Whitewash. Cover-up. Disgrace.
These are just three of the most obvious conclusions a reasonable person comes to when confronted with the newly released, five volume, over 2,000 page, 56 Recommendation Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency. The Commissioner, Paul Rouleau, a well-known Liberal Party operative, including being the assistant to former Liberal Prime Minister John Turner, authored the Report he was appointed to deliver and it was what the Liberal Party expected.
Even before glancing at the voluminous Report–which is nothing more than a political document, it is not a binding legal decision of a court of law–it was apparent that something was wrong when, during his public remarks delivering the Report, Rouleau, stated “…I have concluded that the very high threshold required for the invocation of the [Emergencies] Act was met…I do not come to this conclusion easily, as I do not consider the factual basis for it to be overwhelming. Reasonable and informed people could reach a different conclusion than the one I have arrived at…I also reach this conclusion reluctantly.”
No clear “overwhelming” factual basis, an “uneasy conclusion” made “reluctantly”—appears like reasonable doubt about the validity of the Declaration. The fact is that the dubious grounds for issuing the Declaration in the first place was made abundantly clear when Trudeau was forced to rescind the Declaration when it lacked the votes in the Senate to confirm the Declaration.
It is clear that this Enquiry and its Report have been premised upon the foregone conclusion that Trudeau and his cabinet were to be justified in their abuse of the Emergencies Act.
The Report appears to blame everyone from police to Doug Ford while completely ignoring the blame that should be placed on Trudeau and his cabinet. Indeed, perhaps the one unifying aspect of Rouleau’s Enquiry is the extent to which so many (but not all) government actors – starting with Trudeau and his cabinet – appear to be incompetent. It is not a good day for Canada when those entrusted with the defence of the nation, including the safeguarding of our civil rights, behave so badly.
There are many unsettling aspects of Rouleau’s Report that beg credulity. For example:
- Rouleau states he doesn’t need to see the legal advice provided to cabinet to “accept the evidence that they believed their conclusion to be justified in law.” After all, Rouleau heard from “[n]umerous witnesses, including, but not limited to the Prime Minister, the Clerk of the Privy Council, and the minister of Justice” who believed that the legal threshold had been met. Obviously, these witnesses gave self-serving testimony. Given the government’s notorious well-deserved reputation for being strangers to “the truth”, without corroboratory evidence, this testimony should have been given zero weight. The very fact that a key piece of evidence was withheld speaks volumes.
- Similarly, the relationship between the Emergencies Act and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act with respect to the definition of what constitutes “threats to the security of Canada” highlights the purely self-serving decision of Trudeau and his cabinet. Rouleau acknowledges “that CSIS had not assessed the protests as constituting a threat to the security of Canada pursuant to their mandate under the CSIS Act”, however, as the definition of “threats to the security of Canada” was simply a matter of “incorporation by reference” cabinet was free to arrive at its own conclusion regarding the threshold requirement, despite the fact that CSIS did not believe that the threshold had been met. Fair enough, as reasonable people can reach opposite conclusions. However, when the security “experts” arrive at one conclusion and the politicians arrive at the polar opposite, one has to question just how “reasonable and objective” the political conclusion is. If a “lower threshold” could not be met in the context of the CSIS Act, how could the “very high threshold” to invoke the Emergencies Act be met? Rouleau offers no satisfactory answer.
- Rouleau’s 56 Recommendations deserve very close scrutiny as many of them are geared towards increasing police-state co-ordination. Any increase in co-ordination between state agencies is, by definition, an increase in state power. Increases in state power, also by definition, threatens civil liberties and freedoms and ought to be undertaken only with the greatest transparency, limitations and safeguards.
- Rouleau’s interpretation of the Emergencies Act lowers the bar for future declarations by giving preference to the subjective assessment of politicians rather than the objective realities of the decision. The simple fact is, once preference is given to the subjective over the objective, any claim to being rational or being a reasonable decision cannot be defended on objective grounds.
The Freedom Convoy never constituted a “public order emergency” or existential threat to Canada. It was, however, a political embarrassment and an existential threat to Trudeau’s government and therefore constituted a “political emergency” for Trudeau. Unlike the context of the War Measures Act’s declaration during the October Crisis of 1970, where the Marxist-Leninist separatists, Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and murdered Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte, the Freedom Convoy of January/February 2022 was a peaceful, legitimate and lawful protest as referenced by Rouleau. It was a reaction against the authoritarian, arbitrary and incompetent policies of the Trudeau government. This context seems to be entirely lost on Rouleau.
Canadians deserve better than this report. Apart from its partisan presentation, there is a complete lack of awareness of the need to strengthen civil liberties and limit government overreach. While passing reference is made to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there is no attempt made to give the Charter real meaning and application in the context of the Emergencies Act.