Government must launch investigation into use of Emergencies Act today

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OTTAWA — The federal government has until the end of the day to seek an investigation into its use of the Emergencies Act during blockades at Canadian border crossings and in Ottawa earlier this year.

OTTAWA — The federal government has until the end of the day to seek an investigation into its use of the Emergencies Act during blockades at Canadian border crossings and in Ottawa earlier this year.

Millions of dollars of trade was halted for days at multiple border crossings and the streets of downtown Ottawa were flooded with protesters as part of a nationwide convoy of large trucks and trucks protesting related restrictions to COVID-19.

In response, the Liberals invoked the Emergencies Act on February 15, granting extraordinary powers to the police to evacuate people and to banks to freeze the accounts of those involved. This is the first time the law has been used.

The temporary powers meant protesters and their supporters could face fines of up to $5,000 or five years in prison when an emergency is declared.

At the time, Attorney General David Lametti said the government could not “allow our democratic system to be hijacked by shows of force”.

While many involved in the blockades said they were occupying Ottawa city streets and blocking border crossings to demand an end to all COVID-19 restrictions, some, including many of the organizers the most virulent, declared that they wanted the overthrow of the Liberal government.

For most of February, Parliament Hill was packed with people and trucks carrying signs and flags adorned with expletives addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The protests had a major impact on Ottawa residents. Officials described a state of “lawlessness” taking hold in the area as regulations were not enforced by police for three weeks and car horns blared at all hours of the day and night.

The Emergencies Act requires the government to open an investigation into the use of the legislation within 60 days of the revocation of the declaration.

This will examine the circumstances that led to the declaration of the state of emergency and the measures taken to deal with them.

Several provincial premiers have spoken out against what they say is a gross excess of power by the federal government, saying the police already have all the authority they need to eliminate protesters.

The investigation is not the only post-mortem examination of how governments and law enforcement have handled the protests.

Parliament has created an all-party committee to review how powers have been used, as required by law, and the City of Ottawa’s Auditor General has launched a review of the local response.

The lessons learned are unlikely to be detailed and delivered until another convoy, this one on a motorcycle, arrives in Ottawa next weekend.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 25, 2022.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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