And I know you are not likely smiling. We are not embracing a day of peace and love and rest. Our collective nerves are strained. For many of us, the last 96 hours have brought tears.
It is unthinkable. It is unthinkable in the way of a bad dream. Tossing and turning, you feel sure when you open your eyes it will be gone. Because it is unreal. Impossible. A 1940s style hot war in modern day Europe. A democratic and peaceful country has been invaded. The aggressor is less a nation than one unhinged autocrat – Vladimir Putin.
To make sense of this week, permit me to wind back the clock to Monday and fill you in on my vote on the Emergencies Act and then get back to where we are now.
If you have read the last few Sunday letters, you will know I had not decided on my vote. I had concluded the legal tests to use the Public Order section of the Emergencies Act had been met. Still, I was not prepared to vote “yes” without greater clarity and limitations on the regulations. Knowing we were using this act for the first time, I wanted to be sure we had circumscribed powers to leave a strong record of what was permissible and what was not. (To get a lot more background and deeper detail, go to the P.S. and read what I wrote to a constituent about those legal tests).
From Tuesday the 15th until Monday the 21st, I was in frequent conversation with a number of Cabinet Ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and also opposition MPs. Our own caucus of Mike Morrice, Amita Kuttner and our key staff members also met frequently. Marco Mendicino (Minister of Public Safety) and David Lametti (Minister of Justice) understood my concerns, and amidst everything else going on, we negotiated. I am really happy that my work made a difference. We now have a clear precedent for limitations. This government understood that it had no ability to use the regulations other than within strict limits – geographical and specific, only related to this particular set of actors.
I had the great good luck of having a question in Question Period February 21, the day of the vote and a previously unscheduled day (a statutory holiday). I had the commitments from the Minister of Justice in personal conversation, but we both needed to get them on the record. He agreed that if I asked him the question, we would have it nailed down. We also made sure there was a solid answer from Minister Mendicino on the question of pursuing trivial amounts of money from well-meaning supporters of the convoy who never realized the activity would be illegal. That was also nailed down in QP. Here is our exchange: https://
That answer was exactly what I needed to vote yes. My colleague, Mike Morrice, decided he still wanted to vote no. He posted his thinking on his website – https://mikemorricemp.ca/
1) A National Commission of Inquiry into racism and white supremacy in policing and in our military;
2) A full inquiry into the events surrounding the occupation of Ottawa, including failures in intelligence and the chain of command in local government and police;
3) New regulations over funding outside of Elections Act or Charities Act to deal with on-line funding of extremists; tracking, reporting and transparency
4) Better protections in law for journalists from harassment and abuse.
My media statement is here:
Leader, Amita Kuttner, put out a Green Party statement the next day stressing how differently we operate – no whipped votes – and a lot of respect- in confronting complex and difficult issues. https://www.
Nine days after declaring the Public Order Emergency, on February 23rd, Cabinet rescinded it. This was exactly what I expected. In fact, I had suggested they void them even earlier. We clearly needed the Emergencies Act to get the entrenched occupation of Ottawa to end. But once cleared, conventional policing should suffice. Why some police initially acted as a concierge service for the 18 wheelers is something that will be investigated. Actions in the occupation of Ottawa and related actions across the country may still result in criminal charges. Tamara Lich, alleged ringleader, sat in court in her “I love oil and gas” t-shirt. Her husband asserted he had First Amendment rights. It makes you wonder about their information sources when so many of the convoy participants do not seem to know what country they live in. (see this excellent analysis from law professor Martha Jackman: https://nawl.ca/
We do need to confront the serious damage done to Canadian democracy by social media, “alternative facts”, and, yes, specifically Russian disinform
The Russian invasion of Ukraine must be denounced in every quarter. Observers note that Putin seems paranoid and unplugged, even from some of his most senior cabinet members. Massive propaganda efforts have been underway in Russia to convince the population there was no other choice. It does not seem they are persuaded.
I draw hope from the reality that while Putin’s aggression reminds of some of the worst dictators in history, the actions of the Russian people in standing up against war does not have that historical precedent. Thousands of Russians have taken to the streets, with thousands arrested. Hundreds of NGOs, journalists and scientists have signed open letters condemning the invasion. This is from the scientists’ letter: “We, Russian scientists and scientific journalists, declare a strong protest against the military actions initiated by the armed forces of our country on the territory of Ukraine. This fatal step leads to huge loss of life and undermines the foundations of the existing system of international security. The responsibility for unleashing a new war in Europe lies entirely with Russia.
“There are no reasonable excuses for this war. Attempts to use the situation in Donbass as a reason for the deployment of a military operation are not credible. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought together against Nazism. The outbreak of war for the sake of the geopolitical ambitions of the leadership of the Russian Federation, driven by dubious historiosophical fantasies, is a cynical betrayal of their memory.”
