Mounties used emergency powers as a 'big deterrent,' says head of RCMP
Liberals pressed to justify use of Emergencies Act to handle Ottawa protest
The head of the RCMP says the powers given to her officers through the Emergencies Act served as "a big deterrent" in policing anti-vaccine mandate protests that occupied the streets of downtown Ottawa for nearly a month.
Commissioner Brenda Lucki's remarks before a parliamentary committee Friday afternoon come during a heated political debate over whether the Liberal government was justified in invoking the Emergencies Act.
Earlier this month, the federal government invoked new powers to address anti-vaccine mandate protesters and blockades — including the authority to ban travel to protest zones and prohibit people from bringing minors to unlawful assemblies.
"We don't have anything in laws that prevent people from coming to protests and we can't turn them away. So for us, operationally, it was all about reducing that footprint in Ottawa and the only way to do that was to stop people from coming in or incentivizing them to leave," Lucki told MPs on the public safety and national security committee looking into the federal government's response to the protests.
"We used it as a big deterrent for people to come into the area. So, yes, in fact, we did use the measures that were put in the Emergencies Act, along with other authorities that we had."
Lucki and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino took questions from MPs Friday morning about whether police had sufficient authority to curb the occupation without having to trigger the never-before-used legislation.
Conservative MP Raquel Dancho, the party's public safety critic, repeatedly asked the minister to state whether public safety was at risk.
"So you believe that there was a serious national security threat to public safety," she said.
"I would just point out that from the very outset of the illegal blockade, that a number of organizers and leaders of the so-called Freedom Convoy made a number of profoundly concerning and extremist statements calling for the overthrow of the government through violence," Mendicino said Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revoked the Emergencies Act on Wednesday, saying the situation in Ottawa and at border crossings is no longer an emergency.
An inquiry into the government's decision to invoke the act and subsequent police actions will begin within 60 days.
Trudeau said Parliamentarians will establish a committee to oversee that review next week.
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