Liberal-stacked Convoy Panel has 'no deadline' to release final report on Emergencies Act

According to minutes of the committee’s last closed session, MPs voted to wait for the translation of thousands of pages of documents compiled by the Public Order Emergency Commission.

Liberal-stacked Convoy Panel has 'no deadline' to release final report on Emergencies Act
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Parliament has no deadline for a committee report on the invocation of the Emergencies Act as deliberations enter its 18th month.

On Monday, the special joint committee admitted to no deadline for its final report on whether cabinet was justified using temporary special measures against the Freedom Convoy. 

Members of Parliament complained they are still waiting to see all records in both official languages, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

According to minutes of the committee’s last closed session, MPs voted to wait for the translation of thousands of pages of documents compiled by the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) that finished its work last February 17.

“It was agreed that the committee suspend its work,” said MPs.

Also, on February 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he would disclose which POEC recommendations his government would implement for future emergencies within six months.

A Public Safety spokesperson told the CBC Tuesday: "We'll have more to say on that in the coming days."

In February 2022, protesters filled downtown Ottawa, many in large trucks, to demonstrate against COVID mandates and the government's invasion of Charter rights.

Blaring rig horns, diesel fumes, makeshift encampments, and even a hot tub and bouncy castle filled the immediate area surrounding Parliament.

Soon after, public frustration boiled over from relative inaction by the Ottawa police. 

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

Under the Act, law enforcement had the legal capacity to establish exclusion zones around the convoy and could kick people out without identifying them as protestors. It also permitted banks to freeze the bank accounts of convoy participants and supporters.

This marked the first instance the federal government invoked the Act, which replaced the War Measures Act — last used by Parliament in 1988.

Last February 17, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland claimed the financial measures were "a powerful tool to […] shrink the size of the [Convoy]."

She said cabinet’s "overriding objective" was to protect Canadians from the Convoy's alleged threats to public safety. 

POEC Commissioner Paul Rouleau acknowledged the protests were rooted in a "loss of faith in government" and "economic hardship" caused by the government's COVID response.

In response to the ‘Rouleau Report,’ the parliamentary committee was mandated to investigate cabinet’s justification for invoking the Emergencies Act against Parliament Hill protesters. 

Blacklock’s Reporter said the committee had met 25 times without reaching any conclusion.

“It became obvious the Liberal members of the committee were not prepared to permit the release of any government documents,” Conservative MP Larry Brock previously told the Commons. 

“We need complete documents,” said Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin, co-chair of the committee. “If they can’t be completed, there should be an explanation.”

"Under the CSIS Act, the federal government did not want an investigation into the invocation of the Emergencies Act as CSIS claimed they did not meet the threshold," said Justice Centre litigator Hatim Kheir.

Ultimately, cabinet viewed it differently than CSIS. However, Kheir said the CSIS Act has a legal precedent, whereas the Emergencies Act does not.

Ottawa's interim police chief Steve Bell said the protests did not meet the Criminal Code definition of violence, citing that people "felt [the violence] of excessive horns blaring."

Kheir said the only evidence of violence during the Ottawa protest was the violence the police committed against protesters.

Owing to the 11-person committee consisting of mostly Liberal MPs and Liberal-appointed senators, they voted 6-5 last October 20 to prohibit the release of uncensored documents. 

Last September, Rouleau waived cabinet privilege to disclose 28,000 documents, of which 9,000 entered into evidence in his report on the Emergencies Act.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Conservative MP Glen Motz claimed the public should be entitled to see uncensored documents explaining why cabinet invoked the Emergencies Act

"We can certainly ask for unredacted documents," he said. "That is certainly the expectation this committee had."

"I think we should be realistic as to our expectations," Senator Peter Harder told the committee earlier. "Those documents, by definition, are secure and classified."

The special joint committee reportedly spent four months petitioning Public Safety Canada and other federal agencies for "all security assessments and legal opinions which the government relied upon" in declaring a national emergency.

"We’re talking about a lot of documents," said Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi. 

"It is not something I would deem suitable or advisable," Liberal MP Arif Virani, now-Attorney General, told the October 20 hearing on declassifying those documents.

New Democrat MP Matthew Green said the committee appeared to have been stonewalled, reported Blacklock’s Reporter

"It has been very difficult to get cooperative witnesses at this committee to be able to provide us with substantive answers and documents and many things this committee has been trying to get," he said.

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