FREE SPEECH, INTERNATIONAL February 16, 2022Trudeau’s Trucker Terrorists: Why the Emergency Powers Endanger the Rights of All Groups From Truckers to Marchers

By: Jonathan Turley—Constitutional Scholar

For the first time in history, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to crackdown on what he has described as an attack on democracy itself in Canada. While civil libertarians in Canada have condemned the move as threatening core free speech and associational rights in the country, the American media and legal commentators have largely supported Trudeau in the use of these extreme measures. Indeed, I triggered a tsunami of outrage in stating that Canada could have used such powers to cut off donations for the Civil Rights Movement and arrest Martin Luther King today for such protests. Partly this was due to the distortion of my comments on MLK ever being arrested (as opposed to being subject to arrest under this law). However, there was also an objection that there is no equivalency between the truckers and the Civil Rights Movement. Again, that is not the point of the reference:  it should not matter if you agree or disagree with the underlying cause. The concern is that the Canadian government could declare such an emergency to crackdown on any group engaging in civil disobedience through blockades or occupation protests. It could even happen to Dr. King today if marchers sought to repeat historic marches in Canada. Without meaningful limits under the law, they could also be unilaterally declared threats to Canadian “sovereignty, security and territorial integrity” by Trudeau for acts of civil disobedience.

With the emergency powers, Trudeau can now prohibit travel, public assemblies, conduct widespread arrests, and block donations for the truckers. This also includes freezing bank accounts and ramping up police surveillance and enforcement.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association objected:

“The federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act. This law creates a high and clear standard for good reason: the Act allows government to bypass ordinary democratic processes. This standard has not been met. The Emergencies Act can only be invoked when a situation ‘seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada’ & when the situation ‘cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.’”

Such voices have been drowned out by media demonizing the truckers as racists or insurrectionists.

As civil libertarians, it is less important what people are saying as their right to say it. That includes people who speak through their financial support or donations. Millions in such donations were blocked by GoFundMe or the Canadian government in this crackdown.

It is often tempting to ignore the implications of such extreme measures by focusing on your disagreement with a given group. To understand the scope of this law you can simply look to how widely revered movements could be treated under the same provisions.  For example, the Civil Rights marchers also engaged in civil disobedience in shutting down bridges and occupying spaces.  As I stated on Monday,

“Now, when you put all of that together, you’ve extinguished the ability of thousands, perhaps even millions of people to express themselves through a form of civil disobedience. And according to Prime Minister Trudeau’s definition, he could have shut down the Civil Rights Movement. He could have arrested Martin Luther King. He could have arrested any number of figures that we now celebrate today as visionaries.”

On Tuesday, I returned to that same point and noted that Canada could easily use the same law against the marchers and Dr. King today. Trudeau’s government could cut off all funding for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) while arresting figures like Dr. King. I noted that “I thought [the use of the Emergency Act] was quite excessive. This is an act of civil disobedience. That is a standard tactic of groups going back to the civil rights movement and even earlier to block bridges and streets, to do what was referred to as — quote — ‘good trouble.’ By this rationale, they could have cracked down on the Civil Rights Movement. They could have arrested Martin Luther King.”

The “they” is clearly the Canadian government in its use of these emergency powers today — not a reference to arrests in the past in the United States.

As is evident from the entire interview, I was referring to how the Canadian government could use these powers against an array of different groups for similar acts of civil disobedience. I was not saying that Dr. King was never arrested. Of course, he was. I have previously discussed those arrests, including in recent columns (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). To critics in our hair-triggered political environment, it did not matter that I have referred to MLK being arrested repeatedly any more than the fact that I was clearly referring to the Canadian government today in making such arrests. The point is that it is not just truckers who can be the targets of such Canadian emergency powers. The sweeping language would allow Trudeau to shutdown a contemporary civil rights movement and a leader like Dr. King as easily as he did the convoy. Yet, even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined in.

The second objection, however, is far more interesting. People objected to any analogy of these truckers and their cause to Dr. King and the fight for civil rights.

Brooke Binkowski@brooklynmarie

Turley here is simultaneously conflating human rights advocates such as Martin Luther King with a bunch of assholes shitting up international borders because their disinformation handlers told them to and telling racists that white people get the worst treatment.5:17 PM · Feb 15, 2022·

Of course, I was not saying that the truckers are the like of MLK. I doubt the truckers would say that. Rather, I was comparing forms of civil disobedience. The protection of forms of protest should not depend on whether we support or oppose the underlying message.

