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Premier Heather Stefanson not in favour of using federal Emergencies Act in Manitoba

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s premier joined a handful of other provincial leaders in rejecting the use of federal legislation that could help quell various protests and blockades happening in the province and across the country. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Monday afternoon to bring an end to anti-government blockades he says are illegal and not about peaceful protest. 

It’s the first time the Emergencies Act has been turned to since it came into force in 1988. 

“We need to think very carefully and clearly before going in that direction,” said Premier Heather Stefanson.

“What we don’t want to do is ensure that we escalate situations beyond, and my concern about invoking something along those lines is that could be the case and we really don’t want that to happen.” 

She added that the use of the legislation is not constructive in Manitoba and should onlybeconsidered in locations where it is truly needed.

The premier said her government is relying on advice from law enforcement and Manitoba justice officials on how to handle ongoing protests outside the province’s legislative building and at the border crossing at Emerson, Man.

“I think law enforcement is doing very good work and we need to let them do their jobs,” she said during a press conference Monday.

“They believe, and they have ensured us and reassured us, that they can do that within the tools that exist right now in our province, and that the use of the Emergencies Act is not necessary here.”

During the conversation with Trudeau, Stefanson said she was not given any definitive indication whether the province could refuse to invoke the act.

She said government has listened to the protesters’ concerns and it’s time for them to go home. 

Manitoba RCMP said investigators are speaking with organizers of a blockade in an attempt to open a lane and allow vehicles to cross the border on both sides.

Access to the Emerson crossing has been blocked since Thursday morning, when protesters parked farm equipment, semi-trailers and other vehicles about two kilometres north of the border. It was a show of solidarity for similar blockades in Ottawa and across the country calling for an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

Mounties said there were about 75 vehicles involved in the blockade as of this past weekend. 

Protesters have been allowing emergency vehicles, including police vehicles, as well as some agriculture transports to pass through the blockade. 

Police said there have been no arrests and no tickets have been issued.

Officers from the Emerson and Morris RCMP detachments have been at the blockade since it started, and have received assistance from other police units throughout the province.  

Manitoba’s transportation minister said he spoke with his federal counterpart over the weekend about economic impacts the blockade is having on the trucking industry. 

“They’re losing a lot of money in this blockade and there is a lot of independent truckers losing valuable time and money and they have to feed their families,” Doyle Piwniuk said during a press conference. 

The Canada Border Services Agency urged travellers to use ports in Boissevain and Sprague, Man., or at North Portal in Saskatchewan. 

Stefanson said she’s concerned about a disruption in getting essential goods across the border. 

“We need to ensure that food is getting on the tables of Manitobans. That other goods are getting through … that supply chain needs to continue.”

The Prairie provinces announced last week their plans to remove mask and vaccine mandates. 

Instead of invoking the Emergencies Act, Stefanson said the federal government should release its own plans regarding mandates. 

“They sort of started this so we’re asking them what their plan is to move forward with respect to these mandates,” she said. 

“What is their intention moving forward … with respect to the border?”

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. 

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