Emergencies Act inquiry: Ministers didn’t exhaust options before Act was invoked, clerk says | FULL

Cabinet ministers did not exhaust every option they had to resolve the protests blockading Ottawa streets and border crossings across the country last winter before turning to the Emergencies Act, the Public Order Emergency Commission heard Friday.

Thousands of protesters rolled into Ottawa in big rigs and other vehicles to voice their opposition to COVID-19 public health restrictions and the Liberal government.

After the first weekend, it became clear the protesters did not plan to leave downtown Ottawa, where they set up camps in the middle of city streets. That’s when cabinet convened to review what the federal government could do to end the protests, said Jacqueline Bogden, the government’s deputy secretary on emergency preparedness.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was there to kind of stimulate conversation on the range of options within federal jurisdiction of things that ministers and departments might be able to think about,” Bogden testified Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a public order emergency under the legislation on Feb. 14.

When protests had not ended by Feb. 9, the clerk of the Privy Council, Janice Charette, asked deputy ministers to come up with more options.

The Emergencies Act was listed as a potential “plan B” on the final list of options that was considered by cabinet ministers the following day.

Federal officials were thinking about the legislation for years at that point, because there was discussion about the possibility of invoking it due to the COVID-19 pandemic, deputy clerk Nathalie
Drouin told the commission Friday.

It wasn’t until Feb. 9 that deputy ministers started considering using it in the context of the protest.

Charette said not every existing option was exhausted before cabinet decided to move ahead with the Emergencies Act.

“But the question was whether or not (the other options) were going to be adequate to be able to deal with the totality of this situation. That, I think, was the matter before ministers,” she
said.

00:00:00 Commission hearing begins
1:52:55 First break takes place
2:08:14 Testimony resumes with cross-examination by Ottawa Police Service
3:02:41 Lunch break
4:10:00 Testimony begins for Clerk of the Privy Council Janice Charette and deputy clerk Nathalie Drouin

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