Stop Hiding! Premier of Ontario Doug Ford and his former solicitor general Sylvia Jones should testify at the Emergencies Act inquiry

Premier Ford and former Solicitor General Sylvia Jones are trying to legally shield themselves from public scrutiny by refusing the commissioners' subpoena that is meant to compel them to testify at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is currently taking place in Ottawa.

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The Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) is a legislative requirement meant to scrutinize and determine justification for the invocation of the federal Emergencies Act (EA). 

Coined as essentially martial law, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau invoked the EA on February 14, 2022, in response to an annoying trucker convoy that took to the nation's capital in Ottawa this winter. 

The convoy was a political annoyance for Trudeau and the Liberal Government who had imposed heavy handed COVID mandates onto Canadians, but it was also a direct result of annoyed Canadians being continually ignored by all levels of government with opposition to the indiscriminate infringements of the government into their daily lives.

Doug Ford said himself that he stands shoulder to shoulder with Trudeau.

So why is he being dishonest and saying that he wasn’t asked to testify?

Ford was asked, and he tried to get out of testifying by offering written submissions. Then he was subpoenaed to testify by the commissioner. 

Repeatedly the judge responsible for overhearing the arguments from Ford's legal team (and both the commissioner lawyer and Ottawa Residents Coalition lawyer) asked whether the skirting of this commission requirement under the guise of parliamentary privilege was being used as a sword or a shield. 

We are officially calling on Doug Ford to come out of hiding, to comply with the subpoena and testify in front of the commission as required by the mandate of the Federal Emergencies Act. We’re immediately launching a campaign at StopHiding.ca where there is a petition calling on Ford to testify. We have also hired a billboard truck with similar signage that will start its route around the Ontario Legislature at Queens Park on November 3.

At Doug Ford’s stay application on November 1, which is fancy legalese for him trying to squash the subpoena issued to him and Sylvia Jones, lawyers tried to argue that he and Jones’ parliamentary privilege was a constitutionally protected right and that not issuing a stay of the subpoena would result in irreparable harm to both parliamentarians. Oddly, the irreparable harm is not in response to the actual testimony but in the consequences of the choice not to testify – which could come with jail time.

Yet other parliamentarians have readily complied with testimony requests. Ford and Jones are the anomalies here. No other parliamentarian has ever invoked this privilege in a commission, so there is no clear precedence either way. 

Regardless, all the provinces had to be consulted before the federal government could invoke the EA and the Ottawa trucker convoy took place in Ottawa, in Ford’s province of Ontario, where Jones was the solicitor general at the time, meaning she oversaw emergency management and policing. These are clearly key players in the entire unfolding. On merit, they should be testifying as part of their parliamentarian duty, not hiding behind it. 

Ford and Jones are invoking parliamentary privilege on the grounds that one day of testimony would distract from their parliamentary duties on the provincial level but again, no one else has cited this inconvenience. 

The lawyer for the Ottawa Residents Coalition said that “it would be a grave shame if the inquiry – a socially important process – were labelled as interference or a distraction.” 

On the note about constitutionality – everyday Ontarians and Canadians are still reeling from the fall out of the provincial and federal governments COVID response that saw indiscriminate infringement on constitutional rights and civil liberties without due process or clear demonstrable justification. So, it’s rich that suddenly, those rights and freedoms matter again when trying to skirt the judicial process, especially as an elected official who did the damage in the first place. 

A recurring theme in the court room was that the choice not to testify will come with consequences. Where else have we heard that slogan about choices and consequences? 

Well, for instance:

All in all, Ford’s lawyer referred to Ford and Jones’ as being in an “intolerable position," by making that very choice. The Judge reminds the lawyer that they could easily waive privilege and testify. Miraculously, Ford’s lawyer refers to that as coercion. 

I guess they overlooked indiscriminate COVID-19 vaccine passports that coerced people into injecting themselves with a faulty pharmaceutical product over threats of job loss and preventing them from various social aspects of civil society. 

At the end of the four-hour hearing, Judge Fothergill decided to reserve judgement. He said that he “thinks the worst that will happen is an order with reasons to follow” which he will provide by November 8, two days before Ford is scheduled to appear. 

Certainly, Ford and Jones have a choice to make – will they comply with their parliamentary duty as every other parliamentarian across the country has done, and testify? Or – will they cling to this notion of unprecedented invocation of parliamentary privilege and be found in contempt of court? 

Let Ford know that you want to hear his testimony, sign our petition and donate to offset our costs of the billboard truck at StopHiding.ca.

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  • By Tamara Ugolini

PETITION: Premier Doug Ford Must Stop Hiding

4,138 signatures
Goal: 10,000 Signatures

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