The public inquiry must determine whether Trudeau was justified in using the act. To date, it has heard and seen considerable evidence casting doubt on the Liberal government’s decision.
Police agencies have testified the emergency powers weren’t necessary to end the protest of pandemic public health measures. Senior government officials were shown to have harbored doubts. And perhaps most damaging to the government’s case was a revelation last week that Canada’s national intelligence agency did not find the protests posed a threat to Canada’s security.
In the final week of hearings, it will fall to Trudeau and several of his ministers and senior staff to prove their case: that they needed unprecedented measures to deal with an unprecedented situation.
The so-called Freedom Convoy protest made international headlines after hundreds of trucks rolled into downtown Ottawa in late January, occupying the city’s downtown core and disrupting life for residents.
The protest was a reaction to Trudeau’s decision to mandate Covid vaccination for truckers, but it quickly grew into something larger and more amorphous. Some of the protesters called for an end to all pandemic public health measures; others wanted to overthrow the government.
Online, far-right figures latched onto the movement. Protest leaders raised C$24 million through crowdfunding campaigns, including a large portion from American donors.
In Ottawa, businesses shut down amid diesel fumes and incessant honking from the trucks encamped on downtown streets. Elsewhere, protesters blockaded border crossings, including the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mich., and is traversed by roughly 25 percent of the total trade between Canada and the U.S. each year.
The border blockades raised concerns about Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner, and Trudeau spoke with President Joe Biden about the situation on Feb. 11. Three days later, with the Ottawa protests entering their third week, Trudeau employed the Emergencies Act.
The act, passed in 1988, had never been used and is intended only for national emergencies that can’t be resolved by other means. Its predecessor, the War Measures Act, was most recently used by Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, in response to a series of terrorist attacks by a militant Quebec independence movement in 1970.
In February, the opposition Conservatives called the Emergencies Act an “unprecedented sledgehammer” that was unnecessary to end the protests. Civil liberties groups also claim the Liberals overstepped.
The public inquiry to scrutinize the government’s decision was triggered by use of the act, but it’s unclear what consequences Trudeau will face if the commission finds he didn’t…