A Canadian commission of inquiry has cleared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of emergency powers to stop protests against his coronavirus vaccine mandates a year ago, over the objections of civil liberties groups.
The final report of the Public Order Emergency Commission was published on Friday. Justice Paul Rouleau found, “with reluctance,” that Trudeau’s actions met the high “threshold” for invoking emergency powers.
Last year, a “Freedom Convoy” of truckers descended on Ottawa to protest the Trudeau administration’s imposition of vaccine mandates on long-distance truckers, many of whom hardly interact with other people in their work.
OTTAWA, ONTARIO – FEBRUARY 09, 2022: Truck drivers and their supporters gather to block the streets as part of a convoy of truck protesters against COVID-19 mandates on February 09, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario. The protesters, whose goals and demands have shifted as more conservative and right-wing groups become involved, are entering their 13th day of blockading the area around the Parliament building. Over 400 vehicles have now joined the convoy which has forced businesses to close and unnerved residents. A state of emergency has been called in Ottawa as police and local officials decide on how best to bring the event to an end. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The convoy disrupted traffic, clogged the streets of the capital, and briefly blocked a border crossing to the U.S.. Trudeau, falsely claiming the protests were the work of white supremacist extremists, invoked emergency powers that not only allowed the police to suppress peaceful and non-disruptive protests, but also enabled the government to freeze the bank accounts of those linked to the protests.
President Joe Biden encouraged Trudeau to crack down on the protests, even though his actions included the use of emergency powers that would not have been allowed against protesters in the U.S. under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The executive summary of the report exonerates Trudeau, though Rouleau points to some government failures:
I have concluded that in this case, the very high threshold for invocation was met. I have done so with reluctance. The state should generally be able to respond to circumstances of urgency without the use of emergency powers. It is only in rare instances, when the state cannot otherwise fulfill its fundamental obligation to ensure the safety and security of people and property, that resort to emergency measures will be found to be appropriate. As for the measures Cabinet put in place in response to the emergency, I conclude that while most of the measures were appropriate and effective, others fell short.
The Freedom Convoy was a singular moment in history, in which simmering social, political, and economic grievances were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, shaped by a complex online landscape rife with misinformation and disinformation, and unleashed in a torrent of political protest and social unrest. Though extraordinary, it was not entirely unpredictable. Historically, it is common for pandemics to be accompanied by a decline in social cohesion and a surge in civil unrest. This one has been no exception.
It was the failure to anticipate such a moment and to properly manage the legitimate protests that emerged, especially the protest in Ottawa, that resulted in the 2022 Public Order Emergency. Had various police forces and levels of government prepared for and anticipated events of this type and acted differently in response to the situation, the emergency that Canada ultimately faced could likely have been avoided. Unfortunately, it was not.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is challenging the commission in court, disagreed with the report’s findings. Executive director Noa Mendlesohn Aviv told reporters that Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act “was not justified last winter and it is a dangerous power for any current or future government.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.