There are many important articles in the last few days. I include some links:
Bill McKibben on how ending fossil fuels ends Putin.
Terry Glavin on how we must crush the Putin cronies (with money not bombs)
Andrew Nikiforuk on Putin and global fascism:
If you are on Twitter, Thomas Homer-Dixon’s key thread on four things to know about Putin:
And here- how to donate to support the courageous people of Ukraine:
Tomorrow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group II will issue its Sixth Assessment Report. It will be important news. Pray we hear it over the gunfire. Next week, let’s hope, we can wake up to better news.
All for now.
Thank you for sharing your concerns about the use of the Emergencies Act. As you know the declaration was in effect from February 15-23rd. It is no longer operative.
The Emergencies Act was developed in the late 1980s, coupled with repealing the infamous War Measures Act.
The Emergencies Act was drafted by a parliamentary committee that did not have stress and pressure of any emergency at the time. I find the law very well constructed and thoughtful in its measures. It covers four types of emergencies: Public Welfare (such as pandemics and major natural disasters), Public Order, such as in this case, International Emergency and lastly, a War emergency.
Unlike the War Measures Act, the Emergencies Act does not suspend civil liberties. It preserves Charter Rights. It also respects provincial jurisdictions. It does not allow for the federal government to bring in the military for anything but a War emergency. It must be underscored that the War emergency provisions were not invoked. I worry that so many public statements from those who opposed use of the act seemed very confused on this point.
It ensures that the Prime Minister and Cabinet are not allowed to call the shots without parliamentary oversight. That is why we had an intense debate over four days. The law requires that within seven sitting days of Cabinet issuing its declaration, Parliament must debate the issue and vote on it. There must be an on-going parliamentary committee to oversee how the act is being used.
As noted, the declaration of a Public Order Emergency was in effect for nine days. Under the Act, it was restricted to a possible 30 days. It could have been extended – again with Parliament agreeing. Instead, as I expected, it was in place for three weeks less than was permissible.
In the course of the debate on the use of the declaration, I made it clear that the legal tests had been met. I want to share with you how and why I made that determination.
For a Public Order Emergency, there must be “threats to the security of Canada.” Those words are not subject to individual interpretation or subjective judgement. The Act is clear that the words “threats to the security of Canada” must meet the definition of the same phrase in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. I am including the full definition so you can see what it is and what it is not. A Public Order Emergency can never be declared unless it fits one of these definitions:
Threats to the security of Canada means
(a) espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage,
(b) foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person,
(c) activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state, and
(d) activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of, the constitutionally established system of government in Canada,
but does not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any of the activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d). (menaces envers la sécurité du Canada)
As the so-called “Freedom Convoy” had a lot of foreign influence – from both United States financial supporters and from Russian disinformation sites – and as that foreign influence was not transparent (the way funding to environmental groups from US foundations is reported and public) but was in fact “clandestine and deceptive, as is required by the act, I see definition(b) as met.
The rise in belief in things that are simply not true can be tracked to foreign propaganda outlets, particularly those from Russia. This is a threat to our democracy. This article came out the day of the vote and is important reading: https://thetyee.ca/
Having established the legal test was met, I still could not vote in favour of approving the government’s action without clarity about the regulations. They appeared disconnected from the limitations expressed in the declaration itself. were overly broad. I explained those concerns in the only speech I gave on the matter on Thursday night, February 17th.
Summing up, I had fewer concerns with using the Public Order Emergency provisions than with the regulations that accompany them.
It was not until the day of the vote that I was able to get on the public record a clarification and commitments that will prevent misuse of the Act in future. After many conversations with the Ministers of Public Safety and Justice, I received assurances and a commitment from these two key ministers in Monday’s Question Period.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino committed that invasive actions relating to bank accounts would involve, each and every time, due process and Charter compliance.
The even larger issue about the overly broad regulations was decisively nailed down by Minister of Justice David Lametti in Question Period:
Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, as hon. colleagues will know, from the beginning I have been very concerned that the regulations appear overly broad and not connected to the declaration itself. I want to ask the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada if he is satisfied, then he can satisfy me, that the declaration is tied to these regulations and that they cannot be used other than for this specific emergency as described in the declaration.
Hon. David Lametti (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.
The way in which the regulations for orders are based in the declaration as well as the way in which they are written clearly indicate that they flow from the declaration. So, I can assure the hon. member and I can assure Canadians that the regulations for orders can only be used for combatting this particular emergency and no other situation.
Justice Minister David Lametti gave me the clear answer I needed, not just for me in the present, but in future to avoid an overly broad misinterpretation that would open the door to setting a dangerous precedent.
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens