KLEIN: Ottawa’s use of Emergencies Act violates Charter rights

Police from all different forces across the country joined together to try to bring the convoy protest occupation to an end, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. The second report of the Ottawa People's commission on the Convoy Protest has incorporated the findings of Justice Paul Rouleau's public inquiry. © Provided by Winnipeg Sun

On Feb. 14, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government invoked the Emergencies Act as an extreme overreaction to the presence of the Freedom Convoy protest on Parliament Hill. This was the first time the Emergencies Act had ever been enacted in Canada. The far-reaching act allowed police to arrest protesters, remove vehicles and restrict access to public spaces. But more alarmingly, it also permitted the government to freeze personal bank accounts of suspected protest organizers.

But last week a federal judge ruled Justin Trudeau government’s use of the Emergencies Act was unconstitutional because the protest did not constitute a national emergency and was therefore unjustified. Judge Richard Mosley ruled that the convoy’s presence failed to meet the reasonable standard of a threat to national security required to invoke the Act.

“I have concluded that the decision to issue the proclamation does not bear the hallmarks of reasonableness – justification, transparency and intelligibility – and was not justified in relation to the relevant factual and legal constraints that were required to be taken into consideration,” – Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley.

In the court of public opinion, Canadians were rightly appalled by the government’s unreasonable and irrational crackdown. The clear violation of Constitutional rights should be disturbing to all Canadians and also cause concern about how our country is perceived by the rest of the democratic world. Prime Minister Trudeau received international condemnation for the gross overreaction and infringement of human rights. Unfortunately, Canada did not set a good example on the world stage for its handling of the incident and now faces legal consequences for its actions.

But instead of accepting the verdict and adapting its policies, the Trudeau government announced that it planned to appeal. The Liberal government evidently is not prepared to acknowledge that Canadians’ rights were violated, and that alone is deeply troubling.

Section 2C of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms codifies the right to peacefully assemble including participation in demonstrations and protests. The Charter, established in 1982 by the Prime Minister’s own father, Pierre Trudeau, is an integral part of the Canadian Constitution. How ironic that Justin Trudeau would so audaciously violate it 40 years later.

Invoking the Emergencies Act was an unprecedented abuse of power – it should be reserved for threats to national security and extreme circumstances like times of war. Clearly, the Freedom Convoy posed no such threat. The laws of the land must apply equally to the government as much as they do to the public. Any deviation from that standard invalidates the rule of law and invites anarchy and chaos.

Governments have a fundamental responsibility to carefully weigh the consequences of using such extraordinary powers. Protecting Canadians from further erosion of their rights is critical, especially in light of the federal government’s pending appeal.

Provincial governments should be playing an active role in ensuring that Charter rights are upheld for Canadians. Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan and Premier Danielle Smith of Alberta have been exemplary in this regard. But Manitoba’s silence is deafening. Sadly, we know Manitoba’s NDP government will not advocate for your rights and freedoms.

Manitobans want and deserve a provincial government that will stand up for their rights, especially when threatened by the federal Liberals. Not only did the federal government knowingly abuse its power, but it would brazenly challenge the verdict on appeal as if to further dismiss Canadians’ rights.

If overturned, an extremely dangerous legal precedent would be established that would invite the Trudeau Liberals to continue infringing on the rights of Canadians without repercussion.

Source: Winnipeg Sun