(OTTAWA) It was out of the question for National Defense Minister Anita Anand to use the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to break up the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa and blockades at border crossings elsewhere in the country. The Minister of Justice, David Lametti, however mentioned it in an exchange of text messages with the Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, presented in evidence on Wednesday to the Commission on emergency measures.
“Any Minister of National Defense in a democracy would be reluctant to deploy the Canadian Armed Forces except in the most extreme circumstances,” she insisted during her testimony on Wednesday. The soldiers of our country are not policemen. They are not trained for crowd control. »
She recalled that under the National Defense Act, the army should be used “as a last resort”. Minister Anita Anand also feared adding fuel to the fire if CAF heavy tow trucks driven by uniformed soldiers were used to remove trucks blocking the Coutts, Alta., border crossing. Jason Kenney, who was premier of that province at the time, requested it.
She added that the army has only a small number of tow trucks, that they are used more to pull tanks out of ditches and that “because they are so wide and so heavy” they would have “significantly” damaged the roads.
Although this is a last resort, Mr.me Anand acknowledged that his ministry had worked on the possibility of using the CAF without the government seriously considering it.
The Minister of Justice, David Lametti, had however mentioned the use of Canadian soldiers in an exchange of text messages with the Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, on February 2. The trucks then blocked the city center of the federal capital for six days.
“You have to get the police moving,” Mr. Lametti wrote to his colleague. And the CAF if necessary. Too many people are seriously affected by what is an occupation. »
“How many tanks are you asking for?” replies M. Mendicino. I just want to ask Anita [Anand] how many we have available. »
“I think one will do!” concludes Mr. Lametti.
During his testimony, Minister David Lametti indicated that it was “a joke between two friends” and that the army was never considered since it was the last resort after the Emergency Measures Act which is the “second last resort”.
” Lack of transparency ”
Minister Lametti invoked professional secrecy on numerous occasions, thus avoiding giving details of a legal opinion surrounding the historic use of this exceptional legislation. Commission lawyer Gordon Cameron lamented the government’s “lack of transparency” in making “a black box of what turned out to be a central issue” for this public inquiry.
The crux of the matter is the dual interpretation of the definition of a threat to national security. These are espionage and sabotage, foreign interference and the use of serious violence and activities aimed at overthrowing the government under the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. This same definition is repeated in the Emergency Measures Actbut the government interpreted it more broadly to justify the extraordinary powers granted to stop truck convoys.
“The Government will no doubt present the Commission with a legal argument as to why recourse to the law was justified, but we will never know if it is the same understanding of the law that Cabinet Ministers had when they made the decision,” criticized Canadian Civil Liberties Association lawyer Cara Zwibel.
It demands that the federal government waive professional secrecy “in these exceptional circumstances”. The public inquiry led by Judge Paul Rouleau must determine whether recourse to the Emergency Measures Act was justified.