Chrystia Freeland and Katie Telford testify at Emergency Act investigation


OTTAWA — Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister will appear Thursday at an Emergency Act inquiry, the latest senior officials to talk about how the federal government has never before used resources to address last winter’s “freedom struggle” protests. to grab. Why was the law introduced?

Chrystia Freeland will testify with top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

The latter group includes Katie Telford, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s long-serving chief of staff, and senior PMO staffers Brian Clough and John Brodhead.

As finance minister, Freeland would be called upon to explain the special powers created under the emergency law, which forced financial institutions to freeze protest participants’ funds and bank accounts.

The inquiry last week heard from senior finance department officials who said the government’s intention was not to “punish” the protesters, but to encourage them to give up the occupation in downtown Ottawa and not return to the cross-border blockade. Michael Sabia, Freeland’s deputy treasury secretary, told the inquiry that 280 accounts representing about $8 million were eventually frozen under emergency powers.

Sabia and his officials defended the move against questions that some of those affected may not be able to pay rent or pay child support, saying protesters were warned in advance and could have had restrictions to avoid the performance.

The invocation of the Emergency Situations Act gave police special powers to compel tow truck drivers to help lift blockades and declared no-go zones where protests were illegal.

A key issue raised in 29 days of public hearings on the investigation is whether the government has passed the legal threshold for invoking the law.

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The law states that a threat to national security must exist for a federal emergency to be declared, and defines such a threat in the same way that Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), monitors.

While CSIS has said it never felt the convoy protests posed such a threat, government officials – including Attorney General David Lamati – have argued that only the federal cabinet has the authority to decide whether the criteria in the emergency law have been met or not. .

Also, the government has refused to release any legal advice informing its decision, which CSIS director David Vigneault said last week prompted him to advise Trudeau to implement the law. Even though the service felt that the crisis did not meet the definition of a threat to national security.

more to come.


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