The 'tool of last resort': Public Safety Canada officials testify at the Trucker Commission

A pair of Public Safety Canada officials testified before the commission on day 22, where it was revealed that intel from Canada's spy agency suggested invoking the Emergencies Act would likely provoke protesters and wasn't necessary. William Diaz-Berthiaume explains in this report.

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Day 22 of the Public Order Emergency Commission featured some extremely interesting testimony from a pair of Public Safety Canada officials, Rob Stewart and Dominic Rochon

Before we get to their testimony, let's quickly refresh why this inquiry is taking place. This past February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act in response to peaceful protesters from the Freedom Convoy demonstrating in Ottawa against remaining COVID-19 restrictions in Canada. Following that decision, a commission must then investigate whether the decision to invoke the act was actually necessary.

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Rob Stewart was a name that has appeared often since the inquiry began, but on day 22 we finally had a chance to hear from the man himself. Stewart, as deputy public safety minister, was working very closely with Trudeau's Liberal cabinet, particularly Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, during the Freedom Convoy.

On Feb. 13, Stewart informed the head of the OPP's police liaison team, Marcel Beaudin, that the federal government would not be meeting with convoy protesters — despite Beaudin strongly suggesting they do so.

Beaudin was the person who developed a plan that suggested the Liberal cabinet meet with representatives from the convoy, presenting it to federal officials on Feb. 13, just one day before the Emergencies Act was invoked on Feb. 14.

During cross-examination by convoy lawyer Brendan Miller, it was revealed that the Public Safety Canada officials disregarded crucial intel provided by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, in order to invoke the Emergencies Act. CSIS' opinion was that invoking the act would radicalize protesters and felt it wasn't a crucial step in bringing about the end of the protest.

Stewart, meanwhile, was unable to point to a reasonable authority that believed the threshold of Section 2 of the CSIS Act was met.

This is important because, according to the Emergencies Act itself:

threats to the security of Canada has the meaning assigned by section 2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. (menaces envers la sécurité du Canada)

Another lawyer from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom also had a chance to cross-examine Stewart and Rochon, and that too was very revealing and relevant.

The Liberal Research Bureau is an interesting taxpayer-funded entity. We'll get into that more in another report, but here it shows that prior to the Emergencies Act being voted on, the Liberals allies in the New Democratic Party were already going to vote in favour of invoking the act.

Stewart, however, claimed he only learned about the NDP's support for the act's use “upon the vote.” Another noteworthy moment from Stewart's testimony was when he explained that the Emergencies Act is only a tool of last resort and that there were “many other tools.”

After the commission wrapped up for the day, we invited another convoy lawyer, Keith Wilson, to be a guest on BREAKDOWN. Every weeknight at 6 p.m. ET (4 p.m. MT), we look back on the day's proceedings and are often joined by special guests like Wilson. You can see our conversation with the well-credentialed convoy lawyer below.

Stay tuned to in the days ahead, as cabinet members like Mendicino, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Deputy PM/Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and even Trudeau himself will provide their testimony to the commission.

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