A public inquiry commission into the imposition of an unprecedented emergency in Canada last year has said the Government met the threshold for such action, which followed occupation of the capital Ottawa by the so-called Freedom Convoy protesting against COVID-19-related vaccine mandates.
However, it also found that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s description of the protestors as a “fringe minority” may have aggravated the situation.
The Public Order Emergency Commission was led by Justice Paul Rouleau and it released its report on Friday, after it was tabled in the House of Commons.
“Lawful protest descended into lawlessness, culminating in a national emergency,” the Commissioner stated in the report. The protests began in late January and continued into February before the Emergency Act was enforced for the first time in Canadian history on February 14, 2022.
However, Rouleau also noted that Trudeau’s use of the term “fringe minority” may have “served to energize the protesters, hardening their resolve and further embittering them toward government authorities.”
r job as a government is always to keep people safe, and invoking the Emergencies Act was the necessary thing to do to protect people.”
Speaking to the media in Ottawa, Trudeau regretted his choice of words in the “fringe minority” remark. “I wish I had phrased it differently,” he said, adding, “If I chose my words more carefully, things would have been easier.”
“Invocation of the Emergencies Act is a drastic move, but it is not a dictatorial one,” Rouleau wrote in the report.
However, in a statement issued by the Commission, he tempered the message, as he said, “I do not come to this conclusion easily, as I do not consider the factual basis for it to be overwhelming. Reasonable and informed people could reach a different conclusion than the one I have arrived at,” he added.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is challenging the emergency in court, noted in a statement, “We launched a judicial review precisely because we believed that would be the best venue to test the government’s claims about the legality of using the Emergencies Act.”
CCLA’s Director of Fundamental Freedoms Cara Zwibel said “we disagree with the Commissioner’s conclusion that the legal threshold for invoking the Act was met.”
While the emergency had been passed in the House of Commons, with the support of the New Democratic Party led by Jagmeet Singh, it was withdrawn nine days later even before it could be addressed in the Senate.