People objected to the very notion that the Civil Rights marchers could be viewed as akin to the truckers. But that is the point. The law does not have any distinction. It could be used today against Dr. King just as it was used against the truckers. Indeed, Dr. King was accused of being a communist and a traitor by government officials during the crackdowns and arrests of the period. The Canadian law, however, would allow the federal government to  use such claims to freeze funding and order arrests under the Emergencies Act today, including a figure like Dr. King for acts of civil disobedience.

We should be outraged by the use of such measures against either civil rights marchers or the Canadian truckers. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association correctly noted, there is no limiting principle in Trudeau’s use of these powers. Trudeau simply declared that the convoy “seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada” without any substantive support for that finding.

These are sweeping emergency powers that could be used against some of our most celebrated figures and shutdown some of our most revered causes. Under this law, the only thing preventing Trudeau from shutting down movements — even historic movements like the Civil Rights marchers — is his affinity for the cause as opposed to the underlying conduct.

Mr. Turley is an American Constitutional Scholar with one of the most read blogs on law on the planet.

7 thoughts on “FREE SPEECH, INTERNATIONAL February 16, 2022Trudeau’s Trucker Terrorists: Why the Emergency Powers Endanger the Rights of All Groups From Truckers to Marchers

  1. I didn’t know our Prime Minister had this much power. When this is finally settled and should we have our freedoms restored, I believe this kind of power needs to be taken away. Looks like some of the rich don’t care if this country falls. May the powers that be step up and bring this injustice to an end.
    Constance Staudt
    Alberta

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Make no mistake this power will never be relinquished only extended with the full support of all th epoliticalparties currently sitting in the highest house in Canada . Even the cons can’t decide to go against or for. There will only be one solution to this and it will probably be violent. That is one sad and sorry state of affairs.

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    • Let’s hope it’s not a violent solution because that will just end up in massive human rights violations inasmuch as the people of Canada are unarmed. Nonviolent civil disobedience is more pragmatic and could still work, even despite the despicable MSM bias. If it were organized as a march, like the civil rights march from 1963 — and if it were seen as a civil rights march — which is in fact what it is — I think it would have great effect. Restrictions are lifting – thanks to the truckers in large part — but now the problem is the political repression we’re all going to be facing under dictator Trudeau. God knows what kind of horrors will occur under his regime. Don’t be surprised if he imitates the model of repression used by CCP. I believe they’re advising him in fact.

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  3. I DON’T THINK THEY SEE THAT. IT’S A DIFFERENT LENS. ALISON MORROW HAS THE INSIDE EDGE ON JOURNALISM. A BROAD VIEWPOINT. SHE WOULD BE A GREAT PERSON TO ENGAGE.

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  4. Brian Peckford: to quote something from your post: “We should be outraged by the use of such measures against either civil rights marchers or the Canadian truckers. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association correctly noted, there is no limiting principle in Trudeau’s use of these powers. Trudeau simply declared that the convoy “seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada” without any substantive support for that finding.” Trudeau does whatever he chooses and apparently without repercussion. Yes, whether it is civil rights or the rights under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the principle is the same. All must be protected under the law.

    And we need protection from the totalitarians running this country into ruin and joining with the party who is doing it. (NDP and Greens). If we ever get the chance, our parliamentary system must be significantly altered so that politicians cannot authorize theft of its citizens and stop all freedoms and liberties. And if we ever get the chance, all of mainstream media need to be held to account for their crimes against Canadians by signing an agreement to tell one narrative and only one on any subject the despot demands. Media has indeed encouraged the move to totalitarianism by its printing of stories with the single narrative approved by his nibbs.

    Mr. Peckford thank you once again for holding strong in these terrible times and being one of the finest supportive voice we have on issues of freedom and liberties. And for being involved with the Freedom Truckers Convoy, the best unifying, loving and supportive movements we have ever seen in this country. A fact millions of Canadians have missed entirely.

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  5. Having done a lot of nonviolent civil disobedience in my life — over 30 years worth! — for peace, justice, environment, animal rights, etc (though I have in recent years become more conservative but no less passionate for justice and truth) — I instantly recognized the similarity between the truckers protest and the civil rights movement and before it Gandhi’s civil disobedience in India and South Africa.

    So I wrote an essay on it and submitted it as an opinion piece to the Ottawa Citizen, naively assuming they are a legit paper that prints opposing opinions if well written. Of course, it is no longer that. Nor are any of the MSM in Canada, which is why we’re in such a mess. Trudeau and Big Pharma and Gates and the CCP bought them all up and control them as propaganda. There is no such thing as journalistic ethics anymore needless to say.

