Trudeau Government Facing Lawsuits Over Emergencies Act

Trudeau Government Facing Lawsuits Over Emergencies Act
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Andrew Chen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and two civil and constitutional rights groups say they will continue to pursue legal challenges of the Canadian government’s use of the Emergencies Act even after the measure was revoked on Feb. 23.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act on Feb. 14 to give authorities additional powers to deal with protests in Ottawa and elsewhere opposing the federal COVID-19 mandates. Trudeau revoked the act on Feb. 23, saying the emergency measures were no longer needed.

Kenney, who vowed to file a court challenge against the government’s use of the act on Feb. 19, said there was never a state of emergency, and he will continue to pursue legal action.
“There never was an emergency that required these extra-judicial powers. What a humiliation for those who were defending the indefensible 5 minutes ago. Alberta intends to proceed with an application for judicial review of the [Emergencies Act] invocation to address this abuse of power,” Kenney wrote in a series of Twitter posts following Trudeau’s Feb. 23 announcement.

“Those whose rights have been violated, and provinces whose jurisdiction has been violated without justification must have their day in Court. The judiciary must be asked to establish limits on such arbitrary use of extraordinary police powers for the future.”

During his press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 23, Trudeau defended invoking the act in the first place, saying “it was the responsible and necessary thing to do” and that there was evidence that individuals involved in the protests wanted to “undermine and even harm Canada’s democracy.”

The Senate was debating whether to confirm the government’s decision to invoke the act, after MPs on Feb. 21 passed a motion along party lines to approve a 30-day extension of the act.

Rights Groups Continue Legal Challenges

Two civil liberties and constitutional rights groups that previously launched legal challenges against Ottawa’s invocation of the emergency measures also said they would carry on with their plans.
Joanna Baron, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), wrote on Twitter on Feb. 23 that the group would proceed with its case because “it is vitally important that the courts address the legal issues raised by this public order emergency prior to the next time the Emergencies Act is used.”
In a separate Twitter post, CCF Litigation Director Christine Van Geyn said Trudeau “still needs to answer in court for his illegal and unconstitutional decision to invoke the Emergencies Act.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) also said on social media that the federal government’s revocation of the emergency orders was “overdue,” and that the move to invoke the act “did not meet the legal thresholds” from the start.

“We welcome the government’s decision to revoke the proclamation of emergency – it is overdue. From the outset, however, we have stated that the government did not meet the legal thresholds set out in the Emergencies Act,” the CCLA wrote in a series of posts on Twitter on Feb. 23.

“We continue to believe that there was an insufficient legal basis for resort to the Emergencies Act and that the orders the government passed under this legislation were unconstitutional.”

The CCLA said it also believes it’s important for the courts to clarify the legal threshold and constitutionality for the government to take such measures in the future.

“Even though the orders are no longer in force, Canadians are left with the precedent,” the group said.

“We will be consulting with our counsel over the next few days to determine what the next steps are in our litigation, but at this time we will continue our case.”

Noé Chartier contributed to this article.