Civil Liberties group calls on Doug Ford to testify at Ottawa’s Emergencies inquiry

Click to play video: 'Ford government ‘disingenuous’ on response to Ottawa occupation'
Ford government ‘disingenuous’ on response to Ottawa occupation
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson testified in front of the Emergencies Act inquiry about “disingenuous” claims from the Ford government on the police response to the Ottawa occupation. Colin D’Mello reports – Oct 18, 2022

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association wants the Federal Emergency Act Inquiry to call Premier Doug Ford to testify amid new revelations this week about the Ontario government’s response to the Ottawa occupation.

In a letter to the Commissioner of the Public Order Emergency Commission, the CCLA argues that the Ford government’s actions — or inaction — during the occupation deserves to be scrutinized under oath and that the commission should “call Ontario Premier Douglas Ford and Minister Sylvia Jones as witnesses forthwith.”

The letter outlines recent testimony from Ottawa City Officials and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson as the reason for the request.

“[The testimony] describes numerous attempts to persuade Premier Ford and Minister Jones to join those intergovernmental processes, their apparent refusal to participate, and the frustration of federal and municipal officials at this refusal,” the letter reads.
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Ford said he wasn’t asked to testify, and the Solicitor General’s Office said in a statement that the province has handed over hundreds of documents related to the occupation, and has made “senior Ontario officials” available to be called on as witnesses.

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act hearing: Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wasn’t asked to testify'
Emergencies Act hearing: Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wasn’t asked to testify

Recent testimony painted a picture of a province reluctant to step in for “political reasons” forcing the City of Ottawa to declare a state of emergency in the hopes of pressuring the Ford government into taking action.

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Watson told the commission it was “frustrating” that the province wasn’t being responsive to the situation, and that the Premier declined an invitation to participate in tripartite meetings about the response to the occupation.

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“I think he felt it would be a waste of time,” Watson testified. “He said, “Look, what’s it going to accomplish? A bunch of people sitting around a table talking and making decisions.”

Transcripts of a conversation between Watson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also captured the growing suspicions the politicians had of why the premier refused to participate.

“Doug Ford has been hiding from his responsibility on it for political reasons,” Trudeau told Watson.

Laura Berger, a staff lawyer with the CCLA, told Global News if the Premier refuses to testify when asked the commission should then summon Ford to Ottawa.

“At this point we would like to see the commission of inquiry call on the Premier … but if a summons is required that’s within the power of the commissioner,” Berger said.

A spokesperson for the commission confirmed to Global News that the commission has the “authority to issue summons” but has yet to indicate whether Premier Ford will be called to testify or whether that power will be used.

“We do no intend to publish the names of witnesses for whom [the commission] has issued a summons,” said Michael Tansey in an email.
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The commission said two senior officials from the Ontario government made the preliminary list of witnesses including Mario DiTomasso, the Deputy Minister of Community Safety, and Ian Freeman, a bureaucrat who worked in the Integrated Policy and Planning department of the Ministry of Transportation.

While both would have served as advisors to cabinet ministers, neither would have had decision making authority over the provincial response.

The Ford government has maintained that the situation was a policing matter and not a political one.

“As we reiterated throughout, politicians do not, and should not, direct specific police operations,” the government said in a statement.

“During the occupation our government remained focused on providing the tools our policing partners needed to bring the situation to an end. Prior to any declaration of emergency, we had already frozen convoy funds from the Give Send Go platform. The Ontario Provincial Police also provided officers to support the Ottawa Police Services.”

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