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Liberal government use of Emergencies Act over fear Freedom Convoy would blockade railways

According to Department of Justice records, Attorney General David Lametti used emergency powers against the Freedom Convoy out of fear of a hypothetical scenario that protesters would block railroads, According to blacklocks reporter.

“Threats were made to block railway lines which would result in significant disruptions,” staff wrote in April 23 briefing notes for Lametti. Railways “serve customers in almost every part of the Canadian economy,” said the department.

“The result of a railway blockade would be significant,” wrote staff. “Canada’s freight rail industry transports more than $310 billion worth of goods each year on a network that runs from coast to coast.”

There wasn’t a peep made about radical activists in 2020 during the Wet’suwet’en railway blockades or why the cabinet didn’t invoke the never before used Emergencies Act.

Freedom Convoy protesters didn’t block any railways and they did not protest at any railways.

Supporters of hereditary Wet’suwet’en First Nation chiefs blocked railways for several weeks in February 2020. According to the Estimate of the Impacts of the February 2020 Rail Disruption report by the Parliamentary Budget Office. The blockades in which trains aren’t able to detour around with a different route cost Canada $283 million in damages and caused layoffs for over 1000 workers.

The Canadian National Railway main line in Belleville, Ontario, a Canadian Pacific Rail line south of Montréal, Quebec, and other blockades in Winnipeg, Manitoba were among the more than 50 blockades that federal regulators at the time counted across the nation. In addition, protesters shut down the border crossings in Cornwall and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

“The protest blockades have significantly worsened rail service at this time when the rail system was already experiencing strain,” the Department of Agriculture wrote in a 2020 briefing note. Staff complained of “significant vessel lineups at the Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.”

In 2020 when First Nations activists had blockaded railways all across Canada Bill Blair said blocking railways is not terrorism. “No they’re not,” Blair said during testimony at the House of Commons public safety and national security committee. “I have a responsibility [as minister] to leave it to the police of jurisdiction in the exercise of their discretion to determine and investigate criminal activity. So I avoid pronouncements of and defining that activity.”

The blockades finally ended after then-Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller offered a bribe with a $7.2 million grant to the unelected Wet’suwet’en chiefs for work on land claims.

In briefing materials, the office of Attorney General Lametti also raised concerns that the Freedom Convoy may become violent. The staff admitted they lacked any evidence to justify their fears.

“Two bomb threats were made to Vancouver hospitals and numerous suspicious packages containing rhetoric that references the hanging of politicians and potentially noxious substances were sent to offices of Members of Parliament in Nova Scotia,” wrote the Department of Justice. “A link to the convoy has not yet been established in either case.”

A total of 230 people were arrested during the Freedom Convoy while a 119 of the people arrested faced charges of mischief, which is the most common infraction. 

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Jordan is a casual reporter for BC Rise


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