorities, for example, and we will continue to do whatever we must, so that they can carry out quickly.
Written by Andrea Bellemare with files from CBC News. Interview with Dominic LeBlanc conducted by Kevin Robertson. The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.