    I was not surprised to learn that I am not the only one who saw the rather obvious comparison or that it would excite controversy (after all, comparing the truckers and MLK, a Leftist icon would probably seem like sacrilege to Leftists). They love to demonize and hate the freedom movement (as Trudeau is doing) and are blind to how it is actually a civil rights and human rights movement, and a movement against segregation (medical, not racial).

    Civil disobedience is a venerable part of how debate occurs in liberal democracies — and it has worked: because of the truckers, the narrative shifted away from Covid restrictions to relaxing them — almost instantly — and in multiple nations. And it inspired convoys internationally. It was a great success.

    Unfortunately, it has also led to Trudeau destroying the liberal democracy of Canada by invoking the War Measures Act. What shall be the response to that? It will probably be more nonviolent civil disobedience because protest of this kind is inevitable when the people have been denied any other voice to speak with.

    Anyway, here is the article the Ottawa Citizen did not want (from a couple of weeks ago):
    __________

    In Canada, the Ottawa police, at the behest of Ottawa City Council and with Trudeau’s full approval, have now started arresting truckers and their supporters as though they’re criminals. They’re also robbing them of fuel, to try to freeze them out. Yet to the world, the truckers are the heroes in this drama. This is despite the efforts of Canada’s corrupt legacy media and the Prime Minister himself to demonize them.

    Ottawa City Council and Trudeau and the legacy media may wish to justify their actions to themselves, but in the eyes of millions of Canadians and much of the rest of the world, they’re authoritarians and elitists drunk on power. They have no concern or sympathy for the suffering of working-class Canadians who have endured two years of discriminatory and oppressive provincial and federal Covid restrictions.

    The world loves the Canadian truckers. They stood up for freedom when it was needed. They were the catalyst for a dozen nations moving towards a loosening of restrictions. They have led to two Canadian provinces (Saskatchewan and Alberta) signalling an end to mandates.

    Billions of people have suffered two years of medical tyranny. Canadian truckers opened the floodgates of freedom by engaging in nonviolent direct action. Now there is a convoy in Australia and the U.S. and the idea is spreading worldwide. The elites are panicking. Their media mouthpieces attack the truckers non-stop. Now the truckers suffer cold and police persecution, as well as media attacks, for the sake of freedom for all. The truckers should be thanked for their service, not demonized and threatened.

    Some Ottawa residents and the politicians and bureaucrats who work in that town complain that the protest is disruptive. They should open their eyes and hearts and try to grasp why the people are there. Martin Luther King Jr, in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, wrote to his critics who objected to his form of direct activism: “You deplore the demonstrations [but fail] to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.” Those who object to the convoy but fail to speak out against the mandates that led to it are living in a privileged bubble, oblivious to the suffering of millions.

    These mandates are incredibly oppressive. The people were left with no alternative. The Canadian Conservative Party, under centrist Erin O’Toole, failed to speak up for ordinary Canadians. Jobs were lost, lives destroyed, families separated, children harmed, human rights ignored – freedom of medical choice among them, but also freedom of religion, speech, and assembly. It was too much. The ruling class went too far. These are some of the worst restrictions on the planet. They were ill-advised and need never have taken place, to begin with.

    We now know beyond a doubt, from study after study, and just from using our own eyes, that government Covid responses don’t work and cause far more harm than good. The mRNA injections don’t stop transmission or infection. More importantly, the Omicron variant is relatively benign. It has the same symptoms as the common cold. It’s not a cause for panic. It should be treated like any other respiratory disease and people should get on with their lives. Nearly everyone can see that — yet in Canada, there are still oppressive mandates. The Emergency Orders in place for two years need to end. Governments abused their powers and now don’t want to give up the power they stole.

    Even as the UK and Denmark lifted restrictions, Trudeau was doubling down and the province of Quebec proposed a health tax. The brutal and unrealistic zero-Covid policies continue. Depression and suicide have increased in Canada. Children are still suffering from the masks. mRNA injections have caused deaths and injuries. Tens of thousands lost their jobs. We seemed headed down a long, dark road. There was no end in sight for Canadians until the truckers stepped up.

    Trudeau is a social engineer who wants to force Canadians to conform to his Utopian globalist vision by any means necessary. The Great Reset, which he openly endorses, may look good on paper, but it is violent and tyrannical in practice. But thanks to truckers, there’s hope again. And with them came an unprecedented revival of Canadian patriotism, despite Trudeau’s efforts to demean traditional Canada as “racist.”

