With the Public Order Emergency Commission set to heat up this week as cabinet ministers provide their testimony, we need to have a look back at what happened last week with some of the lesser-known public officials taking the stand.
Last Thursday, four witnesses — three from the Department of Finance and one national security adviser to the Trudeau government — provided their insights to the public inquiry.
But first, let's quickly remember why this inquiry is even taking place.
Back in February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act in response to peaceful protesters who were part of the Freedom Convoy. This protest saw Canadians of all types travel across the country, culminating in a weeks-long demonstration against the country's remaining COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
You can see all of our coverage of the inquiry (and support our independent journalism) at TruckerCommission.com.
First to take the stand on Nov. 17 were the three Department of Finance officials, Michael Sabia, Rhys Mendes and Isabelle Jacques. Sabia, the deputy finance minister, works extremely closely with our deputy prime minister and finance minister, Chrystia Freeland.
Sabia's testimony before the commission was lengthy, and he was pressed on some key issues by Freedom Convoy lawyer Brendan Miller during his cross-examination.
During his testimony, Sabia alleged that the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa and other protests that were appearing across the country caused confidence issues between Canada and the United States, mentioning “build back better” when talking about how to restore those links.
Later on, Sabia was cross-examined by Sujit Choundhry, a lawyer serving as counsel for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, who also did not go lightly on the deputy finance minister. In one particular exchange, Sabia stated his solution for protesters to avoid having their bank account frozen was to “leave.”
“All you had to do was leave,” Sabia told the commission. Wow.
In the second portion of the day, Jody Thomas, a national security adviser for the Privy Council Office, testified in front of the commission.
Thomas, in her role, receives information and intelligence from multiple security agency sources, classifies it and then communicates this data to the Privy Council Office, the chief bureaucrats serving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
She often seemed unable to recall the information presented to her or, like during her cross-examination by Miller and another convoy lawyer, Rob Kittredge, had a vastly different interpretation of documents presented.
First, let's see some of the highlights from her testimony, and then we'll go in-depth on the most important moments.
Freedom Convoy lawyer Miller had the opportunity to cross-examine Thomas as well, and did not waste a moment to make a splash.
Miller pressed Thomas on her understanding of the Emergencies Act, particularly with regard to Section 2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, and a whole lot more in a fascinating and very damning to the witness examination.
After Miller had finished, Kittredge also had his chance to cross-examine Thomas.
So, what can we make of Thomas' testimony and the evidence presented by lawyers? Well, CSIS wrote on one of the documents Miller presented that in their view, the Freedom Convoy was not a national security threat issue prior to the Emergencies Act being invoked. In fact, it was shown in one of the documents that CSIS communicated this exact sentiment during an email exchange.
Be ready for a lot more cross-examinations and testimonies similar to this in the next few days, as Trudeau and many of his top ministers, as well as CSIS director David Vigneault are set to testify before the commission this week.
To see all of our coverage since the commission began, and to support our 100% viewer-funded journalism, visit TruckerCommission.com.