Montreal Gazette

EMERGENCIE­S ACT DEADLINE MISSED

OTTAWA MUM ON FEDERAL INQUIRY REPORT ON ITS RESPONSE TO `FREEDOM CONVOY'

- LAURA OSMAN

The Liberal government has missed a deadline to respond to the findings and recommenda­tions of Justice Paul Rouleau, who headed a federal inquiry into the government's first and only use of the Emergencie­s Act in 2022.

One year ago, Rouleau issued his final report on the government's decision to declare a public order emergency during the “Freedom Convoy” protests, which gridlocked the streets around Parliament and blocked internatio­nal border crossings.

Rouleau found the government was justified in invoking the act, but made 56 recommenda­tions for the future, including several suggested amendments to the law itself.

He ordered the government to respond to those recommenda­tions within 12 months, to say which of them will be implemente­d and provide a timeline.

Rouleau didn't impose any penalties for missing the deadline, and it wasn't legally binding.

The public safety minister's office says it will have more informatio­n about the government's response “soon” and didn't offer a justificat­ion for missing Rouleau's deadline.

One possible wrench in the response is a Federal Court decision in January that contrasted Rouleau's conclusion­s. It called the government's invocation of the Emergencie­s Act a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared the emergency just over two years ago, after thousands of protesters entrenched themselves in downtown Ottawa streets for weeks. They used big-rigs and other vehicles in a demonstrat­ion of opposition to Trudeau's government and to COVID-19 public health restrictio­ns.

Spinoff protests also blockaded border crossings with the United States and various provincial legislatur­es.

The emergency declaratio­n granted extraordin­ary powers to government­s, police and banks to limit the protesters' rights to freedom of assembly, freeze bank accounts and compel the co-operation of private companies, all in an effort to put a stop to the demonstrat­ions.

It was the first time the legislatio­n was invoked since it replaced the War Measures Act in 1988, which means the various inquiries and court challenges that have followed will set a precedent for the legal threshold to use it in the future.

When Trudeau invoked the Emergencie­s Act, it triggered two investigat­ions that were built into the legislatio­n: a federal inquiry and a parliament­ary committee, tasked with studying how the extraordin­ary powers were used.

The committee was struck in March 2022 and has met more than two dozen times but has yet to file a substantia­l report. Its work has been stymied by a massive backlog of documents that must be translated into both official languages before they can be considered.

The Federal Court ruling has complicate­d matters, as Conservati­ve MP Glen Motz last week called for several ministers to be grilled by the committee for a second time.

He also asked for more informatio­n about the legal advice cabinet used to make its decision to use the legislatio­n.

 ?? COLE BURSTON/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FILES ?? Police move in to clear downtown Ottawa of Freedom Convoy protesters two years ago today.
COLE BURSTON/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FILES Police move in to clear downtown Ottawa of Freedom Convoy protesters two years ago today.

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