    Ironically, it’s Trudeau who supports discrimination and segregation now. Medical segregation is unjust. And like the segregationist of old, Trudeau wants to smash a peaceful protest. The Ottawa police don’t use the brutal tactics that Bull Connor did in Birmingham Alabama in 1963, but their goal is the same: get rid of the protestors. And one could certainly argue that freezing the truckers is a form of violence; it’s just not as visible as water cannons and attack dogs.

    The critics of the convoy hate the disruption in Ottawa — although it’s overwhelmingly peaceful and celebratory in the mood — but disruption is not a bad thing in this case. MLK defended the disruption to Birmingham, saying that nonviolent direct action “seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored … that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

    Make no mistake: ordinary Canadians have been oppressed. The social cost of government overreach these last two years is staggering. The lives of millions have been needlessly destroyed by entitled bureaucrats and politicians and so-called “journalists.” They seem unwilling to comprehend the enormity of the pain they have inflicted.

    Ontario Premier Doug Ford, for example, wants the people of Ottawa to get on with their lives, but that’s the whole point of the convoy: to end this nightmare for all of us. The political class is woefully out of touch with ordinary working-class Canadians. Ford’s betrayal of his constituents is a good example of why the protest is necessary: he is supposedly a conservative but is in lockstep with the Liberal Party’s agenda. The people have had no voice in government for two years. Like the American colonists of 1776, they have taxation with representation.

    How little changes in human nature, it seems. The issues may differ but the underlying dynamics are the same. The progressive Leftists like to think they are morally superior to those in the past, but they’ve turned out to be as repressive as any other despot in history. They just use different methods. People are still forced to fight for their freedom in this new world. We just never thought it could happen in Canada or that those who like to think of themselves as ‘progressive’ and enlightened would be our oppressors.

    Ottawa City Council, much like Birmingham City Council of 1963 seems oblivious to the pain and suffering of those at their doorstep and resentful of the disruption. Now Birmingham celebrates the freedom march; in time, Ottawa will do the same. While the historical contexts greatly differ, this freedom movement is a true civil rights movement, one that stands against medical segregation and government overreach. It stands for egalitarianism and freedom of choice. It is just and righteous, no matter what the entitled political class may say on Twitter.

    As to the argument that the convoy is an “occupy” movement. It isn’t. MLK said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.” Canadians have a constitutional right to be in their own capital city to protest the government. Ottaway’s Mayor, Jim Watson, has deemed the situation an “emergency” in order to bypass the Charter — which is wrong of him.

    This is the same Mayor who marched with BLM in June of 2020, to virtue-signal his woke pedigree, but now when faced with hundreds of thousands of people peacefully crying for justice, he refuses to meet with them and orders police to drive them out. The hypocrisy is staggering.

    Someone online, an Ottawa resident, complained about illegal parking, but the tactic of nonviolent civil disobedience is driven by a moral concern for the good of all. A municipal infraction is the lesser concern. MLK referred to a Moral Law given by God to defend justice. On this basis, he and Gandhi broke trespassing laws.

    Birmingham police used water cannons and dogs. The media thus far have been the attack dogs for Trudeau, wrongly smearing the truckers. Trudeau himself has done that in public addresses that are ugly and painful to watch. He tries to smear a peaceful protest against his own authoritarian measures, and as a result, will go down in history as the most oppressive Canadian PM in history.

    Now that police are using force, this compounds the injustice. Why can’t the Mayor make peace with the truckers and join them in calling for an end to the mandates? Like Birmingham’s Mayor in 1963, Ottawa’s Mayor of 2022 is missing out on something beautiful and historic. He’s blind by his own privilege to what’s happening in his own backyard.

    Now the City of Birmingham celebrates the protest that occurred on its streets long ago. In time the same will happen in Ottawa. When that time comes, those who were against the freedom movement of 2022 will mutter under their breath and some will acknowledge they were wrong and were misled at the time.

    Already in the UK, public pressure has turned the tide and now the BBC, once a cheerleader for Covid mass hysteria, did a story on the pain caused by the coercion to take the mRNA injections. The desire for freedom in the human heart cannot be repressed forever. It is stronger than government and corporate rule and can outlast them.

    Trudeau, the Liberal Party of Canada, the NDP, Ottawa City Council, and the legacy media in Canada are all on the wrong side of history on this one. These politicians and journalists should stop being oppressors. They should instead celebrate the truckers and the freedom movement. Like the civil rights movement in the U.S., this nonviolent freedom movement has been vilified by those in power, but in time — when the media lies fade away — the truckers will gain respect among all Canadians, just as it has already gained respect around the world.

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