Michael Taube: How the Controversial Emergencies Act Has Led to Even More Political Controversy

CommentaryPrime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals controversially invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 during the Freedom Convoy protest. Although it was revoked nine days later, it continues to generate political controversy in the nation’s capital. The Emergencies Act gave law enforcement the authority to control large gatherings and enter cars and trucks and make arrests. Canada’s financial intelligence services could also monitor funds raised for the Freedom Convoy through GoFundMe and cryptocurrency, and freeze bank accounts of suspected contributors. End result? Our liberties and freedoms were briefly trampled on, and the state of our democracy was more tenuous than ever before. While Canada is a resilient country and has soldiered on, a little piece of what makes us Canadian disappeared for good. Many people have wondered about the sequence of events that led up to the Emergencies Act. The Liberals pulled the lever, but what caused the lever to be pulled in the first place? On April 26, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was asked about this by a special joint parliamentary committee studying the emergency declaration. He said the government had “remained engaged with law enforcement throughout … to ensure that they had the support and resources they needed. However, when efforts using existing authorities proved ineffective, the advice we received was to invoke the Emergencies Act.” Two days later in the House of Commons, the minister reconfirmed that “it was on the advice of law enforcement that we invoked the Emergencies Act.” Which law enforcement officials gave this advice? According to CBC senior writer Aaron Wherry, Mendicino provided additional details in a CBC News interview in late May. “I think it’s important that we’re really clear about how we took the decision and we took the decision by assessing very carefully the state of emergency that existed last winter,” the minister reportedly said. “And that assessment was informed by the conversations that we were having with law enforcement, including the Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP and other officials who, in their words, described these events as an ‘unprecedented’ act of civil disobedience … in the words of the Canadian Association of the Chiefs of Police.” Alas, there’s one small problem: Neither the Ottawa Police Service nor the RCMP agree with Mendicino’s version of events. Both organizations acknowledge they spoke about this topic with various partners and federal ministers. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, however, told the committee on May 10 there was “never a question of requesting the Emergencies Act.” Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell confirmed on May 17 that “we didn’t make a direct request for the Emergencies Act.” Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, who served in this role during the protest, said on June 2: “I did not make that request, I’m not aware of anybody else in the Ottawa Police Service who did.” Things got worse when Mendicino’s deputy minister, Rob Stewart, met with the committee on June 7. Stewart actually claimed his boss had been “misunderstood.” “I believe that the intention that he was trying to express was that law enforcement asked for the tools that were contained in the Emergencies Act,” he said. There’s something very wrong with the picture that’s being painted, and the primary artist is Mendicino. The minister and his staffers had every right to ask about the Emergencies Act in the lead-up to its use. There are jurisdictional boundaries, and it’s always good to have clarity. That being said, it seems unlikely his intentions could have been misunderstood when he said he acted on the “advice of law enforcement” to invoke it. When you bring up something as controversial as the Emergencies Act—or its predecessor, the War Measures Act, which was invoked during the 1970 October Crisis—there’s a clear intent and consideration at play. Mendicino also could have backed out at any time, in spite of what advice he did or didn’t receive from law enforcement. What about the Ottawa police and the RCMP? They likely took meticulous notes during discussions with federal ministers, including Mendicino, due to the nature of the Emergencies Act and what it could potentially entail. That’s typical protocol for law enforcement, and you should always have your bases covered as a rule of thumb. Mendicino obviously didn’t make the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act arbitrarily. Like most federal ministers, he doesn’t have this power or authority. Rather, it was on behalf of senior Liberal cabinet ministers and advisers—and, one assumes, with the PM’s full knowledge and approval. Nevertheless, Mendicino’s explanation is troubling. It’s not an issue of semantics or some simple misunderstanding, but rather that his explanation has a distinct air of duplicitousness. If he can’t properly explain what happened, and why the Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP have provided a different version

Michael Taube: How the Controversial Emergencies Act Has Led to Even More Political Controversy

Commentary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals controversially invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 during the Freedom Convoy protest. Although it was revoked nine days later, it continues to generate political controversy in the nation’s capital.

