Speaking before the federal inquiry into the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to end last winter’s “Freedom Convoy” protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it was clear from the start that this would be “another form” of protest, and as it progressed the pressure grew for him to intervene.
Testifying to the international pressure on Canada as border blockades began to hamper trade between Canada and the United States, Prime Minister Trudeau was asked by commission counsel Shantona Chaudhury if he thought the US President Joe Biden was just as concerned about the impact of the protests as he was. Trudeau said “no”.
“I think he was very worried, but I don’t think anyone was more worried than me,” Trudeau told the commission.
Trudeau began his appearance before the Public Order Emergency Commission on Friday, reviewing the timeline of the protests and the invocation, testifying that as preparations were underway, there were ” already a bit of concern that this could be another brand of event that Les Canadiens used to see.”
The prime minister said he thought the anger of people planning to protest reminded him of the anger seen during the 2021 federal election campaign. After protesters arrived in the nation’s capital, he was quick to hear directly from local MPs and then-Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, asking the federal government to intervene because, at the end of the first weekend, the ability of the police to keep it under control “n wasn’t exactly there.”
“I dare say that the citizens of Ottawa are used to political activity and protests on the Hill for a variety of things. But it was present in their daily lives and disrupted their weekend in a way that was not a usual political manifestation,” Trudeau said. said. “From people being bullied and harassed for wearing masks, to a very disturbing story of people disrupting the nearby homeless shelter and soup kitchen, there were indications that there was a level of contempt for others of which, unfortunately, we had seen examples during the election campaign.”
The Prime Minister is the latest witness to testify in the week-long public hearing process, triggered by his decision on February 14 to invoke federal powers never before used over fears for Canada’s economic and national security.
HOW WE GOT HERE?
Over the past six weeks, in examining what led to the invocation, the commission has learned of the impact on Ottawa residents and City Council, the dysfunctional Ottawa Police Service and the chain of command and the information-sharing struggles between the OPP and RCMP.
Hearings also painted clear pictures of frustration with the Ontario government’s apparent lack of involvement, convoy organizers’ power struggles and grassroots social media origins, and the prioritization of border blockades. for economic and diplomatic reasons.
Over the past two weeks, Commissioner Paul Rouleau has heard of the incredible amount of federal bureaucracy involved, of the differing interpretations of what the Emergencies Act, as it was drafted decades ago, mandated when declaring a national public order emergency, and the role played by senior cabinet ministers in proposing solutions.
However, the federal government’s refusal to waive solicitor-client privilege with respect to legal advice received by Cabinet as to whether the protests met the “threat to the security of Canada” threshold of the CSIS, limited the findings. gradual publication of government documents that are sometimes very redacted.
In granting the extraordinary powers after high-level consultation with premiers and opposition leaders, the federal government has put in place a wide range of measures to support provinces, municipalities and police forces facing the continued protests. The law was later repealed on February 23.
This whole commission process was triggered by Trudeau’s invocation of the law, because with the decision to declare a national emergency of public order, a whole process of accountability was adopted, obliging Trudeau to create this commission, which will have to submit its report to Parliament by February 1. 20.