The move was a shift for Trudeau, who on Monday said his government still needed the sweeping powers even after the blockades protesting public health restrictions had been cleared over the weekend because there were “real concerns” that new blockades could pop up and that protesters might be regrouping at satellite hubs outside Ottawa.
The act was written to be a last resort, to use when there were no other laws on the books that might end an emergency. Several legal analysts said that it wasn’t clear that the blockades met the threshold or that authorities had exhausted existing tools.
The Emergencies Act allowed police to designate no-go zones where people participating in prohibited public assemblies or bringing minors to them could face arrest. One such area was Parliament Hill in Ottawa and the surrounding precinct.
The Act also gave the government the authority to compel tow-truck companies to haul away vehicles blockading roads. Many tow-truck operators wore face coverings and concealed the logos on their trucks out of fear they might face retribution from demonstrators.
In an effort to choke off funding for the demonstrations, the government used the emergency powers to require crowdfunding sites to comply with terrorism financing and money laundering laws. They also gave banks the authority to freeze accounts of those involved with the protests without a court order.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said this week that accounts that were frozen belonged to “influencers” of the protests and/or owners of the vehicles involved in the blockades “who did not want to leave.” It said that it did not provide a list of donors to financial institutions.
Isabelle Jacques, an assistant deputy finance minister, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that 206 personal and corporate accounts with holdings of more than $6.1 million had been frozen. She said financial institutions started to unfreeze accounts this week.
Police in Ottawa carried out a massive operation over the weekend to clear the blockades that had for several weeks clogged major thoroughfares, including the one in front of Parliament, prompted several businesses to close because of security concerns, and disrupted the lives of residents.
Protests that shut down several U.S.-Canada border crossings — including the busiest, the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit — were also cleared.
On Monday, authorities in Ottawa said that they had towed 115 vehicles, arrested 196 people and charged 110 of them with offenses including assault and possession of a weapon.