June 12th, 2024

In his own words: Justice Paul Rouleau’s conclusion about the ‘Freedom Convoy’

By The Canadian Press on February 17, 2023.

OTTAWA – Justice Paul Rouleau, the head of the public inquiry that examined the federal Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in February 2022, concluded in his final report the choice was justified.

Here is what he wrote:

“It is regrettable that such a situation arose here, because in my view, it could have been avoided. As I have explained in this report, the response to the ‘Freedom Convoy’ involved a series of policing failures. Some of the missteps may have been small, but others were significant, and taken together, they contributed to a situation that spun out of control. Lawful protest descended into lawlessness, culminating in a national emergency.

“The failures were not only in policing. The events of January and February 2022 can also be seen as a failure of federalism. In Canada, our federal system of government enriches democracy by striving to maintain national unity while supporting regional diversity. But fulfilling these promises depends on co-operation and collaboration.

“Responding to situations of threat and urgency in a federal system requires governments at all levels, and those who lead them, to rise above politics and collaborate for the common good. Unfortunately, in January and February 2022, this did not always happen.

“The ‘Freedom Convoy’ was a singular moment in history, in which simmering social, political, and economic grievances were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, shaped by a complex online landscape rife with misinformation and disinformation, and unleashed in a torrent of political protest and social unrest.

“Though extraordinary, it was not entirely unpredictable. Historically, it is common for pandemics to be accompanied by a decline in social cohesion and a surge in civil unrest.

“This one has been no exception. It was the failure to anticipate such a moment and to properly manage the legitimate protests that emerged, especially the protest in Ottawa, that resulted in the 2022 Public Order Emergency.

“Had various police forces and levels of government prepared for and anticipated events of this type and acted differently in response to the situation, the emergency that Canada ultimately faced could likely have been avoided. Unfortunately, it was not.

“Fortunately, the Parliament that passed the Emergencies Act had the wisdom to create a statute with both the powers needed to protect Canadians in times of crisis, and the safeguards needed to ensure restraint and accountability.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2023.

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