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Emergencies Act inquiry studies fundamental rights and freedoms at stake in protests

The Public Order Emergency Commission is expected to hear this week from about 50 experts who will share their perspectives on the use of the Emergencies Act, including whether it needs updating
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Commissioner Paul Rouleau presides over the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The inquiry into the Liberal government’s historic choice to invoke the Emergencies Act to quell weeks-long demonstrations against COVID-19 mandates last winter is now moving into its public policy phase.

The Public Order Emergency Commission is expected to hear this week from about 50 experts who will share their perspectives on the use of the Emergencies Act, including whether it needs updating.

A session this morning will focus on fundamental rights and freedoms at stake in public protests, as well as their limits, while an afternoon session will explore financial governance, policing and intelligence.

Other topics to be discussed this week include cryptocurrency, international supply chains and criminal law, with discussions largely driven by policy papers the inquiry commissioned earlier this year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 after thousands of protesters associated with the "Freedom Convoy" blockaded downtown Ottawa and key border crossings.

Calling a public inquiry is a requirement under the emergency legislation and Justice Paul Rouleau, the commissioner of the inquiry, must submit his report to Parliament by Feb. 20, 2023.

"I look forward to hearing the thoughts and views of the experts and the discussion and analysis of these key policy issues," Rouleau said in a statement last Thursday.

"This will assist the commission in considering what recommendations to make on the use of and potential modernization of the Emergencies Act and on any areas where we consider further study or research should be undertaken."

The policy phase follows six weeks of public hearings at the Library and Archives Canada building in downtown Ottawa, culminating in Trudeau's hours-long testimony on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

The Canadian Press