Alberta asked for help from the army to dismantle the Coutts dam, in vain | Commission of Inquiry into the State of Emergency

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Alberta asked for the help of the army to dismantle the Coutts dam, in vain | Commission of Inquiry ;te on state of emergency

The Kenney government was desperate for ways to move the trucks.

Assistant Deputy Minister Marlin Degrand insisted Thursday, on behalf of the Alberta government, that it never needed the federal Emergencies Act to resolve the situation in Coutts.

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Unable to find tow trucks to move trucks blocking passage to a border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, the government of former Prime Minister Jason Kenney and the RCMP turned to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) , last winter, hoping they would provide them with the necessary equipment, but to no avail.

Evidence to this effect has were presented Thursday morning during the interrogation of the former Assistant Deputy Minister in the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General of Alberta, Marlin Degrand, by the prosecutor of the Commission of Inquiry into the state of emergency Jean-Simon Schoenholz.

RCMP contacted CAF (Ottawa) for assistance in removing trucks blocking Coutts Crossing (Ottawa reluctant), reads, for example, an email exchange between Alberta officials. /p>

A February 5 letter from provincial Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver to his federal counterparts Marco Mendicino (Public Safety) and Bill Blair (Emergency Preparedness) says the Kenney government was at the time looking for additional resources to tow heavy trucks.

The letter explains that the RCMP has been unable to obtain assistance from private recovery companies, their owners being concerned about the consequences if they agreed to support the authorities. More so, tow truck drivers even told the RCMP they were paid not to help law enforcement, Mr. Degrand told the commission, ahead of public hearings.

The Feb. 5 missive — which Mr. Degrand said followed informal discussions between the two levels of government — did not, however, specifically mention military assistance. But Bill Blair's answer suggests that the use of the armed forces was indeed part of the discussions.

I spoke with Minister of Defense [Anita Anand] and she agreed on the importance and urgency of a CAF response, the Minister of Public Safety wrote , the next day, in a text message addressed to Rick McIver. She must speak with the Chief of Staff this morning and she will inform us afterwards.

Officially, the Kenney government letter never got a response. But in a draft filed in evidence at the commission, the feds had determined, after discussions with the CAF, that they had neither the type of assets nor the expertise necessary to respond to the request without incurring significant risks.

Asked about the document on Thursday, Assistant Deputy Minister Degrand, who has been transferred to another department since the events of last winter, expressed surprise, given that the CAF detachment in Alberta was, to [his] understanding, capable of moving tanks.

There was also no possible risk, he said. One of the things we had made clear in our conversations, internally, was that CAF personnel would not be used to suppress protesters; it was the RCMP who would have been responsible for clearing and securing the scene, assured Mr. Degrand.

Because, apart from the machinery necessary to move the trucks, the Alberta government had asked the federal government to use the services of reservists capable of operating the equipment.

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The blockade at the Coutts, Alberta border crossing has created disruptions and delays in the supply of many products.

That request was also denied, according to the minutes of a February 13 telephone meeting attended by federal and Alberta officials, among others.

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Alberta's requests for CAF support were denied, but [its representatives at the meeting] are surprised that their request for access to reservists capable of driving tow trucks was not met. accepted, reads the document drafted by the federal Minister of Transport.

In the end, the Kenney government ended up buying used tow trucks to dismantle the dam Coutts Road. The way was finally cleared on February 15.

The invocation of the Emergency Measures Act the day before, however, did not change the strategy of the Alberta government, assured Mr. Degrand Thursday.

The Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022 to end a rally of truckers and other protesters opposed to COVID-19 health measures, which paralyzed the downtown Ottawa from Saturday, January 29 to Sunday, February 20.

This law – adopted in 1988 to succeed the War Measures Act – provides in particular that a public inquiry must a fortiori examine the circumstances which led the authorities to take such a decision.

The appearance of Assistant Deputy Minister Degrand, who should be the only representative of the Alberta government to be heard by Judge Rouleau, was followed Thursday afternoon by the return to the helm of Mario Di Tommaso, under -Solicitor General of Ontario.

The latter's testimony, which began on Wednesday, was abruptly interrupted due to the fainting of the commission's prosecutor, Gabriel Poliquin, who had lost consciousness in the middle of the interrogation. Seen by doctors since, Me Poliquin is doing well and should be back next week.

Mr. Di Tommaso is one of the officials from Doug Ford's government who was called in to answer the commission's questions after the Prime Minister himself persuaded the Federal Court that he had no obligation to participate in the hearings, as did Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

Mario Di Tommaso, Deputy Solicitor General for Ontario, testifies before the Commission on the State of Emergency, November 10, 2022.

Deputy Solicitor General for Ontario x27;Ontario basically argued that the provincial state of emergency gave authorities the powers necessary to put an end to the protests in Windsor and Ottawa.

I think the provincial emergency measures were sufficient, he said, saying he could not explain the reasons why the Ford government supported the use of emergency measures by the federal government. However, he described the federal emergency measures as very useful.

He also maintained that the police operations in Windsor and Ottawa had been a success, and refused to criticize the work of the last police force, unlike many witnesses. The situation was unprecedented.

There were no deaths or serious injuries, and in no case was tear gas used against protesters, Di Tommaso said. I would much rather testify here before the State of Emergency Commission than testify in an inquest into someone's death, he said.

Like others, however, he lamented the lack of a plan from the Ottawa Police Service and that this was possibly the reason why the requested resources were not coming as quickly as desired. Windsor was ready, Ottawa was not, he dropped, acknowledging that dismantling Windsor was the priority.

Mr. Di Tommaso has also repeatedly defended the decision of his boss, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, not to participate in the tripartite meetings wanted by the federal government with the Government of Ontario and the City of Ontario. ;Ottawa. Minister Jones was already in contact with several of her federal counterparts, he argued. These discussions were taking place on a bilateral basis.

After devoting the previous three weeks to the occupation of downtown Ottawa, the commission has since Monday taken an interest in the blockades that are are multiplied last winter on the border of Canada and the United States.

On Wednesday morning, Coutts Mayor Jim Willett said his community had been deeply divided by the protest, which hampered cross-border crossings from January 29 to February 14. Even today, neighbors no longer speak to each other.

Earlier this week, the report of a telephone conversation between Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford also revealed that the two prime ministers were more concerned about the blocking of the Ambassador Bridge than the convoy of truckers that stormed the Canadian capital.

To reopen this vital link between Windsor and Detroit, their respective governments were even willing to ask the Americans for help, although by their own admission it would have been embarrassing to do so.

Prime Minister Trudeau will appear before the judge Rouleau later this month, while his Ontario counterpart obtained permission from a Federal Court judge to avoid this obligation.

The commission will recess Friday at the occasion of Remembrance Day. Its work will resume on Monday.

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