Police didn’t ask for Emergency Measures Act: Bill Blair

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OTTAWA — Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland say they have not heard police recommendations to enact the Emergencies Act.

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Both ministers were called to testify before the special parliamentary committee set up to explore why the government declared a national emergency amid lockdowns at border crossings and downtown Ottawa in February.

“I am not aware of any recommendations from law enforcement,” Blair said Tuesday. « Quite frankly, it’s a government decision. »

Blair said on the « Freedom Convoy » that he spoke regularly with police officers who « clearly had difficulty » restoring law and order, and that his role was to try to figure out why this was happening.

In response to Senator Claude Carignan, who asked if Blair was aware of such a recommendation, he said: « Frankly, I would have been quite surprised if the police had actually made a policy recommendation or requested legislative authority. »

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« I don’t think that would have been an appropriate thing for law enforcement to ask, and they didn’t ask for it, » Blair said.

Freedom Convoy supporters protesting against COVID vaccine mandates and restrictions outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, Saturday, January 29, 2022.
Freedom Convoy supporters protest against COVID vaccine mandates and restrictions in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Saturday, January 29, 2022. Photo by LARS HAGBERG /AFP via Getty Images

Freeland, for her part, did not respond directly to questions about who around the cabinet table suggested using the law.

« I would like to take personal responsibility for this decision, in my opinion it was the right decision, » she said.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has come under intense scrutiny since telling the committee in April that police had asked the government to invoke the law.

« The advice we received was to invoke the emergency law, » Mendicino said at the time.

Since then, the RCMP and Ottawa police have said they have not asked for law enforcement, and the Deputy Minister of Public Safety told the same committee that Mendicino’s comments were misdirected. understood.

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Mendicino tried to clarify his comments, saying the government had consulted with police on what powers they needed to end the lockdowns, and that the Emergencies Act was the only way to give them those powers.

Federal Conservatives say the public safety minister lost credibility over his comments about the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, and they’re calling on him to resign.

He said on Tuesday that the government will « never apologize for doing what is necessary » to end the protests and called on the official opposition to apologize for supporting the convoy.

Freeland’s appearance before the committee was, in his own words, sometimes « adversarial. »

Several members accused her of not answering questions, being evasive, and failing to provide new information.

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She cited news reports and the City of Ottawa, among others, in her responses to questions and recommended that committee members direct certain questions to others, including the RCMP.

Bloc Québécois MP Rheal Fortin couldn’t get a straight answer to his questions about what steps the federal government tried to take before using the law, which Freeland called a last resort.

NDP MP Matthew Green has repeatedly asked if the minister took any notes during high-level meetings she had with bank officials about the economic measures contained in the emergency declaration.

After getting no response during his allotted time for questions, Green said « it’s unreal. »

Tory MP Larry Brock said Freeland « wasted 90 minutes of valuable committee time ».

« I appreciate that a lot of us here are elected and have partisan work to do, » Freeland said at one point during the meeting.

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