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‘Freedom Convoy’ protests: Military told to prepare to step in, official says

Click to play video: 'Ottawa police testify Emergencies Act was ‘useful but not necessary’ to end convoy protests'
Ottawa police testify Emergencies Act was ‘useful but not necessary’ to end convoy protests
WATCH ABOVE: Ottawa police testify Emergencies Act was 'useful but not necessary' to end convoy protests – Oct 20, 2022

The Defence Department’s top official says he told the military to prepare to intervene as “Freedom Convoy” protests gridlocked downtown Ottawa and several border crossings with the U.S. earlier this year.

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But Deputy Minister Bill Matthews says the plans were never seriously considered or presented to Defence Minister Anita Anand.

Matthews instead says the Liberal government was adamant the Armed Forces should be used only as a last resort, particularly as the shadow of the Oka Crisis in 1990 continued to loom large.

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act: what we learned from the six-week-long inquiry'
Emergencies Act: what we learned from the six-week-long inquiry

Matthews’s comments are contained in a summary of an interview conducted in August with lawyers for the public inquiry looking into the Liberal government’s decision to use the Emergencies Act to end the protests in February.

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The summary is among thousands of documents released by the Public Order Emergency Commission.

Matthews also says the military was prepared to fly police officers to different parts of the country, but that its tow trucks were too big — and too old — to be of any use in clearing vehicles from the protests.

Inquiry urged to recommend greater political oversight of police

A political scientist says there is virtue in clearly defining the difference between government oversight of law enforcement and the independence of police, although it is not as straightforward as some witnesses at a public inquiry have suggested.

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The concept of police oversight and independence came up time and again over six weeks of fact-finding testimony at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal Liberal government’s use of the Emergencies Act last winter.

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Throughout the inquiry hearings, police and politicians described a separation between police operations and policy, and said politicians and police boards should never direct operations.

Click to play video: 'RCMP was ‘caught off guard’ by Ottawa’s request for officers during convoy protest: Lucki'
RCMP was ‘caught off guard’ by Ottawa’s request for officers during convoy protest: Lucki

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki suggested during her testimony that government should more clearly define the line that politicians should not cross in legislation.

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The line was often described as a separation between church and state.

Guelph University’s Prof. Kate Puddister tells the commission, which is now in its policy phase, that too stark a distinction is unhelpful, lacks nuance, and allows politicians to “shirk responsibility” when it comes to police oversight.

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