Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a “state of emergency in Ontario” on Friday over the Freedom Convoy protests. Ford laid out an aggressive plan to put an end to the “siege,” while conceding a pathway to remove Covid restrictions on indoor businesses, such as “vaccine passports.”
Ford held a press conference, where he claimed that the Covid measures that were put in place were necessary, and required “unthinkable sacrifices.” Watch:
“[Dr. Kieran Moore] is now working on a plan that will allow us to remove the vaccine passport system,” Ford said. “My friends, this is great news and a sign of just how far we’ve come together in this fight. But this progress doesn’t change what we’ve been through because the truth is this virus forced us to make unthinkable sacrifices.”
“And I know that this has been extremely, extremely difficult, watching businesses close, livelihoods lost, freedoms restricted,” he continued. “None of this has been easy. People are frustrated, they’re scared, they’re angry. And I know these frustrations have reached a boiling point for many Canadians. The result is what we’re now seeing in various cities, across our province, and our country.”
“My friends, one of the great things about living in Canada is our right to free speech, the right to choose our government by voting for leaders that best represent us the right to peacefully protest,” he said. “When we disagree with what our government is doing, but like all rights, these are not without reasonable limits.”
“Our economy in Ontario is built on trade, especially with our partners in the United States, the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor alone sees more than 700 million dollars of two-way trade every single day,” he continued. “And that trade employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians who work in auto plants and factories across our great province. Those jobs feed millions of families. They are the lifeline for our province and its economy.”
“And while I appreciate the right to protest, that right cannot and must not extend to cutting off that lifeline,” he added. Then, Ford became increasingly belligerent with his address.
“We’re now two weeks into the siege of the city of Ottawa,” Ford went on. “I call it a siege because that’s what it is. It’s an illegal occupation. This is no longer a protest. You peacefully make your point and you go back home.”
“And I know that the vast majority of the people did that,” he said. “They came, they peacefully demonstrated. They made their point and they left. And I want to say to those people you’ve been heard loud and clear. Canada has heard you.”
“My message to those still in Ottawa, to those at our border crossings, please go home to those of you who have brought your children,” he pleaded. “Please take them home. I urge you it’s time to leave and it’s time to do so peacefully.”
“But to the very small groups who’ve chosen to take a different path, to those who’ve chosen to take a city of 1 million people hostage for the past two weeks, to those who’ve attempted to disrupt our way of life by targeting our lifeline for food, fuel, and goods across our borders, to those trying to force a political agenda through disruption, intimidation and chaos, my message to you is this – your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of hundreds of thousands of workers to earn their living,” he said.
“It does not outweigh our right to get food across our borders,” he added. “Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the rights of one million people in Ottawa to live peacefully, free of harassment and chaos in their own homes.”
“So let me be as clear as I can,” Ford said. “There will be consequences for these actions and they will be severe. We’ve already started by going after the money funding the illegal occupation yesterday and an Ontario court granted our requests to freeze the funds from GiveSendGo for the convoy.”
The OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] has also provided additional resources to Ottawa police services and Windsor police services to satisfy their recent requests for operational support and more needs to be done,” he said. “We’re strengthening the tools and the powers of our police forces to resolve this situation and restore order.”
“Let me be clear,” he added. “The government does not direct our police forces, but we do set the laws today. I’m using my authority as premier of Ontario to declare a state of emergency in our province. And I will convene cabinet to use legal authorities to urgently enact orders that will make crystal clear. It is illegal and punishable to block and impede the movement of goods, people and services along critical and infrastructure.”
“This will include protecting international border crossings, 400 series highways, airports, ports, bridges, and railways,” he said. “It will also include protecting the safe and essential movement of ambulatory and medical services, public transit, municipal, and provincial roadways, as well as pedestrian walkways. Fines for noncompliance will be severe with a maximum penalty of $100,000 and up to a year imprisonment.”
Ontario Premier Ford’s speech is quite remarkable in that it mixes authoritarian threats with the pretense of empathy. It’s actually a master class in political propaganda, suggesting Ontario quite likely had considerable help crafting it.
However, even as Ford declared a state of emergency, he did lay out a plan to remove the vaccine passport system, as a secret recording that was leaked to Rebel News, and reported here on Thursday, had suggested.
“We’re pulling these passports,” Ford says in the video leaked to Rebel News. “We’re going to get back to normal. I can’t get you the exact date, but it’s going to be very soon. I’ll be speaking over the next few days. Friday, I’m going to put out a statement. Monday I’ll be giving some dates. And we’re going to move forward.”
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.