Emergencies Act investigation: Civil liberties group raises concerns


The Canadian Civil Liberties Union said it was concerned the federal government would seek to keep some information from being made public during an investigation into the unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act. grant.

Cara Zwibel, an attorney for the group, said she has questions about what is being submitted as evidence.

“I’m really concerned about the level of transparency the federal government has shown in this process,” she said. “It’s a matter of not being candid with Congress and not being made public to the Canadian public.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government enacted the Emergency Act on February 14, a week after protesters first blockaded the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge and weeks after what he called the “occupation illegally closed” downtown Ottawa by anti-lockdown protesters and their vehicles.

It is the first time a government has invoked the law since it was passed in 1988.

The interim measures under the act give authorities more time to make arrests, fines, tow vehicles and freeze assets.

Trudeau rescinded the emergency declaration on February 23, two days after the NDP joined the Liberals in a House proposal affirming his government’s choice to use special powers.

The investigation and a congressional special committee are required under the Emergencies Act to scrutinize government decision-making.

MPs and Senators on the joint committee expressed disappointment with the testimony of Liberal ministers, the director of CSIS and others.

Justice Minister David Lametti has repeatedly offered his answers to questions from committee members in April by saying he “would not betray the confidence of the cabinet” or that he was under fire. bound by attorney-client privilege.

The appearance of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland before the committee in June was, in her own words, sometimes “rival”. Some members accused her of not answering questions, being evasive and not giving any new information.

The Commission said in June that the government was committed to taking the special step of providing “all the input that was in place before the cabinet” when it declared the state of emergency, but Commissioner Paul Rouleau has not yet released a statement. whether he made that information publicly available.

Zwibel and others are raising concerns that some documents could be withheld publicly by different levels of government, citing privacy or national security risks.

“We will have questions about whether the government is coming out, about whether the evidence allows for the kind of transparency that we think is necessary,” she said.

Key participants in the investigation, including CSIS and the Ontario government, were still submitting documents to the committee throughout Wednesday.

They were among fifty witnesses prepared to testify, including Trudeau and other ministers, the police agency and the organizers of the “Liberty Convoy”.

Adding to concerns about transparency is the time it takes the investigation to complete its work. The Commission is tasked with providing the final report to Parliament by February 20, 2023.

“They have a very ambitious schedule,” said Zwibel. “There are a lot of witnesses that they want to hear because there’s a lot of material to go through.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on October 12, 2022.


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