After all the sturm und drang about the Emergencies Act, which was passed on Monday night with a slim 185-151 vote, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came out late Wednesday afternoon and said it was over. With Ottawa now clear of convoy protestors, and some of the organizers now struggle to get bail, Trudeau affirmed that the work of the act was now complete even as the Canadian Senate was debating about passing it on their end.
“We’re ready to confirm that the situation is no longer an emergency. Therefore, the federal government will be ending the use of the Emergencies Act. We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are now sufficient to keep people safe,” Trudeau told a media conference on Wednesday. “We’ll continue to be there to support provincial and local authorities if and when needed.”
Upon hearing this news, the senate revoked the motion, and that was the end of that. Or is it? There have been reports that participants in the Ottawa convoy have gathered on private property in areas outside of Ottawa, regrouping for a return once the police actions are lifted. On Wednesday night, one group affiliated with the convoy was more concerned about the people they left behind.
“Rescinding the Emergency Order is a good step, but there is still a great deal for governments to do to restore the trust that they have so brazenly abused, not just recently, but for two years,” said George Bears, who is the president of a group called Taking Back our Freedoms.
“Our objectives remain unchanged: the lifting of all unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on Canadians’ personal liberties, and the establishment of safeguards to ensure that a similar assault of those liberties is impossible in the future,” Bears added. “Unless this happens, we may well see a resumption of the protests in Ottawa, but on a wider and larger scale.”
Critics of the Emergencies Act have noted that the quick withdrawal of the act and its measures, is proof that they were never necessary in the first place, and that Trudeau was wrong to bring it forward.
“Nothing has changed between Monday and today other than a flood of concerns from Canadian citizens, bad press, and international ridicule,” said interim Official Opposition leader Candice Bergen. “Canadians want and deserve answers on why the Prime Minister invoked this sledgehammer in the first place that has had a direct impact on their lives. Conservatives will demand answers.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who was in the process of bringing legal action against the Federal government, said that they were glad that the act was revoked, but they’re still convinced that there was no justification for it in the first place even though they’re now pausing the lawsuit to think about next moves.
“We continue to believe that there was an insufficient legal basis for resort to the Emergencies Act and that the orders the government passed under this legislation were unconstitutional,” said Abby Deshman, Director of Criminal Justice for the CCLA.
“We also continue to believe that it is important for the courts to consider the legal threshold and constitutional issues so as to guide the actions of future governments. Even though the orders are no longer in force, Canadians are left with the precedent that the government’s actions have set.”
There will be an opportunity for all parties to give feedback and investigate the use of the Emergencies Act. According to section 62(1) of the act, a Parliamentary Review Committee has to be established to review “the exercise of powers and the performance of duties and functions pursuant to a declaration of emergency” after its been invoked.
The committee has to include at least one member of Parliament from each official party and at least one senator from each party in the Senate that is represented on the Committee by a member of Parliament, and must deliver a report within 60 days of the emergency being declared. The act also allows for an inquiry to be declared by the Governor in Council within 60 days after the expiration or revocation of a declaration of emergency.