Anti-mandate protests: Doubts cast over Canada PM’s move to impose emergency in February

Published on Aug 12, 2022 10:47 AM IST

Documents filed in a Canada court on Thursday appeared to indicate there was information that a “breakthrough” was possible in negotiations between authorities and the anti-vaccine mandate protesters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with neighbours of east Vancouver residents Gardy and Kate Frost about his handling of vaccine mandates and the Ottawa trucker convoy protests as he meets with residents to discuss investments in housing, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with neighbours of east Vancouver residents Gardy and Kate Frost about his handling of vaccine mandates and the Ottawa trucker convoy protests as he meets with residents to discuss investments in housing, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 24, 2022. (REUTERS)

TORONTO: Doubts have been cast over the necessity for the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to impose a draconian emergency in the country in February to counter the so-called Freedom Convoy then occupying the capital of Ottawa, as documents filed in a court on Thursday appeared to indicate there was information that a “breakthrough” was possible in negotiations between authorities and the anti-vaccine mandate protesters.

The documents, filed in a court, related to minutes from a meeting of the Incident Response Group, convened on the evening of February 13, while the emergency was imposed the very next afternoon. According to a report in the Toronto Star, National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas told Ministers, including Trudeau, “that law enforcement gains have been important and that there was potential for a breakthrough in Ottawa”.

Much of the relevant documents were heavily redacted.

Trudeau made the announcement relating to invoking of the Emergencies Act the next afternoon. This was the first time such an extreme measure was taken since the act was enacted in 1988.

The Canadian government has countered these revelations. It maintained those discussions were between the city of Ottawa and leaders of the agitation. A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told the outlet, “The government closely monitored the status of negotiations, which were disavowed by many associated with the so-called Freedom Convoy and were ultimately unsuccessful.”

The invocation of the act was later passed by the House of Commons but never through the Senate as the emergency was withdrawn nine days after it was imposed.

The latest development came as civil liberties groups continue to challenge the government over its justification for imposing the emergency. Among them is the Canadian Constitution Foundation which “seeks an order for the attorney general to deliver unredacted documents, including minutes of the Incident Response Group and Cabinet meetings leading up to the declaration of the Emergencies Act.”

At the time, the emergency was imposed, the Canadian Center for Civil Liberties tweeted, “The federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act. This law creates a high and clear standard for good reason: the act allows government to bypass ordinary democratic processes. This standard has not been met.”

The controversial measure received the support of the New Democratic Party (NDP), which is in an agreement with the ruling Liberal Party, to keep the government in place till 2025. Among those most vocal in support of the extreme action was NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. However, NDP MPs criticised the government after the new information came to light.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Alistair MacGregor and Matthew Green said the new revelations “new revelations show that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals knew about a potential breakthrough prior to enacting the Emergencies Act. This is a clear failure of the Liberals to be transparent with Canadians and parliamentarians.”

The protestors laid siege to Ottawa for two weeks before the emergency was invoked and were quickly cleared by law enforcement after that.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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