What to expect when Trudeau testifies on the Emergencies Act on Friday – National


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to wrap up Public Order Emergencies Commission hearings on Friday, when he will testify about his decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to suppress the Freedom Convoy” earlier this year.

Hearings have been ongoing for weeks and have heard from dozens of witnesses as part of his duty to analyze Trudeau’s justification for invoking the controversial legislation earlier this year.

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During the investigation, the commission heard from law enforcement officials, City of Ottawa residents, Freedom Convoy organizers, intelligence officials and numerous politicians. The investigation got heated at times – a spectator and a lawyer were both, in separate cases, kicked out of the room.

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The culmination of testimony so far comes as the Prime Minister, who announced the decision to invoke the Emergency Measures Act on February 14, will face questions about his decision on Friday.

Here’s what you can expect.

What was Trudeau advised to do?

A significant moment in the investigation so far came when Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault testified that he advised Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act.

The lawyer representing the organizers of the convoy, Brendan Miller, had spent almost every day up to that point asking whether the convoy met the definition of national security threat in the CSIS Act, which is the definition used in the Emergencies Act.

Vigneault confirmed in his testimony that the convoy did not meet the threshold of the CSIS Act – but that he nevertheless advised Trudeau to invoke the law.

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CSIS chief urged Trudeau to invoke Emergencies Act during convoy, investigation finds


Commission counsel asked if they were correct in understanding Vigneault’s line of thought at the time, namely that “if you adopt a broader definition and then look wider, you come to the view that you gave the prime minister that you thought it was necessary to invoke the act.

Vigneault added: “Yes, that’s exactly it.”

Trudeau will likely be pressed for this recommendation, along with any others he may have received, such as that from his national security adviser Jody Thomas, which led him to invoke the law.

Did the convoy pose a threat to national security?

The Emergencies Act was intended as more limited emergency legislation than its predecessor, the War Measures Act. Within this, there are strict criteria for the circumstances in which his powers can be used.

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Trudeau can expect to face many questions about whether the “freedom convoy” met those criteria.

To qualify as a public order emergency, a situation must meet the definition of “threats to the security of Canada” as set out in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act – the law that governs the powers of the country’s intelligence agency.

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There are four possible scenarios that meet the definition of “threats to the security of Canada” under the law. “Legal” protests are not admissible.

  • Espionage or sabotage against Canada or prejudicial to the interests of the country
  • Activities influenced by foreigners, in Canada or related to Canada, which harm the interests of the country, are clandestine or deceptive, or threaten people
  • Activities in or related to Canada that threaten, direct or use acts of serious violence against persons or property to achieve a political, ideological or religious objective in Canada or a foreign state
  • Activities aimed at undermining by hidden illegal acts, or aimed at or intended to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the system of government established by the Constitution in Canada.

The government formally outlined its rationale for invoking the Emergency Measures Act in an executive order in February. The government argued the blockades were an emergency, and those involved had vowed to push back on efforts to remove them, which officials said involved plans to use “serious violence” for “a political or ideological”.

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Because the head of Canada’s spy agency said the convoy was not considered a threat to national security as defined in the CSIS Act – but he believed it was a broader threat that “required” an invocation – Trudeau will likely be pressed for details on how he weighed those concerns.

Threats against the Prime Minister during the “freedom convoy”

Trudeau could also expect questions about his personal safety during the protests.

According to Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) assessments, which were entered into evidence during the Emergencies Act investigation, law enforcement has raised concerns.

“It is possible that protesters are seeking to identify the prime minister’s whereabouts, based on his itinerary or any open source information displaying his location,” the document said.

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“The ability for some people involved in the convoy to travel to the Prime Minister’s location, if the distance to be traveled is reasonable, is possible if his location is made public.”


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After the protesters arrived in large numbers, Trudeau and his family were eventually moved to an undisclosed location for security reasons.

“We were worried about whether or not the blockade was aimed at the Prime Minister,” Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said on Tuesday.

He said there were “overtly criminal threats” made “to the life and safety of identifiable public figures”.

It is possible that Trudeau could be pressed on his experience with these threats, as well as asked for more details on the steps that have been taken in response to the risks.

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Potential for politicization

It remains to be seen how political tensions could erupt on Friday.

The first half of a given witness’s appearance is assigned to commission counsel, while the second half is open to parties authorized to participate in the investigation – a group that includes provincial governments, advocacy groups and event organizers.

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Commissioner Paul Rouleau frequently reminded the parties to show courtesy during the investigation. So far, one audience member and one lawyer have been kicked out of the room – although their qualms are usually directed at the audience itself, rather than a specific witness.

Nonetheless, the inquiry has sent a reminder to anyone planning to attend Friday’s proceedings in person.

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“Commissioner Rouleau expects all participants to maintain the decorum of the hearings and that everyone’s conduct in the hearing room continues to be respectful at all times,” he said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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