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Blair warned cabinet to keep convoy protest comments ‘temperate,’ inquiry hears

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act inquiry: Bill Blair says he cautioned colleagues to ‘temper’ language'
Emergencies Act inquiry: Bill Blair says he cautioned colleagues to ‘temper’ language
WATCH: Emergencies Act inquiry: Bill Blair says he cautioned colleagues to ‘temper’ language – Nov 21, 2022

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair warned his cabinet colleagues to keep their rhetoric “temperate” when it came to the “Freedom Convoy” protest last winter.

Blair is the first federal minister to testify before the Public Order Emergency Commission that is probing the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14.

Blair said he worried inflammatory language from the government could incite an inflammatory response, and that more people could join the protests that blockaded downtown Ottawa and several international border crossings.

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Blair also said he attempted to arrange meetings with politicians from all three levels of government during the crisis, but representatives from Ontario would not attend.

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He added that he believed the Emergencies Act was used as a measure of last resort, telling the commission: “I came to believe we needed to find a remedy.”

Blair said he was concerned about the security and integrity of Canada’s borders and of its critical infrastructure. “You don’t have to blow everything up to render it unusable,” he testified. “Rendering it unusable is an attack on critical infrastructure.”

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act inquiry: Bill Blair says Ottawa police’s initial response to convoy protest was ‘incorrect’'
Emergencies Act inquiry: Bill Blair says Ottawa police’s initial response to convoy protest was ‘incorrect’

Brendan Miller, a lawyer for Lich and other convoy organizers, accused Blair of having planned to use the Emergencies Act early on, a week into the protest.

Miller based the accusation on meeting notes taken by a scribe in the office of the prime minister’s chief of staff. The notes shown to the commission contain only the words “Emergencies Act” under Blair’s name.

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Blair said that the notes are from a meeting in which he told colleagues that it would not be appropriate to use the legislation at that time.

Tamara Lich, one of the “Freedom Convoy” organizers, is among the spectators attending the hearing today.

The commissioner, Justice Paul Rouleau, told the gallery the public must remain respectful while ministers testify, and lawyers should keep their questions focused on the events at hand.

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