The inquiry has not justified invoking the Emergencies Act
It has been over eight months since the end of the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, events which resulted in Justin Trudeau’s government invoking Canada’s Emergencies Act, the closest legislation the country has to martial law. Following the invocation, freedom of movement and association were actively repressed within the protest area and effectively suspended across the nation. With a combination of coercion, threats and physical violence, the protestors were cleared from the scene. Trudeau then revoked the use of the Emergencies Act on February 23, 2022.
But the story didn’t end there.
As part of the Emergencies Act, it is required of the government to call an inquiry into the decision to use the legislation within 60 days of its revocation. After many delays, the inquiry finally commenced on October 23, 2022. So far, it has not painted the government in a good light.
For days Canadians were told by the Trudeau government, the media and a mass of other political commentators that the Freedom Convoy were, as a group, racist, violent and spreading “misinformation”. This was the reason why, we were told, they needed to be removed by any means necessary.
So far, the inquiry has revealed this “literal” violence was nowhere to be found. For example, the Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell has admitted that there was no actual violence according to the technical definition in the Criminal Code of Canada. Instead, the atmosphere only “felt” violent due to the truckers using their horns.
An Ottawa City Council member, Catherine McKenney, publicly petitioned the Prime Minister to take steps against the Convoy. And yet, when questioned, it turns out that she neither witnessed nor experienced any violence at the hands of the protestors. The “terror” she experienced was due to uncorroborated second-hand accounts only. Hearsay isn’t admissible in court, but it seems to have been enough to warrant martial law.
It might seem that there was some massaging of the facts to create a narrative conducive to invoking the Emergencies Act. The inquiry proves this to have been the case. Texts between Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s team and Trudeau’s offices show staffers planning to “get in on this growing narrative of the truckers” and focus on the more extreme fringe participants in the Convoy in media appearances.
The worst part of this story is yet to come: no repercussions will befall the Trudeau government for invoking martial law on false pretences. Whereas far less serious scandals routinely cause British prime ministers to resign, Canadian leaders can apparently get away with lies of a different magnitude. The executive branches throughout the liberal democratic world have become increasingly insulated from their parliamentary counterparts. There is no better example of this than in Canada, where political scientists have described the functioning of the executive as a sort of “court government”.
Decisions of all kinds are taken by the Prime Minister and his chosen close advisors, with minimal, if any, input, from the cabinet as a group. This has profoundly troubling implications for Canadian democracy, and yet we are willing to give this government a pass because it espouses otherwise liberal platitudes. Beneath Trudeau’s apparent embrace of freedom lies a deeply authoritarian core.