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Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act, pledges support for Ottawa businesses affected by trucker protest

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is taking major steps to deal with the "Freedom Convoy" protest that has occupied downtown Ottawa for the last 18 days.

Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act Monday, something that has never been done since the Act was first introduced in 1988.

"This is not a peaceful protest," Trudeau said of the occupation in Ottawa, as well as blockades at border crossings seen in recent days.

The prime minister promised the powers granted by the Act would be "time limited, geographically targeted, as well as reasonable and proportionate," and would be used to support local law enforcement. It would also give the RCMP the power to enforce local bylaws and provincial offences. 

Ottawa police will remain the police of jurisdiction.

"We are not using the Emergencies Act to call in the military. We are not suspending fundamental rights or overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Trudeau said.

Trudeau also announced support for Ottawa businesses specifically that have been affected by the ongoing protest downtown. The Rideau Centre mall and many other small businesses have remained closed because of concerns surrounding the protest.

Trudeau said more details on the funding would be made available in the coming days.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also announced a crackdown on the finances of the protesters, including freezing the corporate accounts of any companies whose trucks are being used in the blockades and protests.

Speaking to reporters, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino called the scene on Wellington Street not simply a matter of trivial interruption to people's lives.

"At times, the scenes on the streets of Wellington have seemed completely lawless," he said, noting that the powers granted by the act will provide "greater agility" between the RCMP and local law enforcement.

SEVERAL TRUCKS MOVED OFF OF RESIDENTIAL STREETS

Some trucks were moved from residential areas in Ottawa following an agreement Mayor JIm Watson reached with 'Freedom Convoy' organizers this weekend.

CTV News crews spotted more than a dozen trucks moving Monday afternoon from O'Connor Street, where they had been parked, up to Wellington Street near Parliament Hill.

"The convoy leaders have started to act on their commitment to move several trucks from the residential district south of Wellington," Watson tweeted. "This is a complex multi-day operation in support of our residents."

The moves come ahead of a scheduled afternoon announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which he's expected to announce the next steps his government will take to deal with the ongoing protest, which has reached day 18. Trudeau spent the morning consulting premiers on invoking the Emergencies Act.

Watson had earlier said he expected protesters to begin moving their trucks out of downtown residential streets on Monday, but he’s also acknowledging it won’t be straightforward or easy.

“There are a number of people that want to try to see this particular deal fail,” he told Newstalk 580 CFRA. “I’m under no illusions. This is going to be difficult to implement and enforce.”

Hundreds of vehicles remain parked on Wellington Street and roads around Parliament Hill on day 18 of the occupation.

Watson announced Sunday an agreement has been reached with the president of the Freedom Convoy to see hundreds of trucks move off residential streets and on to Wellington Street, between Elgin Street and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

Tamara Lich told the mayor that organizers would work hard over the weekend to "get buy in" from the truckers to move their vehicles.

"The Freedom Convoy Board agree with your request to reduce pressures on the residents and businesses in the city of Ottawa," Lich said. "We hope to start repositioning our trucks on Monday."

Watson said Monday that he expects Lich to live up to the agreement.

“If she doesn’t, well at least we’ve tried something that’s different than what has been tried for the last two weeks, and hasn’t worked,” he said.

“There’s going to be lots of ups and downs over the course of the next 24 hours,” he added. “Not all of the truckers are part of this one movement. There are a lot of splinter groups, and so I don’t anticipate every single truck will leave from a residential area, but at least consolidating them in one area away from residential communities is a small victory for the residents if it in fact goes through.”

Watson told CTV News Ottawa Sunday evening it could take two to three days to get the vehicles moved out of the residential neighbourhoods.

"It's their responsibility to get their members onboard with this," Watson said.

"They started doing that, as I understand it, last night and they'll work again (Sunday) and (Monday) so that they can start moving out by noon. It will take two to three days to get people moved out."

The mayor says an individual acted as a go-between the two parties to reach an agreement.

"I set out very strict conditions that unless they're moved out of residential neighbourhood, I won't be dealing with them," Watson said.

"Not one single person lives on Wellington Street, but there are tens of thousands of people that live in the residential neighbourhoods that are most adversely affected - Centretown, Lowertown, ByWard Market. Those people need some kind of relief and reprieve from the horn honking, the diesel spewing all night, catcalls and inappropriate behaviour and we need to get them out of residential neighbourhoods."

Watson says he wants to see "clear evidence" that the truck convoy will be departing residential streets before 12 p.m. Monday.  The mayor says he will meet with Lich and the organizers to discuss their concerns if they meet three conditions.

  1. Remove all trucks from the residential districts south of Wellington Street, and from all other residential areas including the market, the Ottawa Baseball Stadium on Coventry, etc.;
  2. Agree to not backfill the residential areas currently occupied with trucks, other vehicles and/or demonstrators; and
  3. Agree to not displace the truck convoy, vehicles and/or demonstrators to other residential areas in the City of Ottawa.

CITY INJUNCTION GRANTED

An Ontario judge has granted an injunction to enforce noise and idling bylaws in Ottawa.

The protest by antigovernment demonstrators blockading city streets around Parliament Hill is now in its third week.

City solicitor David White requested the injunction Friday, saying the protesters were flagrantly violating bylaws against relentless noise, idling of trucks, setting off fireworks, and open air fires.

White told council in a memo on Friday the injunction would address the "evidence of flagrant and repeated violations."

"During recent events, By-law Services have not been able to effectively undertake their usual enforcement activities in those parts of the City most affected by the protests, due to safety and operational concerns identified by the Ottawa Police Service," White said.

"Where enforcement has occurred, it has not had a deterrent effect."

Last Friday, the Ontario government declared a state of emergency, with fines of up to $100,000 for blocking critical infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks.

COUNCILLORS WANT MILITARY CALLED IN

At least two city councillors are calling for the military to be brought in to help end the Ottawa occupation.

A motion from Coun. Matthew Luloff asks council to petition Ontario's attorney general to request that the Chief of Defence Staff call in the Canadian Armed Forces to "effect the immedaite removal of all occupiers and their vehicles from Ottawa."

The proposed move would be made under the federal National Defence Act, the motion says.

Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Tuesday afternoon about the occupation.

Trudeau said Monday that the Emergencies Act would not bring military into Ottawa to help deal with the protest. 

CLOSURES

The Rideau Centre, Ottawa City Hall, two Ottawa public library branches and a COVID-19 vaccination clinic remain closed today.

The city of Ottawa says Ottawa City Hall, the underground parking garage and the Rink of Dreams are closed until further notice.

The Ottawa Public Library Main and Rideau branches remain closed.

The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the University of Ottawa Minto Sports Complex is closed again today. It is scheduled to reopen on Tuesday.

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