"It's an illegal occupation": Ontario declares state of emergency due to convoy
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency in light of the ongoing “Freedom Convoy.”
Ford said that he would convene the cabinet to enact orders to make it clear that it is illegal and punishable to block goods, people, and services along critical infrastructure. The state of emergency will grant police additional powers to clear protesters.
“There will be consequences for these actions, and they will be severe,” he said.
Ford didn’t mince words when it came to calling the “Freedom Convoy” what it is. He said that the convoy is not a protest.
“I call it a siege because that’s what it is,” said Ford. “It’s an illegal occupation.”
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Ford spoke directly to protesters, urging them to return home and to do so peacefully.
“You’ve been heard loud and clear; Canada has heard you. My message to those still in Ottawa, to those at our border crossings, please go home,” he said. “To those of you who have brought your children, please take them home. I urge you it’s time to leave.”
He emphasized the importance of protest and freedom of speech in Canada while condemning the actions of the “Freedom Convoy” protesters.
“Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of hundreds of thousands of workers to earn their living. It does not outweigh our right to get food across our borders,” he said. “The right to make a political statement does not weigh the rights of a million people in Ottawa to live peacefully free of harassment and chaos in their own homes.”
On Thursday, Ontario courts approved the freezing of funds from yet another fundraiser set up by the convoy. This one is on a Christian website called GiveSendGo.
Under the emergency act, Ontario Provincial Police, Windsor Police and Ottawa Police have been granted additional powers and resources to clear the convoy.
“Let me be clear, [the] government does not direct our police forces. But we do set the laws. Today I’m using my authority as Premier of Ontario to declare a state of emergency in our province,” said Ford.
Those found in violation of the state of emergency could be fined up to $100,000 and see up to one year in jail time. He added that the province is looking into providing additional authority to revoke licenses of those who do not comply.
“We will also provide additional authority to consider taking away the personal and commercial licenses of anyone who doesn’t comply with these orders,” he said.
Ford emphasized that the emergency orders are intended to be temporary, but he will make some of the measures permanent.
“We have every intention to bring new legislation forward that will make these measures permanent in law,” he said.
Ford acknowledged that the sacrifices Ontarians have made over the last two years have been difficult but that they saved lives.
“We must see that the sacrifices we were forced to make were made for a reason, to see that because of the actions we took over the last two years, tens of thousands of lives were saved from COVID-19,” he said. “As hard as it’s been, the sacrifices were necessary to protect tens of thousands of our neighbours, our friends, our family members, and there’s no price that we could put on that.”