Trudeau is testifying on the final day of hearings on the emergency legislation

Written by

Six weeks of dramatic testimony ends today when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears before the Emergencies Act inquiry to defend his government’s decision to invoke the law for the first time in its 34-year history.

Trudeau’s much-anticipated appearance at the Public Order Emergency Commission concludes the public consultation phase of the commission’s work. The commission is investigating the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency on Feb. 14 to quell public health protests in Ottawa and deter border blockades.

The inquiry has heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including Ottawa residents, local officials, police, protesters and senior federal ministers.

The inquiry has heard conflicting views from police and intelligence chiefs about whether emergency law powers were needed.

The night before the law was invoked, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino that she felt police had not yet exhausted “all available tools,” according to an email seen by the investigation.

But documents tendered into evidence Thursday show that The RCMP wanted to keep the Emergency Act in place for weeks after the protests were cleared up.

The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) David Vigneault told the inquiry that he supported invocation of the emergency law because “the ordinary tools just weren’t enough to solve the situation.” He previously told the Public Order Emergency Commission that he did not believe the convoy posed a “threat to national security” as defined in the CSIS Authorization Act.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question from a reporter after announcing that the Emergency Act will be invoked to deal with protests Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Jody Thomas, the Prime Minister’s security and intelligence adviser, told the inquiry she recommended invoking the action.

Thomas also undermined Lucki’s claim that, on the eve of the federal government’s invocation of the Emergency Act, she told Mendicino’s chief of staff that she felt the police had not exhausted all legal tools.

Thomas told the inquiry that Lucki failed to disclose that information during a meeting with senior officials on February 13.

But a key piece of evidence may not see the light of day. During his testimony, Attorney General David Lametti would not explain the legal opinion the government received when he invoked the action, citing attorney-client privilege.

Gordon Cameron, one of the lawyers for the commission itself, accused the government of demonstrating a lack of transparency near the end of Lametti’s testimony.

The government is concerned about financial consequences

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland defended the government’s decision on Thursday, arguing that the protests sparked political concerns south of the border.

At various times in early 2022, protesters blocked border crossings in Windsor, Ont., the small town of Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and the Pacific Highway in Surrey, B.C.

Earlier this month, the inquiry heard that Transport Canada estimated as much as $3.9 billion in trade activity was halted due to border blockades related to the convoy protests.

As a result, Freeland said, she heard complaints from the highest levels of the White House. She called it a “dangerous moment for Canada”.

Still, a number of groups—including the organizers of the convoy protests and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)—have argued that invoking the act was tantamount to government overreach.

“With only one day of testimony remaining, the government is running out of time to prove it has met the high burden of invoking the Emergency Act,” CCLA said in a statement Thursday.

Friday’s hearings will conclude with closing arguments as attorneys present their final arguments to Commissioner Paul Rouleau.

The commission is wrapping up its public hearings but will still hear statements from academics and experts next week. Rouleau’s final report is to be tabled in parliament in February.

About the author

Leave a Comment