As a non-partisan, volunteer activist group, Fearless Canada was present at the beginning and on several other occasions during the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa. As such, many of our members witnessed first-hand what the situation looked like on the ground and how it all began. We took extensive video footage of the events during the first weekend from the moment when truckers were being directed toward Parliament by Ottawa police. We have decided to submit our evaluation of the events as well as our strongly held view that the invocation of the Emergency Measures Act (hereafter referred to as “EMA”) by the Trudeau government was not only inappropriate, but also unlawful and unconstitutional.
We must first unequivocally state that, in our view, the Trudeau government’s decision to invoke the EMA in no way met the legal threshold to do so. The usage of the EMA is reserved for exceptional circumstances in which a serious foreign or existential threat imperils the security of the nation. Such security threats would be typically related to war, as the older, subsequently replaced War Measures Act aimed to address. In no conceivable way could the temporary discomfort or inconvenience borne by Ottawa citizens or businesses justify the use of an Act that is meant to aid the government in protecting the nation against threats of an incalculably larger scale. As such, the purpose of the Commission is not to determine whether the invocation of the EMA served the Trudeau government in its objective to deescalate the so-called “occupation” of Ottawa’s downtown core, but rather to assess whether the legal threshold for its invocation was met.
The Early Days in Ottawa
Our group arrived in Ottawa in the early afternoon of January 28, 2022. The first thing we noticed was Ottawa police directing truckers and their rigs onto Wellington Street towards Parliament. The atmosphere was festive and light despite the frigid weather. As more protesters arrived in Ottawa over the course of the weekend, we would quickly observe that the crowds were both peaceful and diverse. Men, women, and children from all different backgrounds and walks of life gathered in the capital with a common goal. They demanded that the Trudeau government lift measures that, in their view, were both unjustified and discriminatory in nature. As a result of those measures, the majority of protesters in Ottawa were themselves directly impacted in profound and often irreversible ways.
In talking with dozens of truckers and protesters, we learned that many had lost their jobs, connections to loved ones, access to essential services, and much more. While speaking with police officers, we learned that many felt they were unlawfully coerced into taking a COVID vaccine in order to keep their jobs. Our impression on the ground was that the majority of police officers were in fact aligned with the goals of the protest. They, too, wanted to see an immediate end to damaging and ineffective policies that divided our nation along medical lines previously acknowledged as a matter of private and personal concern.
Legacy Media and the Trudeau Government’s Portrayal of the Freedom Convoy
While in Ottawa, our group kept an eye on the news coming out of legacy media outlets such as the CBC, CTV News, and Global News. It became impossible not to notice that a concerted narrative had quickly taken shape to misrepresent the situation and characterize protesters as far-right extremists, racists, antisemites, and more. The unjustified slander of protesters directly conflicted with our experience on the ground. What we saw was a festive and peaceful rally, replete with volunteers offering food and shelter from the cold, routinely cleaning streets and sidewalks, and organizing fun activities for the kids. At no time did we spot a single racist or Nazi in the vast crowds, as was incessantly suggested by both the Liberal government and the mainstream media. From what we could tell, these characterizations were fabricated in order to serve a narrative that aimed to discredit the legitimacy and lawfulness of the protest.
As time went on, the media’s portrayal of the situation continued to unhinge itself from reality. The press published stories about imminent violence, a van loaded with illegal firearms, and more. None of these allegations turned out to be true. Yet, the misrepresentation of the situation had already reached the eyes and ears of Canadians from coast to coast, very few of which witnessed the event themselves. But by then, the damage had already been done, just as it seemed to have been intended.
The Invocation of the EMA
At the moment the Trudeau government invoked the EMA, it must be noted that the protest in Ottawa was already in the process of de-escalation. The protest organizers and their lawyers had already brokered a dismantlement deal with the Ottawa mayor and police services. Truckers were already on their way out of the downtown core and the blockades at two Canadian points of entry had already long-since been dismantled. Yet rather than follow an organized de-escalation plan agreed to by all factions, Ottawa police and the Trudeau government instead opted to escalate the situation by using violence and propaganda against Canadian citizens. The impacts of the invocation of the EMA were profound and unwarranted.
Immediately ensuing the invocation of the EMA, police and governmental authorities froze protesters’ bank accounts and deployed violent anti-riot squads all over the downtown core of Ottawa. Several protesters were injured as police again escalated tensions using all manner of crowd dispersal techniques. In the days following the invocation of the EMA, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wasted no time in announcing that certain aspects of the EMA would be written into law, granting broad and unconstitutional powers to government without the requisite EMA enacted. It had become clear that the Trudeau government had a predetermined objective in enacting the EMA, one that would grant greater leverage over political dissidents and, more broadly, Canadians that disagreed with its ideology. This in itself represents an egregious misuse of the EMA in order to further a political agenda.
The volunteer activists at Fearless Canada include Canadian scholars, lawyers, professors, small business owners, and artists. We unanimously and unequivocally feel that the Trudeau government’s invocation of the EMA as a response to ongoing protests in Ottawa was both unlawful and unconstitutional. We submit that the government manipulated public opinion by fabricating evidence of unlawful activity in Ottawa and invoked the EMA under false pretenses in order to abet their predetermined agenda. We believe that the evidence overwhelmingly supports our position, and we look forward to seeing all of it brought to light during the Commission’s discovery process.
This statement was authored by the executive of Fearless Canada and endorsed by members.
The statement has been submitted to the Public Order Emergency Commission of Canada, which began public hearings on Thursday, October 13, which will run every weekday until November 25. Live hearings can be viewed here, and True North Centre publishes a recap for each day.