The public inquiry investigating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act begins today. As part of the government's obligations following the invocation of the Act, a commission must be convened within 60 days and its subsequent report must be tabled in Parliament within 360 days after the Act is revoked.
This inquiry, deemed the Public Order Emergency Commission, was announced by Trudeau on April 25 after the Emergencies Act was revoked on February 23. The mandate delivered from the prime minister tasks the commission with handling the examination and assessment of the basis for the Trudeau government's decision to use the Emergencies Act, the circumstances leading up to the invocation and whether this was an appropriate and effective measure chosen by the government to address the Freedom Convoy.
A review of the legislative policy and regulatory framework will also be part of the commissions duties, which could feature potential amendments to the Emergencies Act. The full order in council relating to the Public Order Emergency Commission can be read here.
Public Order Emergency Commissioner sets the stage, explains the inquiry's mandate
Commissioner Paul S. Rouleau, a longtime judge tapped by Trudeau to oversee the inquiry, started the proceedings this morning.
Explaining what the commission would be examining, Rouleau said “first, the evolution and goals of the convoy movement and border protests and their leadership organization and participants.” Next, “the impact of domestic and foreign funding including crowdsourcing platforms.”
Third, the commissioner said, is “the impact, role and sources of misinformation and disinformation including social media.” Following that, “the economic and other impacts of blockades.” Finally, Rouleau said, would be the “efforts of police and other responders prior to and after the declaration.”
“While this inquiry will deal with a wide range of issues,” Rouleau explained, “it's focus will remain squarely on the federal government. Why did it declare an emergency, how did it use its powers and were those actions appropriate?”
The Freedom Convoy's perspective view of the Emergencies Act
With the commission's mandate explaining that it would hear from representatives from both the government and the convoy, Brendan Miller, a lawyer representing Freedom Convoy organizers and protesters, rebuked the prime minister's decision to use the Emergencies Act.
“It is our view that there was no justification whatsoever to invoke the Emergencies Act,” Miller said.
“The Emergencies Act requires several things,” Miller continued. “One, it could be invoked due to espionage and sabotage. Are you going to hear any evidence about espionage?” the lawyer asked. “The answer to that is no,” he answered.
A second reason to use the Emergencies Act according to Miller was to address “clandestine or deceptive foreign influence, a foreign influence that involves the threat to a person.” Miller said that question was also “no.”
Miller also explained that the Act could be invoked on the grounds of threats or acts of serious violence against persons or property. Once again, the lawyer said the commission would not hear any evidence of these types of actions from the Freedom Convoy.
Finally, the lawyer outlined how the Emergencies Act can be used if there is an attempt to overthrow or destroy the Government of Canada.
“The answer is that there was no reasonable and probable grounds to invoke the Emergencies Act and that the government exceeded their jurisdiction both constitutionally and legislatively in doing so,” Miller concluded.
Ottawa Police Service spokesman claims Freedom Convoy brought “community violence and social trauma”
Aside from the federal government and the protesters, another major player in this past February's Freedom Convoy was the Ottawa Police Service. The local force's role in restoring order to the city was heavily scrutinized by both sides of the demonstration.
A representative from the Ottawa Police Service spoke to the commission on the first day, opening by stating that “all of the officers and all of their partners you will hear worked tirelessly and professionally.”
The integrated police response, which was led by the Ottawa police, “brought what had started as a protest but [had] become an illegal occupation to a successful resolution,” the rep said.
None of the intelligence gathered by police leading up to the protest predicted the “level of community violence and social trauma that was inflicted upon the city and its resident,” he claimed, adding that the police have learned from the experience and will “make sure the events from the past are not repeated.”
Changes, the police spokesman noted, have been made to how the Ottawa Police Service responds to events like this.
“The Ottawa Police Service welcomes the opportunity to learn more through this process as it works to rebuild public trust,” the spokesman said in closing.
Civil liberties groups fighting for freedom
The Democracy Fund (TDF), a registered Canadian charity that has had numerous stories of fighting for civil liberties shared on Rebel News, is also set to play a role in the inquiry. As explained by the organization's chief litigator, Alan Honner, The Democracy Fund is sharing standing with other civil liberties-minded groups like the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and Citizens For Freedom.
Explaining why TDF is involved in the hearing, Honner said that “our interest in this inquiry arises from our legal work.” Honner pointed out that the group sent lawyers to Ottawa and Windsor, the site of a blockade on the Ambassador Bridge, “to provide demonstrators with legal information about their rights when protesting, as well as the limitations of those rights.”
“Currently, we represent dozens of persons who have been criminally charged in relations to the protest at Ottawa, Windsor and Coutts,” Honner said. “And we represent thousands of others who have been charged under the Quarantine Act or provincial offences related to the pandemic.”
When it comes to the Trudeau government's decision to use the Emergencies Act, Honner told the commission that “from our perspective, the government did not meet the requisite legal grounds to invoke a public order emergency,” citing the same reasons outlined by the lawyer representing the convoy demonstrators.
To keep up with all of our coverage from Ottawa throughout the Public Order Emergency Commission, be sure to keep checking TruckerCommission.com.
There, not only can you follow along with our reporting, but you can help us keep bringing you the other side of this important story by making a donation to help cover the costs of our team that will be on the ground in Ottawa throughout the duration of the commission.