The recent court decision by a federal judge which determined that the federal government did not meet the standard to invoke the Emergencies Act during the 2022 convoy protests has generated mixed feelings among many Canadians.
While the powers granted by the Emergencies Act were far-reaching and perhaps even heavy-handed in some cases, the other element to this situation was the public disorder created by the protests themselves.
Despite claims of their largely peaceful nature, the protesters did hold downtown Ottawa effectively hostage for several weeks– obviously blurring the line between legitimate expression of democratic protest and outright illegal conduct. At the height of the protest, there were groups among the protesters claiming to hold policing powers and governing authority they had no right to claim, with some even bringing forward proposals to bring the federal Liberal government down in a way which was not remotely democratic.
In Alberta, the Coutts crossing blockade was another example where those lines were blurred– especially when the RCMP found a well-armed insurrectionist group with alleged violent intent toward police in its midst.
Did the federal government need to invoke the Emergencies Act? Many Canadians were ambivalent on that point at the time and remain so. The test for that will now pass into the domain of the Supreme Court of Canada as the federal government signalled it would appeal last week’s decision.
However, there was a feeling among Canadians at the time that police and governments were failing in their duties to take action to restore public order, and therefore failing in their most fundamental duty to Canadians.
Right or wrong, it was against this backdrop of perceived, and later at the Rouleau Commission well-documented, failure the federal government chose to invoke the act.