Justice Centre to Participate in Second Week of Emergencies Act Inquiry

OTTAWA: The Justice Centre is participating in the second week of the Public Order Emergency Commission’s hearings. The Commission, led by Justice Rouleau, continues its investigation into the Government of Canada’s invocation of the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022, and the unprecedented use of emergency powers to suppress a political demonstration.

In his opening remarks, Justice Rouleau set out the roadmap for the Commission’s work and attempted to manage public expectations. “It’s also important to understand what commissions of inquiry do and do not do. They do not make findings of legal liability. They do not determine whether individuals have committed crimes. While inquiries seek to uncover the truth, they are not trials. Questions of civil and criminal liability are decided by courts, and not commissions,” Rouleau stated.

During the first two days of the Inquiry, which occurred Thursday and Friday of last week, participants staked out their positions, evidence was introduced, and witnesses were examined. On the first day, the Ontario Provincial Police stated that they had sufficient powers to deal with the protests, meaning that powers under the Emergencies Act were not needed to aid police enforcement efforts. Another highlight was the position taken by the Province of Alberta, whose lawyer stated that Alberta’s opposition to invoking the Emergencies Act went ignored, and that the Government of Alberta was able to resolve any issues with the protesters using existing legislation.

Witnesses included Ms. Zexi Li, a Government of Canada employee who obtained an injunction to stop the truckers from honking, and who now seeks tens of millions of dollars against the protesters for nuisance in the case of Li v. Barber. Under examination, Ms. Li admitted she did not witness any acts of violence and denied that the situation in Ottawa was “unsafe” during the protests. Similarly, Ottawa City Councillor Catherine McKenney, who vociferously opposed the protest and regularly walked the downtown streets of Ottawa during that time, admitted that she “never felt [she] was in any real danger.”  Councillor McKenney created a minor stir with a hot mic incident during the inquiry.

Among the few witnesses that have so far been heard, none admitted to witnessing violence among the protesters. Ottawa Councillor Mathieu Fleury, who also ardently disapproved of the protesters, testified as well. He stated that he believed he was the first to advocate for the seizure of donation funds that the protesters were receiving through GoFundMe and other platforms. City Councillor Fleury claimed that, although he witnessed many of what he called “microaggressions,” he never witnessed any violence.

Justin Trudeau is on the witness list and is scheduled to be heard in a few weeks. Brian Lilley wrote in the Toronto Sun that, “[e]ven before Justice Paul Rouleau had a full day of public hearings under his belt, Justin Trudeau was publicly defending his invocation of the Emergencies Act. A normal prime minister, one who followed our laws, constitution and legal traditions, would have said he couldn’t comment while the inquiry was on. Instead, for the second day in a row, Trudeau was pleading his case in the court of public opinion.

Prime Minister Trudeau said in Hamilton, “We knew from the very beginning, that invoking the Emergencies Act is a big step that had never been done before. But given these unprecedented illegal protests, we needed to take action. We took it in a way that was measured, that was responsible, that was time limited.”

“It’s not up to the Prime Minister to declare, as the inquiry into his use of the Emergencies Act begins, that his actions were measured, responsible, and time limited. Were this a trial, Trudeau could have been found in contempt of court for such utterances. Instead, he’s just showing he has no shame,” remarked Brian Lilley in the Toronto Sun.

This week the Commission is expecting to hear from many other witnesses, including the Mayor of Ottawa, Mr. Jim Watson, as well as Chief Carson Pardy, Regional Commander of the Ontario Provincial Police. Lawyers Rob Kittredge, Hatim Kheir, and James Manson represent the Justice Centre at the public hearings, which run from October 13 to November 25, 2022. The hearings will continue to be livestreamed on the Commission’s website.