OTTAWA – The Green Party was the only party whose MPs entered days of debate on the historic occasion of the first use of the Emergencies Act without a predetermined position. We believe it is fundamental to our democracy to listen to and engage in open debate, especially on something so impactful. Coming into the process with a decision already made diminishes the conversation and the democratic process, as well as deepening current divisions.
At the 11th hour, the Prime Minister made this a vote of confidence, saying that a no vote signals distrust in government while a yes vote is a vote to support our democracy. Instead of using this moment to build community and to discuss the role of government in ensuring every person’s basic needs are being met, we have all been forced into a hyper-politicised us-versus-them decision that has major implications not just now but into the future.
Greens believe strongly that this should have been an open vote for everyone and not one whipped by the party or its leader, to avoid partisan posturing and ensure that members can be true representatives of their constituents on such a historic and significant vote. Peace, order, and good governance are foundational to Canadian democracy. In practice, this means building trust and dialogue with fellow MPs, and working with them to improve legislation, as Green MPs have always done.
It also means voting in a principled and consistent way based on information gained through honest debate and authentic engagement with constituents who entrusted us as their representatives. Sometimes this means voting with the government, sometimes it means voting against.
Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands) said: “This was the most difficult decision of my time as Member of Parliament. Over the last nearly eleven years, I have read and studied every bill, listened to evidence and, relatively quickly, known where I stood. This vote on the declaration of the Public Order Emergency was one with which I struggled.
“I was not sure how I would vote until Question Period on February 21, when the government confirmed two key issues for me. Firstly, that invasive actions relating to bank accounts would involve, each and every time, due process and Charter compliance. More significantly for me was resolving an issue that I felt could leave a door open to a future government to misuse the Emergencies Act. The issue I raised in my speech on February 17, that the regulations applied nationally and were far too broad, untied from the declaration and current emergency. Justice Minister David Lametti gave me the clear answer I need, 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.”
Mike Morrice (MP, Kitchener Centre) said: “This is about whether the Emergencies Act was necessary, and whether all legal criteria needed to enact it were met. I did not take this decision lightly. I made my decision after participating in the debate and learning from my colleagues in the House of Commons, and from experts across the country, listening to perspectives from all sides – both within the House and from my neighbours in Kitchener. While I understand some feel differently, I have not been persuaded by the reasons provided to Parliament that the criteria for the Act have been met.”
On an issue this complex and important, it is not unusual for people with similar principles and values to come to different conclusions. Governments at all levels have been playing politics throughout this pandemic instead of setting aside jurisdictional bickering to work together to resolve long-standing systemic issues and build resilient communities. That there remains disagreement on the implementation of the Emergencies Act proves the government has further responsibility to build consensus with MPs and with Canadians.
“I am proud of our MPs for voting the way they think best represents their constituents and what they feel is most appropriate,” said Interim Green Party leader, Amita Kuttner. “Good governance requires not coming to a debate having made up one’s mind, it means collaboration to achieve the best possible outcome, and dissenting when necessary.”
Ms. May added, “I do want to confirm my respect for MPs who voted no, and especially my colleague Mike Morrice. This was a very difficult decision and reasonable people have room to disagree. The larger issue is to continue to work to hold the government accountable and move forward on many fronts based on lessons learned.”
“Now that the occupation and blockades have been cleared, we need to take action to address the deep divisions in our society, to address the rise of white supremacy, and evaluate the police and government response,” said Mr. Morrice.
As we have seen throughout this pandemic and even before, there has been ongoing entrenchment of division throughout society. The level of violence and harassment people living in and around occupied communities have been forced to endure, the symbols of hate and desecration of sacred monuments, the foreign funding and disinformation campaigns attempting to overthrow our democracy, the inequity to which public safety is bestowed upon some while at the same time ripped away from others. These are all examples of injustices marginalised people have faced for centuries in this country and only now that these injustices are visited upon the historically privileged is it a crisis.
We should be prioritising these issues for debate as we move forward from this crisis. We need to be able to resolve these systemic issues authentically without sacrificing the most vulnerable in society. We need to be able to debate these issues openly and without partisanship. Meaningful debate cannot happen so long as MPs arrive with their minds already made up and they certainly cannot happen while MPs are under threat of an election by the Prime Minister.
The votes of Green MPs on the continued application of the Emergencies Act powers are not commentary on these debates but they do show the divisiveness of the government’s approach. We look forward to getting back to real conversations that don’t further entrench division, and to finding solutions that serve everyone.
The Green Party is now calling for:
- A National Commission of Inquiry into racism and white supremacy in policing, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Armed Forces.
- 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
- New regulations for tracking and reporting funding outside the Elections Act or Charities Act and directed to extremists.
- Creation of an anti-hate Ombudsperson, as called for by the Anti-Hate Network.
- Passage of private member’s Bill C-229 banning symbols of hate.
- Enhanced regulations to shut down on-line hate and disinformation masquerading as journalism/news.
- Legislation to protect journalists from legitimate news organisations from physical and verbal abuse constituting a threat to a free press.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
1-613-562-4916 ext. 215