Friday meetings of the House of Commons and the Senate over the invocation of the Emergencies Act in response to the so-called “freedom convoy” demonstrations have been cancelled.

There is no indication at this time that the additional House of Commons debate on Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be cancelled or postponed, and a vote is still expected to be held “early next week,” according to the government. The Senate will be returning on Monday at 2 p.m. Eastern.

A note from Speaker Anthony Rota noted the cancellation is spurred on by an impending police operation set to take place by Parliament Hill and around Ottawa’s downtown core.

“The #HoC will not sit today, Friday, February 18. A police operation is expected in the downtown core of Ottawa. Given these exceptional circumstances, and following discussion with all recognized party leadership, the sitting today is cancelled,” wrote Anthony Rota, speaker of the House, in a tweet on Friday.

Around 4:30 AM this morning all four of us- the House Leaders in the House of Commons- agreed to cancel today’s House of Commons session that was scheduled to start at 7 AM. It is everyone’s hope that the Convoy will peacefully leave #Ottawa & will end their #OttawaOccupation. https://t.co/o3d7j1VTbb

— Peter Julian (@MPJulian) February 18, 2022

NDP House Leader Peter Julian confirmed the cancellation on Twitter.

“Around 4:30 AM this morning all four of us — the House Leaders in the House of Commons — agreed to cancel today’s House of Commons session that was scheduled to start at 7 AM. It is everyone’s hope that the Convoy will peacefully leave #Ottawa & will end their #OttawaOccupation,” Julian tweeted.

Rota cited concerns from the Parliamentary Police Service (PPS) and noted that all House Leaders were in agreement on the cancellation.

“Given these exceptional circumstances, and following discussion with all recognized party leadership, the sitting today is cancelled,” Rota wrote in a letter Friday.

The #HoC will not sit today, Friday, February 18. A police operation is expected in the downtown core of Ottawa. Given these exceptional circumstances, and following discussion with all recognized party leadership, the sitting today is cancelled. https://t.co/MnjVU13dUy

— Speaker of the HoC (@HoCSpeaker) February 18, 2022

He advised MPs to continue to monitor the situation by looking for updates from the PPS and advised them to stay away from downtown.

“If you are not in the House of Commons precinct, stay away from the downtown core until further notice. The PPS will advise when it is safe to return downtown. Should you already be in the precinct, please remain in the building and await further instructions from PPS officers,” he wrote.

Liberal House Leader Mark Holland confirmed the cancellation of the debate on Twitter in a thread.

1/ The House of Commons was scheduled to resume debate today on the use of the Emergencies Act to respond to the illegal blockades. Upon the advice of Parliamentary security, the Speaker and House leaders from all parties have agreed to cancel today’s sitting.

— Mark Holland (@markhollandlib) February 18, 2022

Holland added that the debate surrounding the Emergencies Act is necessary one and that the cancellation is not a measure to restrict the debate, but to maintain safety. He noted that they aim to resume the debate on Saturday.

“MPs from all sides in the House are engaged in a historic debate. Those who want to speak will do so,” he wrote Friday.

“Today’s pause in the debate will not affect the outcome. The House will do its work, and MPs will vote early next week on the Emergencies Act motion.”

While the House of Commons has been in hybrid format for much of the past two years, holding the session virtually only likely would have raised questions about whether it broke parliamentary rules.

Members of Parliament have what is known as parliamentary privilege which includes the right to unobstructed access to the House of Commons whenever it is in session, and traffic barricades and security checkpoints have previously been found to be breaches of that privilege.

More to come…

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