Emergencies Act: Tory MP Says Government’s Claim of Sedition Was ‘Disinformation’

Emergencies Act: Tory MP Says Government’s Claim of Sedition Was ‘Disinformation’
Police face off with Freedom Convoy demonstrators in Ottawa on Feb. 19, 2022. (Alex Kent/Getty Images)
Noé Chartier
News Analysis

Reactions have poured in after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Feb. 23 he was revoking the Emergencies Act, two days after what Tories said was a government-imposed confidence vote on supporting the motion, with some claiming the government exaggerated the threat used to justify resorting to the emergency measures.

“Trudeau’s announcement [that] he’s lifting Emergencies Act speaks volumes,” said Conservative MP Scott Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston) on Twitter on Feb. 23.

“No Freedom Convoy protester was charged with anything more severe than conspiracy to commit mischief. So the [government’s] claims of a threat of sedition was disinformation.”

Convoy organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber have been charged with “counselling to commit mischief,” with the alleged mischief being related to obstructing the “use, enjoyment or operation of property,” per the Criminal Code.

Reid said if there had been a credible threat the arrested protesters wanted to overthrow the government they would have been charged accordingly, and if the government had information about the potential for violence in places with ongoing protests such as Winnipeg and Quebec City, the act would not have been revoked.

“So, with no dangers still in existence, it must be the case that the government knew this all along, and the claims of sedition made in the justice minister’s explanatory document were just a lie,” said Reid.

The justice minister’s explanatory document likely refers to the 14-page document titled “February 14, 2022 Declaration of Public Order Emergency - Explanation pursuant to subsection 58(1) of the Emergencies Act.”

This document states that “The protests have become a rallying point for anti-government and anti-authority, anti-vaccination, conspiracy theory and white supremacist groups throughout Canada and other Western countries. The protesters have varying ideological grievances, with demands ranging from an end to all public health restrictions to the overthrow of the elected government.”

While no sedition charges have been laid, the RCMP made a number of arrests and seized firearms in Coutts, Alberta, while a border blockade was in place. Four among the individuals arrested were charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
“The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade,” said the RCMP.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino attempted to draw links between the people arrested and charged in Coutts with the Ottawa protest organizers, but when challenged about what evidence he was basing that on, he said that the groups espoused similar rhetoric.
The government has said it possesses classified information on the protest movement that it cannot share, and some senators have requested to access it in order to properly review the invocation of the Emergencies Act. Sen. Marc Gold, representing the government, said on Feb. 22 it would not be allowed to release the information because of security clearances issues.
During debates on the Emergencies Act motion in the Senate on Feb. 23, Conservative Sen. Don Plett, Leader of the opposition in the Senate, echoed Reid’s comment about the threat.

“Yes, there was talk about evicting the Prime Minister, but there was no credible plot of an insurrection,” Plett said.

“People who want to take over the government do not come here in their own trucks with the names of their companies on their doors and announce their arrival on every social media platform and then spend three weeks in front of Parliament in a hot tub or roasting a pig.”

Trudeau declared a public order emergency as per the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to deal with protests and border blockades in several locations, most of which had been resolved before invoking the Act.

Tools such as freezing bank accounts of protesters and supporters without a court order were used, as well as compelling towing companies, who previously refused to remove trucks blocking the streets of downtown Ottawa, to do so.

The cross-country protest movement started after the government imposed a vaccine mandate on truckers crossing the U.S. border in mid-January and called for the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions.

While the government has claimed the movement had violent intent, organizers said they were committed to non-violence.