Emergencies Act review is 18 months past due, citing English, French translations worth millions

The CEO of the Translation Bureau testified earlier this year that translating even a portion of the 124,000 pages would take years, and cost taxpayers $16 million. Work on the file could exceed the dissolution of Parliament next year when Canadians head to the polls.

Emergencies Act review is 18 months past due, citing English, French translations worth millions
JuliaDorian - stock.adobe.com
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Ottawa’s review of the Emergencies Act invocation remains in limbo, with parliamentarians 18 months behind schedule in presenting their findings.

In December 2022, an 11-person committee of MPs and Senators extended the initial deadline by six months to include more written submissions.

On February 14, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to permit temporary emergency measures to disperse the convoy protesters.

Protestors peacefully demonstrated along Wellington Street to express their frustrations with COVID mandates.

Fast forward the allotted time and more delays ensued following a June 2023 decision to have all documents be available in both English and French. The Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC), which deemed the invocation justifiable, rejected this approach for expediency’s sake.

Though the POEC report is not legally binding, it does "influence people with authority," according to Justice Centre lawyer Hatim Kheir.

One Senator says translating the massive trove of documents to English and French, spanning tens of thousands of pages, has all but blown the initial deadline out of the water.

“I don’t think people are waiting with bated breath for our work,” said Sen. Peter Harder. “But they will be long asleep by the time we work in that sequence.”

He claimed their efforts to ease the bottleneck may still take a while and will resume on May 21.

The CEO of the Translation Bureau testified earlier this year that translating even a portion of the 124,000 pages would take years, and cost taxpayers $16 million.

Senators and MPs are hoping to be choosier on which documents to translate now that the committee has an index. 

In February 2023, Trudeau told reporters his government would disclose which of the 56 recommendations to implement for future emergencies within six months.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc penned a letter in mid-August, requesting more time. He pledged a comprehensive government response in February 2024 but to no avail.

When that deadline came, LeBlanc said the federal government delayed their implementation, citing the Federal Court ruling that said the use of emergency powers infringed Charter rights. 

The federal government wants to factor in their appeal as part of their response to the recommendations.

Work on the file could last well beyond the 2025 general election.

“I think it’s irresponsible for us to continue to pursue this committee in perpetuity,” added NDP MP Matthew Green, who notes their review is not supposed to be “a book report club on the Rouleau commission.”

Sen. Claude Carignan hopes they finish the report early this fall, but acknowledged the committee needs access to more evidence. “We have to have access to the documents,” he said.

Conservative MP Larry Brock claimed the committee could “walk and chew gum at the same time.”

However, Bloc Québécois MP Rheal Fortin said testimony from the commission is required in both languages, stating there would be no pushback if all the information was in French.

The MPs and Senators have yet to set a new deadline to table the review.

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