The public inquiry into the Trudeau government’s implementation of the never-before-used Emergencies Act is asking for access to information protected by “cabinet confidence.”
The Public Order Emergency Commission said Wednesday that they have requested the government disclose all information that led to the decision – including all material covered by cabinet confidence and other rules of secrecy.
The Trudeau government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 gave police and financial institutions unprecedented powers to crack down on Freedom Convoy protests surrounding Parliament Hill. These powers included compelling banks to freeze accounts, bringing in aid from RCMP and surrounding police services, declaring the protests “unlawful” and creating no-go zones in downtown Ottawa and around key infrastructure.
Judge Paul Rouleau, who was appointed in April to lead the public inquiry, said they are starting by asking Trudeau’s cabinet to explain why it declared a public emergency and to outline the decisions that led up to it.
“It is the government that must explain its decision,” the commission’s documents state. “In light of this, the commission has asked the government to disclose to the commissioner the information, including the advice and information that may be protected by cabinet confidence or any applicable privilege, that led to the cabinet’s decision to declare an emergency.”
Despite having used cabinet confidence to hide certain information about his decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was looking forward to cooperating with the commission.
“We’re going to continue to work to provide the information necessary to the commission,” Trudeau said when asked by the Star about the inquiry’s request Wednesday. “We’ll make decisions based on the questions and the conditions being asked.”
Opposition parties have urged the government to waive cabinet confidence to make public all information it used to invoke the act.
Speaking on a recent Star podcast, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said, “there needs to be transparency and we’re going to do what we can to co-operate.”
The mandatory deadline to submit a final report – whose requirement is embedded in the Emergencies Act – is one year after the act was invoked. The legislation requires a joint parliamentary committee and a public inquiry to review what happened whenever it is used.
The inquiry has said that meeting this deadline will be difficult, however.
“The commission is not aware of any Canadian precedent for a public inquiry of this breadth being conducted over this short a time,” the inquiry said in a statement. “It is important and in the public interest that the commission fulfill its mandate in a comprehensive, fair and transparent manner.”
Conservative MP Dane Lloyd said, “Canadians need to be reassured that the Trudeau government won’t cover up the truth and that Canadians will get the answers they deserve from this inquiry.”
According to the inquiry’s documents, the commission will attempt to “eliminate unnecessary steps” and take “creative procedural approaches to streamline the investigation process.”
Public hearings from the Public Order Emergency Commissions are set to begin in September.