Canadian parents who bring their children to demonstrations the government considers to be "unlawful" can now face thousands of dollars in fines or jail time, CBC News reported.
The new power reportedly comes after the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act this week, granting itself exceptional measures to address the country's ongoing Freedom Convoy trucker protests. It marked the first time the act has been invoked since its passage in 1988.
For more than two weeks now, thousands of demonstrators have been camping in Ottawa, Canada's capital city, in protest of the country's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Elsewhere, protesters have blocked border crossings between the U.S. and Canada, vowing to stay until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifts vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions on truckers crossing the border.
Under the act, the federal government can restrict travel and prohibit people from bringing minors to any public assemblies that disrupt the movement of people, goods, and trade, or that support the "threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property."
Specifically, the act allows government authorities to administer fines of up to $5,000 or five years jail time for those who bring children under the age of 18 to participate in the assembly and the same penalties for anyone who participates in the blockades or brings aid — such as food or fuel — to people involved, CBC noted.
Banks and insurance companies have also been granted the authority to freeze participants' accounts and cancel their vehicle insurance.
In a notice issued Wednesday, Ottowa police told protesters, "You must leave the area now. Anyone blocking streets, or assisting others in the blocking streets, are committing a criminal offence and you may be arrested."
"You must immediately cease further unlawful activity or you will face charges," the notice added.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino similarly commented, "To those who may be thinking to come to Ottawa this weekend — don't. At best, the residents of the city have made it clear that this is not the time. And at worst, you may be tying yourself to dangerous criminal activity."
While announcing the invocation of the Emergencies Act on Monday, Trudeau noted that the military would not be called in to disperse the crowds but said the nation's police would be granted greater power to impose fines and imprisonment on those engaging in "illegal and dangerous activities."
"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs, and restoring confidence in our institutions," he said.