Police had not anticipated the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act to end the “illegal blockades” in the nation’s capital and major border crossings, the RCMP chief said Tuesday.
Speaking virtually at a meeting of the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki deflected questions from committee members about the need to impose the extraordinary measures to quash the blockades by the so-called “Freedom Convoy.”
When asked by Ontario Sen. Peter Harder if the RCMP was assuming the invocation of the emergency measures in its plan, Lucki replied: “Not at all.”
“This was a very, very unique and fluid situation in Ottawa,” she said, adding that there had been various discussions with government officials in the week prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14.
“We’re not in the position to … provide influence on the government as to when and where they invoke a certain act. For us, it was about keeping Canadians safe in Ottawa.”
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Lucki said RCMP removed the blockades at the border without the powers offered under the legislation, though the Emergencies Act may have motivated some protesters to leave.
“In RCMP jurisdiction, we successfully used a measured approach and existing legislation to resolve border blockades,” Lucki told the committee.
She also said the RCMP had not asked the federal government to implement the extraordinary measures.
“There was never a question of requesting the Emergencies Act,” Lucki said in response to a question from Ontario Sen. Vernon White.
Also when asked by Conservative MPs if the act’s invocation was necessary and whether the blockades could not be resolved with any other existing law in the country, Lucki said she couldn’t answer whether the threshold was met.
“That’s not for me to comment on,” she said.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 in an effort to end blockades that had taken over the streets of the capital and major border crossings in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. in protest of COVID-19 restrictions, vaccine mandates and the Liberal government.
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The Act was revoked after 10 days that saw police crack down to clear out hundreds of demonstrators who had encamped in the nation’s capital for three weeks.
The Liberal government has repeatedly justified the use of the Emergencies Act, but Trudeau billed the decision as one that should never be a first resort.
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At the time, Trudeau pointed to the economic impact to Canada’s trade at the border as one of the justifications for invoking the Act.
However, a Global News analysis of data from Statistics Canada revealed that the border blockades had little effect on trade.
The Emergencies Act invocation has come under scrutiny, with opposition MPs criticizing the move and the way the legislation was implemented.
Speaking during Question Period on Monday, Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen accused the Liberal government of wrongly invoking the Emergencies Act and “trying to cover it up.”
The Liberals said in response that they have been “transparent” about their reasons for invoking the act, but the Conservative leader remained unconvinced.
“’Just trust us’ is not enough,” she said.
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Last month, at a meeting of the same committee tasked with studying how the Emergencies Act powers were used, federal ministers provided few details.
Justice Minister David Lametti repeatedly invoked cabinet confidentiality in his appearance.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the government received advice to invoke the Emergencies Act, but did not answer questions about exactly who gave that advice.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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