In the News April 27
Public Inquiry on Emergencies Act Invocation
Inquiry’s Compromised Terms Will Make it Unable to Draw Warranted Conclusions
Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a Commission of Public Inquiry into his government’s use of the Emergencies Act on February 14 during the “Freedom Convoy” which occupied Ottawa from January 22 to February 23.
The Emergencies Act stipulates that an inquiry must be held “into the circumstances that led to the declaration being issued and the measures taken for dealing with the emergency.” This would seem to be enough of a mandate for the Commission.
However, the Liberal order-in-council specifies the scope of the inquiry, setting it off on a compromised footing. The Liberals direct the Commission to “examine issues, to the extent relevant to the circumstances of the declaration and measures taken, with respect to: (a) the evolution and goals of the convoy and blockades, their leadership, organization and participants. (b) the impact of domestic and foreign funding, including crowd sourcing platforms, (c) the impact, role and sources of misinformation and disinformation, including the use of social media, (d) the impact of the blockades, including their economic impact, and (e) the efforts of police and other responders prior to and after the declaration.”
There are many obvious omissions, starting with the conduct of the Government itself and including the impact of the measures on the people. The question is why the Commission was not directed to set its own frame of reference.
Thus, a controversy has emerged about the Commission’s terms of reference not including a scrutiny of the government itself. A joint statement from Conservative MP’s Dancho, Lloyd and Deltell, says, “The Liberal government is doing everything in their power to ensure this inquiry is unsubstantial and fails to hold them accountable.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has filed a legal challenge to the Liberals having invoked the Act, says: “The broader context is important, but the government’s attempts to divert attention from their own actions is concerning.”
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters that the Commission will have “broad access, including to classified documents,” but refused to answer questions about cabinet documents, saying “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The Commission can receive submissions and convoke its meetings anywhere in the country, in any manner it sees fit. It can hear from any persons the Commissioner deems “would provide necessary contributions to the Inquiry and . . . have a substantial and direct interest in the subject matter.” Governments at all levels are also entitled to participate.
The expectation is that it will set out findings and lessons learned, draw conclusions on the “appropriateness and effectiveness” of the measures invoked, and make recommendations related to modernizing the Act or areas for further study. The Commission cannot deal with “the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization” nor jeopardize any criminal proceedings or investigations.
The order-in-council creating the Commission describes the invocation of the Act as a response to “blockades mounted in locations across Canada … and the adverse effects of those blockades.” Ontario judge Paul S. Rouleau will serve as Commissioner.
The Commissioner is to give his report to Cabinet no later than February 6, 2023 and to the Senate and the House by February 20, 2023. He is expected to “prevent any disclosure of information to persons or bodies other than the Government of Canada that would be injurious to international relations, national defence or national security.”
As is the case for reviews conducted by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, the instructions could indicate that there will be two reports, one for Cabinet and a redacted version for Parliament.
There are indications that its year-long proceedings are both to make sure the public will have forgotten all about the declaration of the Emergencies Act a year from now and/or they will serve as a disinforming chatter on its legitimacy and the growing use of police powers, while the people are deprived of their rights in myriad ways, including resolving the problem of the increased use of police powers.
Renewal Update, posted April 27, 2022.