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Alberta to launch court challenge over Ottawa's use of the Emergencies Act

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province will be challenging the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act in court.

On Saturday, the premier said that invoking the Act violates "natural justice" and is "unnecessary."

"The federal government's invocation of the Emergencies Act is an unnecessary and disproportionate measure that can violate civil liberties, invades provincial jurisdiction, and creates a very dangerous precedent for the future," Kenney said in a video posted to social media.

"It's not necessary," he added. "Provincial law enforcement agencies are able to deal with illegal road blockades.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first Canadian leader to invoke the federal legislation as a last resort to deal with nearly four weeks of demonstrations in Ottawa against COVID-19 public health measures that grew to include anti-government sentiments.

The premier said Canadians have a right to protest peacefully, but must do so "legally and peacefully."

"The question then is why is the federal government using the power that is not necessary to seize bank accounts and assets, for example, from people arbitrarily, extrajudicially, without court orders, based on their opinions or who they've donated to," Kenney said. He added that those powers are designed to "interrupt" actions like "terrorist financing."

"It doesn't make sense."

The province is also considering acting as an intervener to support other court challenges initiated by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Constitution Foundation, Kenney said.

On Thursday, Kenney wrote a letter to the prime minister expressing the province's opposition to the Emergencies Act being used to end "Freedom Convoy" demonstrations in Ottawa and other protests against COVID-19 public health restrictions in Canada.

In the letter, Kenney said Ottawa's declaration of a public order emergency was "contrary to the wishes of Alberta" and that there were other ways the federal government could have assisted the situation in Ottawa.

"Alberta successfully managed the impacts of the Coutts blockade and other protests through effective police work by the RCMP and supporting law enforcement agencies," the premier said.

"While the demonstrations in Alberta, and across the country, have been disruptive at times, they do not represent a national emergency."

"Rather, they are the symptom of the hardships many Canadians have endured through the pandemic," Kenney said. He added Ottawa's vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers has "no useful public health purpose." 


The news regarding the province's intention to launch a court challenge of the Emergencies Act comes as CTV News recently obtained a letter from two weeks ago when Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver asked Ottawa for federal assistance in clearing the Coutts border blockade.

The blockade, composed of protesters against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers and other pandemic measures, paralyzed Alberta's largest border crossing for more than two weeks.

On Monday, RCMP arrested 13 people and seized several firearms and ammunition after officers became aware of a small group of people within the protest who had a "willingness to use force against the police."

McIver's letter, dated Feb. 5, said RCMP and law enforcement efforts to clear the blockade had been unsuccessful and that private industry concerns of "negative consequences" prevented authorities from securing tow trucks and heavy-duty equipment to remove vehicles.

"In order to ensure a return of free movement of people, vehicles and goods and services through this pivotal location, we are seeking federal assistance in removing obstructions from the highway," McIver said.

"I am requesting federal assistance that includes the provision of equipment and personnel to move approximately 70 semi-tractor trailers and approximately 75 personal and recreational vehicles from the area," the minister added.

Justin Brattinga, Kenney's press secretary, said in a statement to CTV News Edmonton that the blockade at Coutts was "unacceptable and needed to end."

"We asked for federal government and RCMP assistance at Coutts, in part because local Alberta RCMP remains under the control of the federal government," Brattinga said.

"The use of the Emergencies Act was never something that Alberta asked for, or required," he added. "The Coutts situation required federal resources — not the use of legislation that suspends civil liberties."

The blockade broke up on Tuesday, with protesters saying the discovery of weapons played a major role in ending the demonstrations.


Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the emergency measures had been brought forward in a "measured" and "careful way," during a Sunday morning interview on CTV News Question Period.

"The measures we have introduced are effective," Blair said. "We will keep them only as long as required."

"One of the challenges Alberta was facing is they couldn't get any tow trucks down to that site to remove those trucks," he added. "We put that measure right in the Emergencies Act in direct response to their request but also the requests we received from Manitoba and Ontario.”

The act was first invoked on Feb. 14 and will remain active for 30 days unless parliament votes to revoke it. MPs began debating the Act on Thursday and are expected to vote on the issue Monday evening. 

Alberta justice critic Irfan Sabir told CTV News Edmonton that he believes the premier is simply trying to deflect criticism that his party did not do enough to stop the blockade in the first place.

"This is the rhetoric the premier is trying to sell to Albertans instead of focusing on issues facing Albertans, and many of them are squarely within the provincial jurisdiction," Sabir said.

"I don't think that there's anything in it for Albertans," he added. "It's just for the premier's own political or whatever needs."


Eric Adams, professor of law at the University of Alberta, said the province has to first initiate an application at the Federal Court trial division that proves Ottawa acted illegally by not complying with the terms of its own law.

If the case is considered, Adams said the Federal Court would hear both sides, interpret the language of the Emergencies Act, and ultimately decide whether there were truly threats to Canadians' security and the economy, and if no other laws could manage the crisis.

"There's lots of lawyers trying to wrap their heads around this very question," Adams said. "We are entering into the first uses of this Act, so we, of course, can't turn to precedence.

"So we are all looking at a fairly blank slate here," he added.

Once the Federal Court makes a determination, either party can appeal the decision, which would be raised to the Federal Court of Appeal. An appeal there could move it to the Supreme Court.

"The Government of Alberta thinks it could make good politics out of challenging this," Adams said. "It's hard to say whether or not that amounts to anything."

With files from CTV News' Evan Solomon and CTV News Calgary's Kevin Green Top Stories

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