The report from the Public Order Emergency Commission shows that Commissioner Paul Rouleau was lacking the necessary information to make his ruling, in which he said he found “with reluctance” that the use of the Emergencies Act to clear convoy protests was justified. The report is critical of everyone involved—the police, social media, and the government—yet it allows the federal government to claim a victory. This victory, however, is a pyrrhic one.
The issue of perception must also be considered. Reports have surfaced of Justice Rouleau’s past work with the Liberal Party. This is not to take away from Mr. Rouleau personally, but in such delicate matters justice must be seen to be done. Prime Minister Trudeau would have done better to appoint a judge with a Conservative background.
Rouleau’s decision is comparable to a parent recognizing the inappropriateness of a child’s misuse of the family car in hitting a pedestrian, yet still handing over the car keys for the child to go out with friends. Those who watched the hearings saw firsthand the multiple cases where government officials redacted documents and ministers, such as David Lametti, refused to answer questions due to a claimed privilege. It is unfortunate that Mr. Rouleau did not hold the government accountable for such lack of transparency. His recommendations demonstrate that, as a commissioner, he did not have all the information he needed.
Despite that, he did not criticize the government and instead his ruling effectively overlooks the abuse of power, and lowers the bar for future governments to impose restrictive measures against those with whom they disagree. The government’s pyrrhic victory is due to the fact that the trucker Freedom Convoy was a crucial moment in Canadian political history, when the average Canadian who was negatively impacted by Mr. Trudeau’s demonization and overreach realized that they could peacefully protest. The commission’s contradictory and confusing report will not take away that realization.
Rouleau’s recommendations, especially numbers 37–49, are proof that all was not right in his assignment. For example, Recommendation 37 says the Emergencies Act should be changed to allow any future inquiry to be pursuant to Part 1 of the Inquiries Act, which allows the inquiry to be unrestricted in getting to the bottom of the matter. This was not done for his inquiry. There are other recommendations that demonstrate Rouleau’s awkward position of being asked to review the government’s actions but then not being given the tools to do so.
It is essential that we, as Canadians, stay alert in these unprecedented times of increased government power. We cannot give the government the benefit of the doubt.