Trudeau's References to 'Misinformation' When Justifying His Emergencies Act Are Very Troubling

Trudeau's References to 'Misinformation' When Justifying His Emergencies Act Are Very Troubling
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during Question Period in Ottawa on Feb. 15, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Cory Morgan

With the parliament now formally invoking the Emergencies Act, many civil freedoms can be suspended in the name of dealing with our current emergency, whatever that may be.

The right to peaceful assembly and association has been suspended as gatherings are banned in certain areas. Property rights are being suspended as supporters of the Freedom Convoy are having their bank accounts seized and vehicles impounded. Rights pertaining to the security of the person have been suspended as police can force labour from people, such as tow truck drivers, upon threat of imprisonment.

As if the suspension of all the aforementioned rights wasn’t enough, in listening to Prime Minister Trudeau, it sounds like his government may want to infringe upon our rights even further under the dubious justification of quelling a protest crisis in Ottawa.

The Trudeau government may go after our rights to free speech, expression, and press.

During a press conference just prior to the parliamentary vote on the Emergencies Act, Trudeau expressed at length the reasons he felt invoking the Act was justified. Trudeau mentioned what he called “misinformation and disinformation” multiple times during the presser. What is in the Act that could be used to battle apparent misinformation if indeed such misinformation was part of why the Act was needed?

Nothing in the Emergencies Act itself refers to misinformation but it does give the government some strong powers that are open to some pretty broad interpretation. The government can now force Canadian banks to seize the assets of citizens without a court order. With no judicial oversight required, the government doesn’t need to justify to anybody why a citizen’s bank accounts should be seized. They need only order it.

The Act says accounts can be seized if a person is suspected of supporting the protests. It does not specify that the support has to be in material or monetary form.

Could favourable reporting about the protests be considered to be supporting them? Could lending a person directions to a protest location be considered supporting it? The government has taken some serious, discretionary power and with such broad terms within the Emergencies Act, it looks like they can wield that power in a number of ways.

Is the spread of alleged misinformation to be considered a manner of supporting the convoy? The definition of misinformation has become a pretty subjective thing these days. One doctor’s medical opinion is called misinformation by another. Quoting the wrong doctor can get a person kicked off of major social media platforms. Can it now cause a person to run afoul of the Emergencies Act? Spreading differing views from what is considered the medical consensus could compel people to go out and protest, couldn’t it?

Perhaps Trudeau's focus is more on the press. Legacy media members and politicos were furious when the New York Times dared to report that protesters had been arrested at gunpoint in Ottawa. One CBC TV host called the Times' story “false and incredibly dangerous rhetoric” while a CBC radio host called the report "BS." Trudeau confidante Gerald Butts was enraged on Twitter as he called out the New York Times, implying they would lose Canadian subscribers.
Jesse Brown with Canadaland then published a story that included pictures of people who were indeed being arrested at gunpoint in Ottawa. Gerald Butts dismissed the story as “clickbait,” though the photographic evidence was pretty clear.

The New York Times and Canadaland are both liberal-friendly outlets. The issue that establishment media and Liberal loyalists had with the stories wasn’t inaccuracy, it was that the stories contradicted their own narrative.

Could countering the government narrative on protests be declared misinformation and come with sanctions soon? Accuracy appears not to be a defence.

Trudeau also implied that we need “reflection” on dealing with misinformation. What does he mean by that?

The Liberal’s Bill C-11 has been modelled to regulate and control broadcasting on the internet. Could that and would that legislation be used to quell differing voices in independent media?

We have seen how vitriolically the government and state-funded media outlets behave when independent and foreign media dare to counter the government narrative of events. Do we want to empower them to determine what may be misinformation worthy of sanctions or charges?

In their zeal to suppress civil rights ostensibly to deal with the convoy protests, it looks like the government may be preparing itself to extend permanent control upon Canadians in the process. They want to regulate speech, press, and broadcasts and appear to be using the current emergency as a justification for it.

In these turbulent times, we need to carefully read between the lines when our political leadership speaks. They are eyeing our right to free speech with an intent to take it.