VANCOUVER — Protests against COVID-19 mandates in British Columbia have been loud, but mostly lawful, the province’s solicitor general said Monday.
Mike Farnworth also said the province supports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in using the Emergencies Act to deal with protests that are holding other parts of the country “economic hostage.”
Trudeau announced Monday that he would be invoking the act for the first time in Canada’s history, giving the federal government temporary and extraordinary powers to curtail the demonstrations.
“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” Trudeau told a news conference.
“The Emergencies Act will be used to strengthen and support law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country. We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue.”
Semi-trailer trucks and other vehicles have blocked Ottawa streets and several border crossings over the last few weeks, protesting against the federal and provincial governments and COVID-19 mandates.
Trudeau said the measures would be geographically targeted based on need, but did not specify how this would impact B.C.
Farnworth, who was responded to questions at a news conference about insurance policies, said there have been a number of protests in B.C., including around the legislature in Victoria, but police have been doing their job.
The Pacific Border crossing near Surrey remained open Monday, but the Canada Border Services Agency said the highway leading to the border was still blocked by police. Travellers and truckers were diverted to neighbouring borders crossings.
Four people were arrested Sunday for mischief at the Pacific Highway border protests.
Brian Edwards, the officer in charge of Surrey RCMP, said in a statement Monday that he was at the protests this weekend, where some vehicles broke through police barricades and began driving the wrong way down a road.
“I understand the frustration of the public who wish to see this situation end,” said the statement. “I want to assure our community that I am committed to seeing this situation resolved safely, peacefully and as soon as possible.”
Police said in the statement they are working with other RCMP units and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Farnworth, who is also the public safety minister, said his ministry is ensuring police have the resources they need.
“Our expectation is the police enforce the law, and that is what they’re doing,” he said.
The Pacific border is the main crossing for truckers in the province. Highway cameras on Monday showed long lines of commercial trucks at the Aldergrove and Sumas border crossings further east of Surrey.
Dave Earle, the president of the B.C. Trucking Association, said the closure is causing inconvenience, but it’s minor compared to the impacts that fires and floods had in the province last year.
“What we are hearing from our members is it is taking a little longer but it’s not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “Of all the disruptions that we’ve had in the past year, this is the least problematic.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press
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