On Day 22 of the Emergencies Act hearings, it was revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) told the federal cabinet that the Freedom Convoy did not constitute a threat to national security just one day prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Act.
Under questioning from Convoy lawyer Brendan Miller, the former deputy minister for public safety Rob Stewart confirmed that CSIS advised the federal cabinet that the Freedom Convoy did not pose a national security threat.
A document was presented to the commission which detailed the conversations that CSIS officials had with members of the federal cabinet throughout the Freedom Convoy protests.
The document stated that the Director of CSIS, David Vigneault, told the federal cabinet, “at no point did the Service (CSIS) assess that the protests in Ottawa or elsewhere constituted a threat to national security as defined by Section 2 of the CSIS Act,” and “CSIS cannot investigate activity constituting lawful protest.”
Vigneault also went on to clearly state that CSIS had no evidence to suggest that foreign state interference was involved in the Freedom Convoy.
The document reads: “CSIS assessed that there was no indication of foreign state interference occurring in the course of the protests.”
According to the same document, when Vigneault became aware that the federal government was seriously considering invoking the unprecedented measures to quash the Freedom Convoy, he “felt an obligation to clearly convey the Service’s position that there did not exist a threat to security of Canada as defined by the Service’s legal mandate.”
Vigneault’s final consultation with cabinet occurred on February 13, just one day prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Act.
In order for the government to be justified in invoking the Emergencies Act, the text of the legislation states that the government must declare a Public Order Emergency. A Public Order Emergency means an emergency that arises from “threats to the security of Canada.”
In the Emergencies Act legislation, “threats to the security of Canada” is defined by Section 2 of the CSIS Act.
When asked by Convoy lawyer Miller if Stewart was told by Vigneault that the Freedom Convoy did not constitute a threat to national security, Stewart responded, “that is correct.”
You can watch the entire cross-examination of deputy minister Rob Stewart by Convoy lawyer Brenden Miller below.
Later on, Stewart was questioned by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) counsel regarding the failure of the federal government to consult law enforcement agencies about their plans to invoke the Emergencies Act.
“Which law enforcement agencies were consulted about the use of the act?” OPP counsel asked Stewart.
“What I would say to you is there were no police agencies asked about the act itself. They were always asked, ‘Do you need more tools?’,” Stewart responded.
“So my question is, which agencies were asked whether they need more tools?”
“Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), OPP and Ottawa Police Service (OPS)”, Stewart responded.
Counsel for the OPP then pushed back and told Stewart that the OPP Commissioner, Thomas Carrique testified that he was never consulted on the use of the act or about what tools the federal government could provide to the OPP.
When asked if he would have any reason to dispute Carrique’s testimony, Stewart said that he wouldn’t have firsthand knowledge of the communications between the federal government and law enforcement agencies and that all communication to law enforcement agencies was handled by the RCMP.
Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms Lawyer Rob Kittredge asked Stewart if agreed with other law enforcement witnesses at the Inquiry if the Emergencies Act was “useful but not necessary” to clear protesters.
“I believe that the invocation of the Emergencies Act provided very useful tools to law enforcement.”
“Useful tools, but not necessary tools,” Kittredge responded back to Stewart.
“I’m not in a position to render an opinion on that,” Stewart responded. “Upon the invocation of the act and the use of those tools the protests stopped. That goes beyond useful.”
Prior to taking the stand in front of the commission, each witness is required to give a witness summary interview with the commission. In Stewart’s witness summary, he told the Emergencies Act commission that the Emergencies Act “became a real option on or around February 11.”
Testifying with Stewart today was Dominic Rochon, the assistant deputy minister of public safety.
What happens next?
Hearings resume tomorrow morning at 9:30am ET.
Scheduled to testify tomorrow is deputy minister of Foreign Affairs Cindy Termorshuizen and the Canada’s Consul General for Detroit Joe Comartin.
True North will continue to provide daily coverage of the ongoing Public Order Emergency Commission.