Federal court ruling on Emergencies Act welcome, but does not vindicate far-right

The recent decision by Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley, that the Trudeau government’s use of the Emergencies Act to deal with the far-right “Freedom Convoy” in 2022 was unjustified and a Charter violation, is a welcome one. But it should not be interpreted as a vindication for the far-right movement in this country.

The court decision is, in fact, vindication of the position of this publication, which called the Trudeau’s use of the act an “emergency sledgehammer” which should be opposed, while also condemning the convoy movement.

Reprinted below is our editorial from February 2022:

Parliament has voted to use the Emergency Measures Act in response to the far-right convoy movement that blocked transportation routes across the country.

With their brazen displays of Confederate flags, swastikas and other white supremacist and reactionary symbols, the convoys quickly attracted outrage and opposition from working people. Particularly galling was their claim that theirs was a movement of workers, as if the genuine working-class movement has ever had anything to do with hate, conspiracy theories and fascism.

From the beginning, this publication has supported those people and organizations who opposed the convoys’ anti-vaxx, anti-healthcare worker and anti-immigrant messages. We called on the government to enforce anti-hate laws, which labour and left organizations fought hard to get passed in the first place.

But Trudeau’s use of the Act – passed with NDP support – is a dangerous overreach that must be opposed.

Local authorities have all the powers they ever needed – and, let’s face it, often a lot more – to deal with the convoys which were blocking hospitals, harassing nurses and vandalizing businesses run by racialized or 2S/LGBTIQ+ people. The big problem is that some local authorities, like those in Ottawa, stopped far short of intervening in the interests of community safety and, instead, accommodated and even supported the convoys.

This, of course, reflects the class nature of the state including local police forces. But the Emergency Measures Act reflects that class nature in one heavily concentrated hammer blow.

Many of those who cheer Trudeau’s use of the legislation are, understandably, thinking that this shows a government taking decisive action against hate, against the far-right, against fascist forces. And who can argue with that? If white supremacists are terrorizing your community, we expect the government to step in and provide protection. If they are being maintained in those acts of hate and violence through millions of dollars in donations from other far-right movements, we expect the government to put a halt to those transactions.

Unfortunately, this isn’t what is happening. Trudeau and company are acting less against racism and reaction, than against the convoys’ disruption of the economy. There is no evidence that the people whose bank accounts the RCMP has asked to be blocked are targeted because of their far-right politics – they are targeted because they organized a blockade.

And this is scary.

What does this mean for Indigenous land defenders like the Wet’suwet’en or the Haudenosaunee at 1492 Land Back Lane, whose blockades over the past two years have attracted the very same kind of “clear them out to save the economy” argument that the feds are using to justify the Emergency Measures Act?

What does it mean for workers and unions in key industries like rail, transit or energy? Those workers can barely be hours into a labour dispute before facing suppression of their labour rights through back-to-work legislation.

The government cannot be allowed to normalize this kind of state intervention to suppress labour, civil and democratic rights in order to ensure a smooth-running capitalist system that pumps profits into corporate monopolies.

As this page wrote two years ago, when Justin Trudeau was considering emergency measures to deal with the pandemic, “When asked how far he was prepared to go in October 1970, Pierre Trudeau replied, ‘Just watch me.’ People watched, and they suffered. Hopefully, the labour and progressive movements have learned a thing or two since then, and they’ll organize now to defend the working class and oppressed people against the same kind of tyranny.”

As we said then, “This is no time to watch and wait.”


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