Canada has moved to freeze the bank accounts of anti-vax protesters as a wave of protests sweeps the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act in a bid to quell the protests as they enter their third week.
This means that banks can freeze the personal accounts and suspend car insurance of anyone affiliated with the protests, without a court order.
Protests against mandatory vaccines have erupted across the country, including in the capital, Ottawa. Up to 500 trucks have been parked in the city center over the past 18 days.
The protests started after a new rule meant all truckers had to be vaccinated to cross the border into America and back, or quarantine on their return, but now many are protesting against all Covid restrictions.
On Sunday, law enforcement moved in to break a six-day blockade on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, a crucial route for trade between Canada and the United States.
Blockades have also been put in place at border crossings in Alberta and Manitoba.
“This is about keeping Canadians safe and protecting people’s jobs,” Trudeau said at a Monday news conference.
He promised to give police “more tools” to jail or fine protesters, but stressed the move would only be enforced in a “time-limited” and “reasonable and proportionate” way.
The Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, must meet strict criteria to be invoked.
It can only be used in an “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the life, health or safety of Canadians.”
Legal protests cannot be subject to legislation.
Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti claimed the high legal bar had been reached, while the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the decision “threatens our democracy and our civil liberties”.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he supported the federal government while those in Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan said emergency powers were not needed in their regions.
Prior to Trudeau’s announcement, Quebec Premier Francois Legault had said he could “pour oil on the fire”.