Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau activated the 1988 Emergencies Act in February 2022, addressing truck drivers’ protests against vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions. Trudeau claimed that the group of truckers, known as “the Freedom Convoy,” were illegal and dangerous.
However, a Canadian court rebuked Trudeau for invoking emergency powers in response to the protests, ruling that the action was not justified in relation to the relevant factual and legal constraints. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) applauded the court’s decision, stating that emergency powers are “dangerous to democracy” and should be used sparingly and carefully.
Trudeau’s actions were a radical departure from the norms and philosophy of classical liberalism, as emergency powers were traditionally reserved for war, insurrection, or invasion. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s lawsuit against the federal government in 2022 supports the court’s decision, but it is important to examine Trudeau’s reckless use of emergency powers.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of emergency powers to crack down on a civil protest resembled a head of a state like Iran, North Korea, or China. Hundreds of charges were issued and many arrested after exercising their right to protest.
Trudeau’s persecution extended to those supporting them financially, such as the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo, which was ordered to stop receiving donations for protesters. The government then had the power to freeze bank accounts without a court order, causing chaos in Canada’s banking system and violating free speech.
George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley argued that there is no principled basis for cutting off citizens’ ability to support other citizens in a campaign of civil disobedience.
Trudeau later argued that he never made anyone get vaccinated, but rather gave people the proper “incentives.” This attempt to “incentivize” behavior and crush dissenters is a reminder of the importance of the separation of powers in freedom.
The concept of checks and balances, as proposed by French philosopher Montesquieu in The Spirit of Laws, is a fundamental principle in American and Canadian constitutions. It involves separating power and using separate branches of government to maintain balance.
The Canadian court has put Trudeau in check, but his actions demonstrate the importance of checks and balances in protecting citizens from tyrants who exercise power for the benefit of their victims, as described by C.S. Lewis.