A Canadian federal court ruled on Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau infringed on civil rights and violated Canada’s constitution by invoking anti-terrorism measures against a trucker protest in early 2022. On Trudeau’s orders, members of the Freedom Convoy who blockaded the streets of Ottawa in protest of COVID lockdowns and vaccine mandates were subjected to arrests, asset seizures, and other violations the court described as “unreasonable.”
While the ruling by Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley determined that the Freedom Convoy protest “reflected an unacceptable breakdown of public order,” it also found that Trudeau’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act did not “bear the hallmarks of reasonableness – justification, transparency, and intelligibility.”
The judge’s decision came in response to a joint case brought by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Constitution Foundation, and other individuals affected by the government’s crackdown on the protest.
The Freedom Convoy was initially formed after both Canada and the United States reimplemented vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers in late January 2022, threatening to cripple supply chains and leave 16,000 Canadian truckers out of work. In an extremely disruptive but largely peaceful demonstration that lasted until mid-February, truckers blocked the streets of the Canadian capital of Ottawa and refused to leave until all COVID-era restrictions had been lifted.
After smearing the protesters as “racists” and accusing them of vandalizing war memorials, Trudeau (reportedly at the urging of U.S. President Joe Biden) triggered the Emergencies Act, allowing the government to arrest protest organizers, freeze their bank accounts, and seize online donations made to their cause.
In total, nearly 230 convoy members were arrested, millions of dollars were confiscated, and tow truck drivers were legally compelled to remove trucks from the city.
The Act, which had never been previously invoked, was intended to be used when “threats to the security of Canada are so serious as to be a national emergency.” The legislation further defines these threats as espionage, serious violence, foreign interference, or intent to overthrow the government…but according to Justin Trudeau, illegal parking and loud honking also meet the criteria.
However, in the eyes of the court, the government failed to establish the need for such drastic measures. In his ruling, Judge Mosely stated that “the potential for serious violence, or being unable to say that there was no potential for serious violence was, of course, a valid reason for concern, but in my view, it did not satisfy the test required to invoke the Act.”
The plaintiffs in the suit celebrated the ruling as a vindication for everyone unjustly targeted under the Emergencies Act, stating that it “sets a clear and critical precedent for every future government.”
However, the Trudeau administration maintains that its actions were justified and plans to appeal the decision.
“We believed we were doing something necessary and something legal at the time. That continues to be my belief today,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. “The safety of individual Canadians was under real threat … Our national security was under real threat – our national security, including our economic security.”