Six weeks of dramatic testimony will come to an end today when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears before the Emergencies Act inquiry to defend his government’s decision to invoke the law for the first time in 34 years. ‘story.
Trudeau’s highly anticipated appearance before the Public Order Emergency Commission concludes the public hearing phase of the commission’s work. The commission is investigating the government’s decision to declare an emergency on February 14 to suppress protests against public health measures in Ottawa and deter border blockades.
The inquest heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including Ottawa residents, local officials, police officers, protesters and senior federal ministers.
The inquiry heard conflicting views from police and intelligence leaders on whether the Emergencies Act powers were necessary.
The night before the law was invoked, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino that she believed the police had not yet exhausted “all available tools“, according to an email seen by the investigation.
But documents filed into evidence Thursday indicate the RCMP wanted to keep the Emergencies Act in place for weeks after the protests ended.
The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, told the inquiry that he supported the invocation of the Emergencies Act because “the usual tools just weren’t enough to deal with the situation”. He had previously told the Public Order Emergency Commission that he did not believe the convoy posed a “threat to national security” as defined by CSIS’s enabling legislation.
Jody Thomas, the prime minister’s security and intelligence adviser, told the inquest she recommended invoking the law.
Thomas also undermined Lucki’s claim that on the eve of the federal government invoking the Emergency Measures Act, she told Mendicino’s chief of staff that she felt the police had not exhausted all legal tools.
Thomas told the inquest that Lucki did not convey this information during a meeting with senior officials on February 13.
But a key piece of evidence may not see the light of day. In his testimony, Justice Minister David Lametti did not explain the legal advice the government received by invoking the law, citing solicitor-client privilege.
Gordon Cameron, one of the commission’s own lawyers, accused the government of showing a lack of transparency near the end of Lametti’s testimony.
The government concerned about the economic impacts
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday defended the government’s decision, saying the protests had raised political concerns south of the border.
At various times in early 2022, protesters blocked border crossings at Windsor, Ontario, the small town of Coutts, Alberta, Emerson, Manitoba, and on the Pacific Highway in Surrey, British Columbia.
Earlier this month, the inquiry heard that Transport Canada estimates that up to $3.9 billion in business activity has been disrupted due to border blockades linked to convoy protests.
As a result, Freeland said, she heard complaints to the highest level of the White House. She called it a “dangerous moment for Canada.”
Still, a number of groups — including the organizers of the convoy protest and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) — argued that invoking the law amounted to an excess of government power.
“With just one day of testimony remaining, the government is running out of time to prove it has met the heavy burden of invoking the Emergencies Act,” CCLA said in a statement. a statement on Thursday.
Friday’s hearings will be capped off with closing arguments as the attorneys present their closing arguments to Commissioner Paul Rouleau.
The commission is ending its public hearings but will still hear opinions from academics and experts next week. Rouleau’s final report is due in Parliament in February.