Analysis | What will the Rouleau commission have been used for? | Commission of Inquiry into the State of Emergency
Despite a good performance by Justin Trudeau as the last witness of the Rouleau commission, some gray areas remain in the government's arguments.
Despite the multiple testimonies heard by Judge Paul Rouleau, several gray areas remain.
Justin Trudeau is often criticized for his past as a drama teacher. This week at the Rouleau commission, it's a talent that has served him well.
He took control of the stage and offered a strong performance, both in form and substance, to detail his government's position in favor of invoking the Emergency Measures Act (EML).
The Prime Minister made his case solidly, using several key words to describe the EPL and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.
Basically: the government had reasonable grounds to believe there was a threat of violence to achieve an ideological goal, and that the provinces lacked the ability or power to intervene .
The government's response was proportionate to the threat, limited in geographic scope and time, said Justin Trudeau. The Prime Minister could quote the articles of law by heart. Obviously, he had done his homework.
After seven ministers appeared in what could be compared to a first act earlier this week, the testimony of Justin Trudeau was the highlight of the show. But his good performance does not completely manage to make people forget that there have been a few false notes that have still not been resolved.
First, the Rouleau commission must examine and assess the basis for the government's decision to declare a state of emergency, but does not does not have access to a crucial document: the legal opinion obtained by the government to justify the LMU.
The document is protected by ministerial confidentiality. And the advice that Attorney General David Lametti and his team were able to add is stamped with the seal of confidentiality between the lawyer and his client.
Then, Justin Trudeau assures that he had to invoke the LMU as a last resort because the police forces were unable to do their job. Still, law enforcement says they had a plan ready on Feb. 13, the day before LMU was enforced. According to the Prime Minister, however, this plan was incomplete and insufficient.
But you have to take him at his word. Because this famous plan filed in evidence has been almost completely redacted.
What good is a commission of inquiry to shed light on the decisions of a government if it does not have full access to the relevant documents?
Then there are the assertions of the Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, who declared last February that the law had been invoked at the request of the police services. However, all the witnesses from the police forces who appeared before Judge Rouleau ensure that they never made this request.
Second, the expanded definition of national security invoked by the government, based not on the letter, but rather on the spirit of the law, has opened up a debate that is not at all closed.
Justin Trudeau remains convinced that all the criteria to invoke the Emergencies Act were met.
The revelations made to the commission and the justification presented by the government are unlikely to have much impact in the public sphere.
Canadians continue to overwhelmingly support the government's action. And those who already believed this spring that the government had abused its powers most likely did not change their minds this fall.
Similarly, barring any surprises, the Rouleau report, scheduled for next February, will surely come to crystallize the points of view that already exist. But that does not mean that the exercise will have been carried out in vain.
One of the roles of the commission is to determine whether changes to the Emergencies Act are required.
The testimonies highlighted the fact that the Emergencies Act is no longer up to date. Much like the War Measures Act was, which it replaced in 1988.
36 years ago, there was no social media, the misinformation that often fuels ideologically-driven violent extremism traveled more slowly. The crowdfunding and cryptocurrency campaigns that supported last February's movement did not exist. The geopolitical order and external threats have evolved.
In light of the testimony heard over the past six weeks, it's a safe bet that Justice Rouleau will want to consider the question of modernizing the Act.
And this is what risks becoming the most persistent legacy of this commission.