Emergencies Act should be ‘once-in-a-generation’ kind of tool: Freeland

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act was a ‘measure of last resort,” says Trudeau'
Emergencies Act was a ‘measure of last resort,” says Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the ongoing inquiry into the government’s use of the Emergencies Act on Tuesday, stating that it implemented the measure as a “last resort.” The prime minister was responding to a readout of a conversation between Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford that said as of Feb. 9, he did not feel “new legal tools” were needed to clear the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont – Nov 8, 2022

Canada’s invocation of the Emergencies Act should be a “once-in-a-generation” move, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Wednesday.

Her comment comes amid a high-profile inquiry into the government’s decision to invoke the controversial legislation in response to the trucker convoy protests that snarled the streets of Ottawa for three weeks earlier this year.

“What Canada faced at just the beginning of this year, actually, was a very serious challenge and threat to our national security and our economic security,” Freeland said.

“The degree to which that threat was unprecedented, I think, is measured in the fact that our government needed to invoke the Emergencies Act to bring the blockades to an end and to guarantee Canada’s national security.”

Story continues below advertisement

The protest, she said, was a “very big deal.”

“I hope and believe it is the kind of thing that happens only once in a generation — if that,” Freeland added.

Click to play video: 'Poilievre reiterates support for ‘peaceful’ convoy protesters amid Emergencies Act inquiry'
Poilievre reiterates support for ‘peaceful’ convoy protesters amid Emergencies Act inquiry

“I’m glad we brought it to an end. That was important for Canada.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history on Feb. 14, arguing its temporary and extraordinary powers were needed to end blockades in Ottawa and at border crossings.

Testimony plans change after lawyer collapses

The Emergencies Act inquiry took a longer midday break than usual on Wednesday after a medical incident in the hearing room.

Story continues below advertisement

A lawyer representing the Public Order Emergency Commission collapsed while he was questioning Mario Di Tommaso, Ontario’s deputy solicitor general, the second witness of the day.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

After the interruption, the public hearing was scheduled to resume at 3 p.m. eastern time and move on to the testimony of Ian Freeman, an official with Ontario’s Transport Ministry.

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act commission counsel collapses during questioning'
Emergencies Act commission counsel collapses during questioning

Emergency responders had been called to the Library and Archives Canada building in downtown Ottawa and proceedings were stopped, with lawyers and spectators cleared from the hearing room.

Gabriel Poliquin was in the early stages of examining Di Tommaso when he collapsed to the floor, and his condition is unclear. A spokesman for the commission said in an emailed statement that out of respect for Poliquin and his family, it would share no further details of his health.

Story continues below advertisement

Poliquin is one of a team of lawyers working for the commission, which is tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history on Feb. 14.

Public hearings, which began Oct. 13 and are set to continue until Nov. 25, have focused this week on testimony about border blockades in Windsor, Ont., and Coutts, Alta.

Earlier Wednesday, the mayor of Coutts said RCMP appeared to be caught off guard by a protest blockade of the U.S.-Canada border crossing last winter, even though he warned the provincial government it could happen.

Jim Willett sent an email to Jason Kenney, who was then premier of Alberta, and the provincial solicitor general on Jan. 27 to warn about the potential of a blockade, and was assured the RCMP had been alerted.

He said he was worried about maintaining vital access to the highway in the small border town of 245 people, and he also warned the protest could result in an international incident.

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act inquiry: Leader of extremist group ‘Diagolon’ testifies'
Emergencies Act inquiry: Leader of extremist group ‘Diagolon’ testifies

On Jan. 29, a large convoy of trucks gathered at the border, with some driving onto the median and ditches and blocking the road.

Story continues below advertisement

The mayor said the RCMP didn’t establish a large police presence until three days later.

The commission released emails and text messages Willett sent while the protests were happening.

At times, Willett expressed concerns about his own safety and the safety of his family, noting that the protests were very close to his home.

On Feb. 12, he told a reporter for The Canadian Press who was covering the blockade that he was concerned about “a more extreme element” joining the protest.

“You need to find someone in a protected position who will call these guys what they are, domestic terrorists,” Willett wrote. “Won’t be me,” he added.

That was a day after RCMP had asked the Canada Border Services Agency to suspend service at the Coutts border crossing.

The crossing was closed to traffic on Feb. 12 and police moved in two days later.

RCMP arrested 11 people at the Coutts protest site, seizing weapons and charging a number of people on Feb. 14, the same day the Emergencies Act was invoked.

The highway blockade was cleared and the border reopened on Feb. 15.

— With files from The Canadian Press


Sponsored content