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17 Feb, 2023 21:06

Canada ends probe into trucker emergency

The government commission ruled that the crackdown on the Freedom Convoy was justified
Canada ends probe into trucker emergency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act against the truckers gathered in Ottawa to protest Covid-19 restrictions was justified and the government’s measures were appropriate and effective, the commission charged with investigating the affair announced on Friday.

The month-long protest was triggered by Trudeau’s vaccination mandate, and saw hundreds of truckers drive across Canada to picket Parliament Hill. Trudeau accused them of being fringe extremists seeking to overthrow the government and invoked emergency powers previously reserved for dealing with war or terrorism.

Paul Rouleau, the federal judge who led the Public Order Emergency Commission, conceded that the “Freedom Convoy” was made up mostly of peaceful protesters who “shared certain social, economic and political grievances.” Even though the evidence presented showed no actual threat of violence or terrorism, Rouleau sided with the government’s justification for assuming emergency powers.

“The very high threshold required for the invocation of the Act was met,” he said, adding that the government “had reasonable grounds to believe that there existed a national emergency arising from threats to the security of Canada.”

Rouleau did call Trudeau’s invocation of the act “regrettable,” saying the entire situation could have been avoided but that a “series of policing failures” resulted in the protests spinning out of control. 

Though he excused the measures such as freezing the bank accounts of protesters and their family members, Rouleau said that suspending the truckers’ insurance was inappropriate and counterproductive, and noted the government offered no way for people to get their property restored once the protest ended.

The commission’s five-volume final report offered 56 recommendations, ranging from policing practices to amending the Emergency Act itself going forward. Rouleau said the proceedings were a “rare public examination of decision-making,” with over 28,000 documents disclosed, a quarter of which were entered into evidence.

Noting that it was beyond his mandate to examine the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Rouleau said that the federal and provincial authorities “responded in good faith to circumstances as they understood them” and called the pandemic a “once-in-a-generation crisis.”

The month-long protest began on January 22 last year, when truckers from British Columbia set off across Canada to protest the vaccine mandate. Trudeau invoked the emergency on February 14 and lifted it on February 23, after most of the protest organizers had been rounded up and their property seized. 

Defending his conduct in November last year, the Liberal PM argued that “using protests to demand changes to public policy is something that I think is worrisome.”