'Freedom convoy' did not threaten national security, CSIS says | Commission of Inquiry into the State of Emergency
“Freedom Convoy” protesters occupied downtown Ottawa from Saturday January 29 to Sunday February 20, 2022.
The convoy of truckers that paralyzed downtown Ottawa last winter, in addition to blocking certain border crossings across the country, did not represent a threat to the national security of Canada within the meaning of the definition adopted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), according to its director. #x27;emergency, tasked with determining whether the federal government was justified in using the Emergencies Act to end these protests against sanitary measures.
“At no time has the Service assessed the protests in Ottawa or elsewhere as a threat to the security of Canada as defined by section 2 of the CSIS Act.
— David Vigneault, Director of CSIS, in his witness statement
Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director David Vigneault
CSIS cannot investigate activity deemed a lawful manifestation, added Vigneault, who is due to testify this week next at the Commission's public hearings.
According to evidence filed Monday, Mr. Vigneault felt compelled to clearly convey the service's position, [that] there was no threat to the security of Canada [such as] defined by the legal mandate of the service.
The notion of national security is essential in this investigation since the Emergencies Act requires the existence of an emergency resulting from a threat to the national security of Canada to be invoked. And this extraordinary law defers to the definition established by the CSIS Act.
Espionage or sabotage directed against or harmful to Canada to its interests.
Foreign influenced activities that affect or take place in Canada and are detrimental to its interests.
Activities that seek to encourage the use of serious violence or threats of violence against persons or property in order to achieve a political, religious or ideological objective.
Activities aimed at undermining the constitutionally established system of government in Canada or the immediate or ultimate aim of which is its destruction or overthrow by violence.
According to Rob Stewart, the former Deputy Minister of Public Safety who testified before the Commission on Monday, however, the government may have a broader definition of what constitutes a threat to national security than that of the National Security Act. CSIS.
Ultimately, the decision to use emergency measures rests with Cabinet and it is its interpretation of the law that governs here, said Mr. Stewart. The Cabinet was clearly of the opinion that the legal threshold had been reached to resort to emergency measures, he added.
Last week, evidence had already shown that the Canadian spy service feared that the use of emergency measures by the federal government could lead some protesters to resort to violence.
Moreover, according to this classified “secret” notice filed with the Commission, federal ministers had been notified on February 13, the day before the use of this extraordinary law.
CSIS however, was monitoring certain individuals who took part in the convoy or in the demonstrations at the border.
The Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022 to end a rally of truckers and other protesters opposing COVID-19 health measures that paralyzed downtown 'Ottawa from Saturday, January 29 to Sunday, February 20.
This legislation – passed in 1988 as a successor to the War Measures Act – provides, among other things, that a public inquiry must a posteriori examine the circumstances that led the authorities to take such a decision.
According to the testimony heard Monday morning at the Rouleau Commission, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also not the only one to think that the Ontario government of Doug Ford was [evading] its responsibilities in the file of the alleged ” freedom convoy.”
The Federal Civil Service thought the same thing. It was in the background of all the calls we had with ministers, Mr. Stewart also said.
“We were like, 'Where is Ontario?' »
— Rob Stewart, former Deputy Minister at Public Safety Canada
The testimonies of senior officials Rob Stewart (left) and Dominic Rochon (right) allowed Monday morning to enter the heart of the federal machine for the first time since the beginning of the public hearings of the Rouleau commission.
We were concerned that the province was not taking as much action as it could have, he explained during his interrogation, adding that despite this apparent lack of political will, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) did their job flawlessly during the crisis.
Doug Ford's government, Deputy Minister Stewart recalled, did not particularly want to sit on the tripartite committee set up by federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair to pacify downtown Toronto. Ottawa.
It was in commenting on this absence that Prime Minister Trudeau had declared that his Ontario counterpart was [evading] his responsibilities during a telephone interview with the former mayor of ' x27;Ottawa, Jim Watson, whose verbatim was entered into evidence last month.
In the transcript of his interview with Commission counsel prior to the public hearings, Deputy Minister Stewart also explains that it was never clear that the Ontario government was ready to help Ottawa.
There is a misconception that, in the normal course of things, protests in Ottawa are not a provincial problem, rather they should be handled by a combination of federal and local police, as if Ottawa had the same status than Washington, D.C., he laments.
Deputy Minister Stewart was accompanied on Monday morning by his then-senior national security and cybersecurity adviser, Dominic Rochon. Their appearance allowed entry into the heart of the federal machine for the first time since the start of the Commission's public hearings.
The testimonies of Messrs. Stewart and Rochon were followed by those of the assistant deputy minister of Global Affairs Canada, Cindy Termorshuizen, and the former consul general of Canada in Detroit Joe Comartin. In particular, they spoke of the effect of the Freedom Convoy crisis on Canada's reputation abroad and on its relations with its economic partners, in particular with the United States.
< p class="e-p">The Commission will then hear from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. Evidence filed in recent weeks indicates that she believed on February 14 that tools other than the Emergencies Act were still available to end the occupation of downtown Ottawa.
An exchange of text messages with his OPP counterpart, Thomas Carrique, also revealed that the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) quickly lost the confidence of the federal government when the so-called freedom convoy has taken control of the capital.
Judge Paul Rouleau has been hearing evidence and testimonies as surprising as they are shocking for a month.
Last week, the Commission notably understood that beyond the occupation of Ottawa, Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford were most concerned about the blocking of the Ambassador Bridge, between Windsor and Detroit, and that they were ready to ask for help from the United States to end it.
< p class="e-p">She also learned that the Alberta government of former premier Jason Kenney had unsuccessfully requested the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces to end the Coutts roadblock.
This village of some 250 inhabitants was deeply divided by the events of last winter, said Mayor Jim Willett on Wednesday, stressing that even today, neighbors “don't talk to each other more”.
The Commission will sit for another two weeks. Justin Trudeau will be called to testify, but Doug Ford convinced a federal judge that he did not have to comply with such an exercise.