Politics

Liberal government will allow Emergencies Act inquiry to see cabinet documents

The Liberal government has waived cabinet confidence over documents relating to its invocation of the Emergencies Act, agreeing to a request from the head of the public inquiry examining the use of the act.

Emergencies Act invoked in February to address the weeks-long anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa

Police clutch batons as they form a line to block Sparks Street, restricting access to the streets near Parliament Hill in an effort to bring to an end a protest, which started in opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandates and grew into a broader anti-government demonstration and occupation of Ottawa. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Liberal government has waived cabinet confidence over documents relating to its invocation of the Emergencies Act, agreeing to a request from the head of the public inquiry examining the use of the act.

Paul Rouleau, the head of the Public Order Emergency Commission, requested the cabinet confidence be waived on documents that cabinet used to make the decision to invoke the act in order to provide full transparency on the government's decision.

"This exceptional step recognizes the fundamental importance of the Commission's work and how critical these documents are in inquiring into why the government declared a public order emergency," the commission co-counsels Shantona Chaudhury and Jeffrey Leon said in a statement.

This is only the fourth time in Canada' history that a public inquiry will be given access to cabinet documents, according to the commission.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act on Feb. 14 — for the first time in Canada's history — during the anti-COVID-19 mandate protests and subsequent occupation of Ottawa.

The act gave the federal government temporary powers to deal with the blockades that gridlocked Ottawa for three weeks last winter as protesters blocked neighbourhood access and main arteries around Parliament Hill by clogging the streets with trucks and other vehicles.

The commission announced on Monday who would be granted standing in the public inquiry, including governments of all three levels, convoy organizers and police.

Granting groups or individuals standing allows them certain privileges in the inquiry process, including the ability to suggest witnesses or cross-examine them. It also means they are given advance notice on documents being submitted into evidence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Major

CBC journalist

Darren Major can be reached via email darren.major@cbc.ca or by tweeting him @DMajJourno.

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