The Emergencies Act gave law enforcement the authority to control large gatherings and enter cars and trucks and make arrests. Canada’s financial intelligence services could also monitor funds raised for the Freedom Convoy through GoFundMe and cryptocurrency, and freeze bank accounts of suspected contributors.

End result? Our liberties and freedoms were briefly trampled on, and the state of our democracy was more tenuous than ever before. While Canada is a resilient country and has soldiered on, a little piece of what makes us Canadian disappeared for good.

Many people have wondered about the sequence of events that led up to the Emergencies Act. The Liberals pulled the lever, but what caused the lever to be pulled in the first place?

On April 26, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was asked about this by a special joint parliamentary committee studying the emergency declaration. He said the government had “remained engaged with law enforcement throughout … to ensure that they had the support and resources they needed. However, when efforts using existing authorities proved ineffective, the advice we received was to invoke the Emergencies Act.” Two days later in the House of Commons, the minister reconfirmed that “it was on the advice of law enforcement that we invoked the Emergencies Act.”

Which law enforcement officials gave this advice?

According to CBC senior writer Aaron Wherry, Mendicino provided additional details in a CBC News interview in late May. “I think it’s important that we’re really clear about how we took the decision and we took the decision by assessing very carefully the state of emergency that existed last winter,” the minister reportedly said. “And that assessment was informed by the conversations that we were having with law enforcement, including the Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP and other officials who, in their words, described these events as an ‘unprecedented’ act of civil disobedience … in the words of the Canadian Association of the Chiefs of Police.”

Alas, there’s one small problem: Neither the Ottawa Police Service nor the RCMP agree with Mendicino’s version of events.

Both organizations acknowledge they spoke about this topic with various partners and federal ministers. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, however, told the committee on May 10 there was “never a question of requesting the Emergencies Act.” Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell confirmed on May 17 that “we didn’t make a direct request for the Emergencies Act.” Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, who served in this role during the protest, said on June 2: “I did not make that request, I’m not aware of anybody else in the Ottawa Police Service who did.”

Things got worse when Mendicino’s deputy minister, Rob Stewart, met with the committee on June 7. Stewart actually claimed his boss had been “misunderstood.” “I believe that the intention that he was trying to express was that law enforcement asked for the tools that were contained in the Emergencies Act,” he said.

There’s something very wrong with the picture that’s being painted, and the primary artist is Mendicino.

The minister and his staffers had every right to ask about the Emergencies Act in the lead-up to its use. There are jurisdictional boundaries, and it’s always good to have clarity. That being said, it seems unlikely his intentions could have been misunderstood when he said he acted on the “advice of law enforcement” to invoke it. When you bring up something as controversial as the Emergencies Act—or its predecessor, the War Measures Act, which was invoked during the 1970 October Crisis—there’s a clear intent and consideration at play. Mendicino also could have backed out at any time, in spite of what advice he did or didn’t receive from law enforcement.

What about the Ottawa police and the RCMP? They likely took meticulous notes during discussions with federal ministers, including Mendicino, due to the nature of the Emergencies Act and what it could potentially entail. That’s typical protocol for law enforcement, and you should always have your bases covered as a rule of thumb.

Mendicino obviously didn’t make the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act arbitrarily. Like most federal ministers, he doesn’t have this power or authority. Rather, it was on behalf of senior Liberal cabinet ministers and advisers—and, one assumes, with the PM’s full knowledge and approval.

Nevertheless, Mendicino’s explanation is troubling. It’s not an issue of semantics or some simple misunderstanding, but rather that his explanation has a distinct air of duplicitousness. If he can’t properly explain what happened, and why the Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP have provided a different version of events, his ministerial role could be in serious jeopardy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Michael Taube, a longtime newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.