The Canadian government will appeal a court ruling that Ottawa’s use of emergency powers in early 2022 to end anti-government protests was unreasonable, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
A federal judge earlier on Tuesday said the Liberal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to clear the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations that paralyzed the national capital in 2022 was unreasonable and violated Charter rights.
“I conclude that there was no national emergency justifying the invocation of the Emergencies Act and the decision to do so was therefore unreasonable and ultra vires,” Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley wrote in the Tuesday decision, using the Latin for acting “beyond one’s powers.”
Freeland, who also serves as the deputy prime minister, said the decision to invoke emergency powers was taken because the public safety of Canadians and national security were under threat.
“We respect very much Canada’s independent judiciary. However, we do not agree with this decision, and respectfully, we will be appealing it,” Freeland told reporters in Montreal.
“I was convinced at the time it was the right thing to do, it was the necessary thing to do. I remain and we remain convinced of that,” she said.
The convoy demonstrations against public health measures including vaccine mandates shut down Ottawa and blocked some border crossings for weeks in January and February 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau portrayed the move to use emergency powers as unavoidable, saying it was not possible to negotiate with the protesters.
Invoking the Emergencies Act gave police additional power to remove and arrest protesters, allowed the government to freeze the assets of those suspected of funding the blockades and allowed for the commandeering of tow trucks.
The case against the Trudeau government in federal court was brought by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Constitution Foundation and individuals.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, in a statement, said the court decision “sets a clear and critical precedent for every future government.”
Last year, the commissioner of an independent inquiry into the decision said that the government met the threshold for invoking emergency powers.