Memo advising PM to use emergency law, admits his interpretation ‘vulnerable’: documents | Tech US News

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A memorandum to the prime minister that suggests the government invoke an emergency law for the first time in Canadian history acknowledges that its interpretation of a threat to national security could be challenged, an inquiry reviewing the decision said Friday.

The Privy Council Office document — which was in evidence at the Public Order Emergencies Commission on Friday — was sent on the afternoon of February 14, as Ottawa’s protest against the COVID-19 restrictions entered its third full week. The government announced its decision to invoke the law shortly after 16:30 CET on the same day.

“The PCO notes that the disruption and public unrest is being felt across the country and beyond Canada’s borders, which could give additional impetus to the movement and cause irreparable damage – including to social coercion, national unity and Canada’s international reputation,” it said. is reading.

“In the PCO’s view, this fits within the statutory parameters that define threats to the security of Canada, although this conclusion may be vulnerable to challenge.”

Eight months later, the memo’s author, Privy Council official Janice Charette, defended her advice.

“My opinion was that he passed the tests. Others may disagree with my opinion,” she told the commission’s inquiry on Friday.

The question of whether the federal government has reached the legal threshold to invoke the emergency law is one of the most important on the commission’s plate. It has dominated inquests this week and is expected to extend to hearings next week.

Under the Act, Cabinet must have reasonable grounds to believe there is a public order emergency, which the Act defines as one that “arises from threats to the security of Canada that are so serious as to constitute a national emergency.”

SEE | A Privy Council official discusses her advice to the Prime Minister on the Emergency Act

A Privy Council official discusses her advice to the Prime Minister on the Emergency Act

Janice Charette told the Emergency Act inquiry that there was a broader definition of a threat of violence than that identified by CSIS, and it was this broader definition that led her to recommend the Prime Minister invoke the Emergency Act .

The Act follows the Canadian Central Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) definition of such an extraordinary event as involving serious violence against persons or property, espionage, foreign interference or the intent to overthrow the government by violence.

The commission saw evidence showing that the director of CSIS did not believe the self-proclaimed Freedom Convoy posed a threat to national security as defined in the CSIS Bylaws.

Charette said she considered the CSIS assessment, but said the combination of the economic and public safety impacts of the protests in her view constituted a public policy emergency.

Top Mountie could have common concerns: Clerk

Deputy Clerk Nathalie Drouin – who was deputy minister at the Department of Justice before joining the PCO – told the commission she believed the situation had reached a threshold.

“The threat exceeded the ability to end the blockade in a sustainable and permanent manner; clearing Windsor required emergency resources, which diverted the blockade to Bluewater, causing concern about the number of resources available,” says the document summarizing Drouin’s interview. with the committee in September.

“These were factors in the assessment that there was a national emergency.”

Privy Council Clerk Janice Charette, left, and Deputy Clerk Nathalie Drouin testify before the Public Order Emergencies Commission in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The document also showed that the PCO was becoming increasingly frustrated with the police response.

Drouin “recalled losing hope that local police units in Ottawa and Windsor were able to carry out their operational plans as time went on and no concrete police action was taken,” according to a summary of the interview.

The commission saw an email RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki sent to public safety Marco Mendicino the night before the government invoked the state of emergency last February.

Lucki wrote that she believes police have not exhausted all available tools to end the current occupation of downtown Ottawa by protesters demanding an end to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Charette testified Friday that she could have told her if the RCMP chief thought the emergency law should not be invoked.

“I think it’s part of my responsibility to make sure that the RCMP commissioner knows that she has an open door to me if she thinks there’s anything she thinks I need to know, and also if she thinks the prime minister needs information, she would I made it easy for them,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s any instance where the RCMP commissioner would contact me to provide information that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with her.”

SEE | The PCO official did not see any concrete steps to end the convoy protest until the third weekend

Privy Council official says prime minister and cabinet have seen no concrete steps to end convoy protest by weekend three

In her testimony before the emergency law inquiry, Privy Council official Janice Charette said that as of the evening of February 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet had seen “nothing happen in the plan” to resolve the protest against the convoy in Ottawa. .

Charette said the federal cabinet was aware that tools and powers were not being fully used, as municipal ordinances and criminal code violations were being broken, but had no sense of how practical the police operational plan was.

“We heard a lot about the plan. What we didn’t see at the end of the third weekend was anything happening in the plan,” she said.

Charette added that the existence of a credible police operational plan was not the only factor the government considered when deciding whether to invoke the act.

“It was one factor … one moment in a complex situation,” Charette said.

PCO contemplated closure of mobile towers, petrol pumps

The commission heard on Friday the options the Privy Council Office considered before advising the government to invoke the emergency law.

Charette said she asked deputy ministers to come up with ideas to stop the protests.

“We must leave no stone unturned. We must make sure that we take into account every power, every duty, every authority that we have, every resource that we have to ensure the full power of the federal government,” Charette said.

According to a summary of Drouin’s interview, the PCO considered options as diverse as shutting down cell towers, shutting down gas stations and even deploying federal employees with commercial licenses to remove trucks docked in Ottawa.”

“I would say, ‘All on board, no idea is too crazy, let’s look at absolutely everything,'” Charette testified Friday.

Charette said all avenues have not been exhausted, given that municipal ordinances and criminal laws are being violated on a daily basis.

“Yes, there were tools and powers that were not fully used. The question was whether they would be adequate to handle the whole situation,” she said.

SEE What did the Emergency Act inquiry learn this week?

What did the Emergency Act inquiry find out this week?

National security expert Stephanie Carvin and national security law expert Leah West offer their insights into what the commission heard from top officials as it investigates the federal government’s use of the emergency law.

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