During the first day of the Public Order Emergency Commission on Oct, 13, civil liberties came out criticizing the governments use of the Emergencies Act and questioning if the very high threshold was even met in the first place for it to be invoked.
Brendan Miller, counsel to Freedom Corp., an organization representing the protesters in Ottawa slammed the government’s decision in his opening remarks.
“There was no justification whatsoever to invoke the Emergencies Act,” Miller said. “There was no reasonable or probable grounds to invoke the Emergencies Act and the government exceeded their jurisdiction both constitutionally and legislatively in doing so.”
He goes on to explain the Emergencies act requires several things to be invoked. One reason it can be invoked is due to espionage or sabotage. The second reason it could be invoked is clandestine or deceptive foreign influence (outside bad actors). Third it can be invoked for treats of serious violence against persons or property. And last if there is a group or persons trying to destroy or overthrow by violence the system of government of Canada.
He asserts the answers to all these questions is no and the government the government exceeded their jurisdiction both constitutionally and legislatively in doing so.
Sujit Choudhry, co-counsel for the Canadian Constitution Foundation also took aim the government’s decision saying “the emergency proclamation severely restricted the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.”
“The Emergencies Act is the successor to the discredited War Measures act which was abused during the FLQ crisis in Quebec.”
The fundamental question the CCF is looking for an answer is whether the condition in the final clause of section 3 of the Emergencies Act was met which means “the Ottawa protests and Border blockades could not be effectively dealt with under any law any other law of Canada Federal provincial or municipal”
“this Clause codifies the requirement that the emergencies Act is a last resource which can only be triggered when all other legal tools fall short”
“the emergencies act especially the last resort Clause was drafted to ensure that the ACT could never be used by a federal government against its political opponents”
CCF asserts the user of the Emergencies Act in 2022 was a “historic first” and they are concerned because the glass was broken for the use of the Emergencies Act at such a low bar it could be used again.
The Trudeau Liberal government used the Emergencies Act against individuals protesting vaccine mandates and this low bar allows potential misuse in the future by the same or other governments to use it on other groups such as climate change or pipeline protests.