Canada

Cabinet heard of potential ‘breakthrough’ with ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters before Emergencies Act was invoked: documents


The night before the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act in response to the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests, the prime minister’s national security adviser told him there was “a potential for a breakthrough” in Ottawa, court documents show.


However, the office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said “the potential for a breakthrough referred to negotiations led principally by the City of Ottawa with illegal blockaders” in the days before the act was invoked.


“The government closely monitored the status of negotiations, which were disavowed by many associated with the so-called Freedom Convoy and were ultimately unsuccessful,” a spokesperson for the minister said in a statement to CTV News Thursday. “The government considered this as a factor in the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act. More broadly, the government invoked the Emergencies Act because it was necessary.”


The heavily redacted documents, filed in federal court as the government’s use of the act faces a legal challenge, detail the conversations cabinet ministers and government officials had in the days leading up to Feb. 14, when the Emergencies Act was invoked for the first time in Canadian history.


The documents include cabinet meeting minutes starting on Feb. 10, when the federal government was scenario-planning “how bad things could actually get” if the controversial act was invoked.


At that point, the Ontario Provincial Police negotiators were telling the government that the leaders of the Ottawa protest could potentially be encouraged to leave and denounce the blockade “in exchange for a commitment to register their message with the government.”


Documents show the most pressing issue for the federal government at that time was not the protest outside Parliament, but the re-opening of Canada’s busiest trade route — the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, which was also impacted by blockades.


In the documents about the Feb. 13 cabinet meeting where the “potential for a breakthrough” is mentioned, the rest of that conversation is redacted.  


A national inquiry into the government’s use of the act to bring an end to the “Freedom Convoy” trucker protests and blockades was launched in April. Paul S. Rouleau, a long-time judge, is leading the independent inquiry and will have to present his final report by Feb. 20, 2023.

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