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Ontario lifts state of emergency put in place amid anti-restrictions blockades

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a news conference at the Queens Park Legislature, in Toronto, on Friday, February 11, 2022. Ford says he is declaring a state of emergency in response to ongoing blockades in Ottawa and Windsor, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A state of emergency in Ontario that Premier Doug Ford declared to deal with anti-vaccine mandate blockades was lifted Wednesday evening.

Ford's office said "emergency tools" provided to law enforcement would stay in place for now, however, "as police continue to address ongoing activity on the ground."

"We remain grateful to all frontline officers and first responders that contributed to peacefully resolving the situation in Ottawa, Windsor and in other parts of the province," the statement said.

Ford declared the emergency on Feb. 11, nearly two weeks after the Ottawa protest began.

He pledged at the time to enact orders that would fine people up to $100,000 for blocking critical infrastructure and authorize the removal of licences if people didn't comply.

Ford has said that he intends to make permanent some of the temporary measures he enacted to end the blockades.

But for now, Ford's office said it's revoking the state of emergency. That means the provincial government can no longer enact new orders, but existing orders including those giving police more power to fine people or revoke licences can remain for at least 14 days after they were enacted, a Ford spokeswoman explained.

The government will need to decide by Saturday whether to extend the police powers.

Ford's office said it was moving to end the emergency declaration in alignment with the federal government. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday the government would revoke the Emergencies Act because the crisis in Ottawa and at border crossings has calmed down.

Governments invoked the special powers to help dispel a weeks-long occupation in Ottawa and a lengthy blockade at a Canada-U.S. border crossing in Windsor, among other protests. 

The Ottawa demonstration had largely been cleared as of Monday, while the Ambassador Bridge blockade was dismantled the week before. 

In Ontario, the Opposition New Democrats had said they wanted the state of emergency lifted.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Wednesday that it was good that the crises in Ottawa and Windsor ended but accused Ford's government of waiting too long to act and "(coddling) the antivax occupiers."

"Ontario needs permanent legislation that will uphold civil rights without ever again allowing a fringe group to hold our economy hostage for weeks," he said in a written statement. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2022. 

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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