“I would have worn that,” he continued. “A prime minister’s responsibility is to make the tough decisions and protect people.”
Trudeau’s testimony concludes six weeks of hearings during the public inquiry into the Liberal government’s use of the emergency law in February to clear Ottawa’s streets and deter people from returning to blockades at border crossings between Canada and the United States. USA. The hearings have given Canadians extraordinary insight into the inner workings of government during the crisis, which culminated in the invocation of the Emergency Act on Feb. 14.
The law gave authorities extensive new powers which they used to freeze protesters’ bank accounts, ban travel to protest sites and force tow trucks to clear vehicles blocking Ottawa’s streets.
The investigation must now determine whether Trudeau was justified in using the law, which had never been invoked since it was passed in 1988. The conservative opposition, protest leaders and civil liberties groups all claim the government has gone too far.
On Friday, Trudeau told the committee he had not taken the decision to invoke the emergency powers lightly, but said the act proved effective.
“There was no loss of life. There was no serious violence. … There have been no such illegal occupations since then,” he said.
“I’m not going to pretend it’s the only thing it could have done, but it did. … These can be very different conversations, and I am absolutely, absolutely serene and very confident that I made the right choice.
A major police operation ended the protest in Ottawa on the weekend of February 19. Police forces from across the country restricted access to downtown Ottawa and gradually rounded up and dispersed the protesters, making about 200 arrests and towing dozens of vehicles. About 280 bank accounts have been frozen with the aid of the Emergency Act.
Border blockades, including at the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor and Detroit, were ended without using federal emergency powers, the inquiry has heard, though officials have said the threat of blocking bills deterred people from returning. turn. The law was repealed on February 23.
Trudeau said the occupation of the “Freedom Convoy” was different from ordinary protests. “They wanted to be obeyed,” Trudeau said of the protesters, whose demands ranged from ending all pandemic public health measures to overthrowing the government.
“Voicing concerns and disagreements about public policy positions is a right,” Trudeau said. “But the occupation and the destabilization and disruption of the lives of so many Canadians and the refusal to maintain a lawful protest is not okay.”
In Ottawa, residents complained about incessant honking and diesel fumes from the truck drivers, and being harassed for wearing masks. The government estimates that nearly C$4 billion in trade has been halted due to the border blockades. Trudeau pointed to instances where police were overrun by protesters and reports that more blockades could emerge.
The prime minister said the “anger and hateful rhetoric” of some protesters was reminiscent of the 2021 federal election campaign. According to a summary of an interview Trudeau gave to committee lawyers ahead of his public testimony, during that campaign he and his political staff had a level of anger, violence, racism and misogyny observed expressed in public rhetoric that, in his opinion, was striking.”
At the start of the convoy protests, Trudeau told the inquiry, he and his staff were concerned that there was a “disconnection” between the posts they saw on social media and the “assurances” they received from police that “this is just was a normal way of protesting.”
The Prime Minister also seems to have lost faith quite early on in the efforts of the police to control the protests. By the second weekend of the occupation in Ottawa, according to his witness account, it was “obvious that the police were unable to end the situation”.
Police officials have stated that they did not need the emergency law to end the protest and that they had a plan to push the protesters to their limits. But on Friday, Trudeau scoffed at that claim. “We kept hearing there was a plan,” he said. “I would advise people to look at that actual plan, which wasn’t a plan at all.”
Trudeau also faced questions about whether the government had met the legal threshold to invoke the Emergency Act, a technical point that has emerged as one of the central issues before the investigation.
To declare a public order emergency, the Federal Cabinet must determine that there is a threat to Canada’s security, as set forth in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the law governing the National Intelligence Service of Canada. Canada, CSIS.
The investigation learned that CSIS concluded that the protests did not meet the agency’s definition of a threat to national security. But several of Trudeau’s top advisers have argued that the cabinet is not bound by a CSIS assessment and can judge the existence of a threat based on a broader range of inputs.
On Friday, Trudeau said CSIS has a “deliberately narrow framework” for assessing security threats, while the cabinet may consider information from many branches of government, including the national police and the prime minister’s national security adviser.
Trudeau’s testimony goes one step further. “CSIS has been challenged in recent years by the threat of domestic terrorism, which it was not designed to face,” it read. “[The prime minister] noted that CSIS is limited in its ability to conduct operations on Canadian soil or against Canadians.”
In the end, the Liberal government relied on part of the CSIS Act definition that pertains to ‘threat'[s] or the use of acts of serious violence … to achieve a political, religious or ideological goal.”
While there had been no serious violence until then, Trudeau said, “we couldn’t say there wasn’t the potential for threats of serious violence in the coming days.”