Majority of Canadians Thought Emergencies Act Was Unwarranted: Internal Government Polling

Majority of Canadians Thought Emergencies Act Was Unwarranted: Internal Government Polling
Police face off with Freedom Convoy demonstrators in Ottawa on Feb. 19, 2022. (Alex Kent/Getty Images)
Peter Wilson

A majority of Canadians opposed the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to the Freedom Convoy in February, according to confidential polling conducted for the federal government.

The polling results, reported to the Privy Council Office and obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, found that most individuals surveyed thought the Emergencies Act represented “significant over-reach” by the government.

“Though a small number of participants felt implementing the Emergencies Act was a necessary step given the disturbance caused by the seemingly indefinite nature of the protests, most felt this action represented significant ‘over-reach’ by the federal government as they interpreted this as limiting the right of these Canadians to peaceful protest,” said the report titled “Continuous Qualitative Data Collection Of Canadians’ Views.”

The findings were based on federal focus groups held nationwide from February 2nd to 28,  amid the truckers’ demonstration in downtown Ottawa. The federal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 and the protests were cleared during escalated police operations over the following weekend.

The Strategic Counsel, a market research firm, wrote the resulting polling report under a $2.4 million contract that required continuous monthly polling. Pollsters said they found support for the truckers across the country and that the Freedom Convoy was Canadians’ “most commonly cited issue by far” regarding the pandemic.

“A significant number identified with the frustration expressed by the protesters regarding ongoing public health measures even if they disagreed with some of the methods,” the report read.

“Among participants who were supportive of the protests and their aims it was felt the protests had been mostly peaceful and that these individuals had the right to express their opinion.”

The report also said that a small portion of individuals surveyed thought media coverage of the convoy was “one-sided” and portrayed the protesters “in a mostly negative light.”

“While some were hesitant to condone the disruption caused by the protests most of these participants felt the aim of the protest of ending Covid-19 mandates was justified and something they too supported,” it said.

‘Did Not Represent a Public Order Emergency’

The Liberal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act granted it wide-ranging powers to clear protestors, including compelling tow truck companies to remove trucks and vehicles parked downtown, and freezing bank accounts associated with support of the convoy without a warrant.

The Liberal cabinet revoked the act nine days later. Many Canadians surveyed in the poll said the short duration was “evidence the law should never have been used in the first place.”

“For those who felt the Emergencies Act was a disproportionate response on the part of the federal government, many thought there were other steps that could have been taken prior to invoking this legislation,” the report said.

“Most of these participants believed the protests to be primarily legal and peaceful and did not represent a public order emergency.”

The report said that some individuals surveyed “expressed a growing lack of trust in the federal government” and believed that the Emergencies Act infringed upon Canadians’ rights to peacefully protest.

“A few ... were concerned the Emergencies Act could be used routinely going forward to limit public dissent,” it said.

Noé Chartier and Omid Ghoreishi contributed to this report.