After six months of deliberating on amendments to the Emergencies Act, the federal government needs another six months before releasing a final report.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting more time to address the calls for change by the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC).
"The federal government is considering these recommendations carefully, particularly those that will improve collaboration between jurisdictions, support community safety, and help strengthen our capacity to respond to similar events of national significance in the future," reads the letter.
As of writing, the government managed to "make progress" on considering police reforms, bolstering financial sector security, and identifying and protecting critical economic corridors, reported CTV.
"Our priority remains to keep Canadians safe and protect our democracy, jobs, supply chains, and economy," LeBlanc told reporters as he pledged a comprehensive government response in February 2024.
On February 17, Trudeau told reporters he would disclose which POEC recommendations his government would implement for future emergencies within six months.
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.
POEC Commissioner Paul Rouleau acknowledged the protesters had a "loss of faith in government" and faced incredible "economic hardship" caused by the government's COVID response.
After two weeks of peaceful protests along Wellington Street, public frustration boiled over from relative inaction by the Ottawa Police Service.
On February 14, 2022, Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to permit temporary emergency measures to disperse the convoy protesters.
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 protesters. It also permitted banks to freeze the 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.
On February 17, 2022, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland claimed the financial measures were "a powerful tool to […] shrink the size of the [convoy]."
She told reporters that cabinet had an "overriding objective" to protect Canadians from the convoy's alleged threats to public safety.
Ottawa's interim police chief, Steve Bell, said the protests did not meet the Criminal Code definition of violence, but the demonstrations "felt" violent.
Justice Centre lawyer Hatim Kheir said the only evidence of violence during the Ottawa protest was the violence the police committed against protesters.
Last February 17, the POEC concluded that while the feds met the threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act, a reasonable person could conclude otherwise. Trudeau promised to present a plan to respond to the report's findings by mid-August.
Rouleau issued 56 recommendations for the federal government to consider during its deliberations on better handling emergencies. They included calls for police reform, intelligence coordination, protection of critical infrastructure and amendments to the Emergencies Act.
Nearly half (27) of the recommendations focused solely on police reforms, specifically encouraging intelligence sharing between jurisdictions that open lines of communication.
LeBlanc's progress report said the RCMP is "considering ways to improve policing during public order events." While not exclusive to the report, the federal policing service will also assess its contract policing program.
He also said discussions are ongoing about addressing areas of shared jurisdiction.
In response to the 'Rouleau Report,' a special joint parliamentary committee investigating the act's invocation has met 25 times and has yet to reach a conclusion.
Last October 20, an 11-person committee consisting of mostly Liberal MPs and Liberal-appointed senators voted 6-5 to prohibit the release of uncensored documents.
Of the remaining recommendations, the minister and his colleagues considered 22 potential changes to the "imperfect" Emergencies Act. However, Thursday's update did not clarify if the government would contemplate these legislative amendments — including scrapping the definition of what constitutes a national security threat.
Rouleau also asked the government to study the impact of 'misinformation' on Canadians during the Freedom Convoy and consider whether to task a federal department or agency to monitor social media.
On this issue, LeBlanc offered reporters an array of 'misinformation' initiatives his government pursued in recent years, though he did not comment on whether they'd implement the commission's intelligence recommendations.
The minister also said a national security council is in the works to "enable ministers to deliberate on and address issues of pressing concern to Canada's domestic and international security."
LeBlanc said his main focus over the next six months is to prepare a full report that maintains public trust and confidence in their ability to work with all levels of government — a glaring weakness during the initial response to the convoy.