By Andrew Kozak
The judicial inquiry into the unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act to quell last winter’s Freedom Convoy will begin public hearings on September 19, the same day Parliament is set to resume.
“One of the Commission’s primary responsibilities is to hold the Government of Canada to account for its decision to declare a public order emergency under the Emergencies Act.” Justice Paul Rouleau said in a statement.
The Commission anticipates calling on a variety of witnesses including protest participants, law enforcement at all levels, federal, provincial and municipal officials and businesses impacted by the protests. The hearings are expected to run until Oct. 28, 2022.
The Trudeau government will need to provide evidence to justify the use of the never-before-used act to quash the peaceful Freedom Convoy. Measures taken during the declared emergency will also be investigated.
Enforcement of the Emergencies Act lasted for nine days and saw 230 arrests and nearly $8 million in assets held by convoy organizers and supporters frozen.
“I intend to conduct the hearings in as open and transparent a manner as possible,” said Justice Rouleau. The inquiry must “help Canadians gain a better understanding of the events,” he said.
All proceedings will be live streamed on the Commission’s website. True North will provide extensive coverage of the hearings as well. A final report will be completed by Feb. 6, 2023 under statutory deadlines.
Cabinet has not yet disclosed any specific evidence it relied on to justify the invocation of the Emergencies Act.
“We have asked many times for the current government to confirm if it will disclose the evidence that justifies invocation of the Emergencies Act,” Conservative MP Dane Lloyd told the House of Commons on April 28.
“Every time it has refused.”
“If the government has the evidence to support its extraordinary actions it should be pleased to take the opportunity to table it in the House,” said Lloyd.
“Canadians are increasingly wondering whether the Liberal government even had the evidence at all.”
A special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency was formed on Mar. 3 to investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the act.
A number of the government’s claims to justify the act have been debunked in recent months, including the claim that police forces requested the government invoke the never-before-used act.