Inquiry into Emergencies Act set to start soon

The official inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act will be announced soon.

An inquiry into the use of act must be called by April 25

A legislature tower seen between a gap in a temporary fence.
The Peace Tower is seen between panels of temporary fencing, Wednesday, Feb. 23 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The official inquiry into the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act will be announced soon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act for the first time in Canada's history during the Freedom Convoy, giving the federal government temporary powers to deal with the blockades and protests against pandemic restrictions. 

It was revoked on Feb. 23, after police successfully cleared Ottawa streets and ended adjacent protests. By law, an inquiry into the use of the act must be called within 60 days of the declaration being revoked. 

Canada's Privy Council Office (PCO), which co-ordinates actions of government across departments and serves as the bureaucracy for the Prime Minister's Office, confirmed an inquiry would be established by April 25.

"The report of the inquiry must be tabled in each House of Parliament within 360 days of the revocation of the emergency declaration," said a statement from the PCO. "Further details will be announced in due course."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the end of the Emergencies Act during a news conference, Wednesday, Feb. 23 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau cited "serious challenges to law enforcement's ability to effectively enforce the law" when he announced its use. 

"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions," he said.

The unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act, according to Trudeau, gave police tools to restore order in places where public assemblies were considered illegal and dangerous activities, like blockades.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at the time Canadian financial institutions could temporarily cease providing financial services in instances where there was suspicion an account was being used to further illegal blockades and occupations. 

When first announced, premiers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec expressed concern over invoking the act. 

Joint committee reviewing Emergencies Act

In March, a special joint committee started reviewing the use of the Emergencies Act.

Seven MPs and four senators, representing each of Parliament's recognized groups and parties, reviewed the exercising of the powers given under the act.

That committee will meet again next week. It has not yet released any findings. 

Inquiry can hear witnesses, review records

The Emergencies Act sets out the terms for cabinet to set up the inquiry. It says an inquiry must be held "into the circumstances that led to the declaration being issued and the measures taken for dealing with the emergency."

A report must be tabled in each House of Parliament by Feb. 18, 2023. 

Inquiries typically involve witnesses offering testimony, the review of records and the use of experts to assist parliamentarians. 

With files from Catharine Tunney