Trigger Warning: This article concerns discussions of sexual assault, war and drug usage
February 2022 was an intense month, from Prince Andrews' settlement with Virginia Guiffre to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Here are some of the top news stories, and their legal implications, to keep up to date.
Canada’s Freedom Convoy
Hundreds of Canadian truckers gathered in a protest referred to as the "Freedom Convoy" in Ottawa throughout the month of February. The participants protested vaccine mandates for truckers entering Canada as well as broader Covid-19 restrictions and requirements. The protesters posed a difficult challenge to public officials and law enforcement agents as they occupied much of Parliament Hill in Ottawa with their vehicles, some weighing over 2 tons. Those in the convoy said they wanted the government to repeal the vaccine mandate for truckers; the current law maintains that truckers must be vaccinated or face a quarantine of 14 days upon entering Canada.
The protest shocked international observers given that much of the resistance seen against Covid-19 restrictions in the United States had not previously been seen in Canada, despite the latter having even more restrictive measures in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Influence from far-right and neo-Nazi groups has also been suspected given the presence of protestors with Confederate flags and swastika symbols.
The GoFundMe page for the convoy raised millions of Canadian Dollars and received over 70,000 donations. Many looked to the convoy as a representation of broader anti-vaccine mandate sentiments around the globe.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked his emergency powers to disperse the protestors with 191 people being arrested. In a speech to the public, Trudeau stated that the truckers and other protestors had a right to air their grievances but not to terrorise the lives of Ottawa’s residents who were harassed by protestors and kept awake by their horns. Following the arrests, the convoy has now been broken up. Trudeau’s expanded powers under the Emergency Act of 1988 froze the bank accounts of protestors and increased the powers of federal police to tow and remove trucks. His powers allocated under the Act have now expired.
Kamila Valieva Tests Positive for Banned Drugs
During the Olympics in Beijing this past month, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for 3 substances on a routine drug test. One of the drugs she tested positive for, trimetazidine, is banned by anti-doping officials for the Olympics. The other two drugs found in her system, L-carnitine and Hypoxen, were not banned but are considered out of the ordinary for someone of her age. The 14-year-old figure skater was still allowed to compete after the test after the Court of Arbitration for Sport permitted her to do so.
The scandal is simply one in a series of doping-related incidents in the Russian Federation. A whistleblower exposed a state-run doping program in 2016, stating that dozens of athletes competing in the 2014 games were illegally using performance-enhancing drugs to maintain their stamina and win Gold medals.
Many were concerned that such a young athlete was being taken advantage of and drugged by adults entrusted with her safety. The Court of Arbitration stated that she was a "protected person" given that she is a minor and, therefore, had different rights than adult athletes. She therefore did not have to be completely suspended. Others pointed out the hypocrisy of the decision given that Sha’Carri Richardson, a Black track and field runner, was banned from competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after testing positive for marijuana usage following the death of her mother.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has now escalated to a boiling point this month with Russia launching a full-fledged assault on Ukraine. It is a continuation of the efforts waged in the 2014 war which resulted in the Russian annexation of Crimea. Vladimir Putin declared that Russia could not exist peacefully and safely with the existence of Ukraine towards the end of the month, saying its assault on the country was an attempt to “de-nazify” it and protect those attacked in genocidal rampages.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that over 4 million people could become refugees due to the violence; over one million people have already fled the country. Residential buildings have been bombed while art museums and memorials have been destroyed.
With the escalation in violence, Ukraine banned all males aged 18-60 from leaving the country, compelling them to fight under martial law. President Volodymyr Zelensky has been notably resistant to Putin’s aggressive policies, filming videos from his bunker to keep the public informed and asserting that he and his people will not lay their arms down to Russian aggression.
Many Western nations have provided military aid to the country as well as introducing sanctions against Russia. Even countries like Switzerland, notorious for its neutrality, adopted wholesale EU sanctions against the nation.
The conflict has been deeply impactful across the globe. St Andrews, for example, held a vigil on 28 February for those affected by the violence, spreading wishes of peace and safety for all in Ukraine, Russia and bordering nations. The situation is still developing.
Prince Andrew settles with Virginia Giuffre
This month also saw a historic legal settlement involving the United Kingdom's Royal Family. Prince Andrew agreed upon a legal settlement with Virginia Giuffre in a United States civil sexual assault case earlier this past month. The settlement is thought to be upwards of £ 7.5 million and is one in a string of lawsuits concerning the late billionaire Jeffrey Epstein who died in prison in August of 2019. Epstein was notorious for assaulting underage women and engaging in sex trafficking.
The case is a significant one with regards to the developing situation with Epstein’s many victims. Prince Andrew was stripped of his royal titles earlier in the year and will not publicly contribute to the royal family.
Questions about Buckingham Palace’s involvement in the payment have been brought up as news reports stated that the Queen personally contributed to paying Giuffre. The settlement means that Prince Andrew will no longer face the possibility of jail time for his alleged crimes in the United States.