Laura Osman, Jim Bronskill and Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, November 14, 2022 5:16PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 14, 2022 5:16PM EST
OTTAWA – Liberal cabinet ministers deemed last winter’s “Freedom Convoy” protests a threat to national security, despite warnings from the federal intelligence agency that threshold was not met, an inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act learned Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act on Feb. 14, arguing its temporary and extraordinary powers were needed to end blockades in Ottawa and at border crossings.
The legislation says a public order emergency is one that comes from a “serious threat to the security of Canada, as defined by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.”
The definition includes espionage or sabotage of Canada’s interests, foreign-influenced activities, or the violent overthrow of the government.
The Public Order Emergency Commission, which is holding hearings in Ottawa until Nov. 25, is tasked with determining whether the government was justified in triggering the legislation.
A document summarizing the evidence from David Vigneault, director of CSIS, shows he believed the protest “at no time” posed a threat to Canada’s security and that there were no signs of foreign interference.
“He felt an obligation to clearly convey the service’s position that there did not exist a threat to the security of Canada as defined by the service’s legal mandate,” said the document, which was released on Monday through the public inquiry.
CSIS was, however, monitoring subjects of intelligence investigations who were taking part in the protests.
Vigneault, who is expected to testify before the commission next week, advised cabinet that invoking the Emergencies Act could further inflame extreme anti-government rhetoric.
Rob Stewart, who was deputy minister of public safety at the time of the protests, told the commission on Monday that the government would have a more broad interpretation of what constitutes a national security threat.
“The cabinet is making that decision and their interpretation of the law is what governs here,” Stewart told the commission. “And their decision was evidently that the threshold was met.”
Brendan Miller, a lawyer for the Ottawa “Freedom Convoy” protesters, suggested that no federal agency advised cabinet that the protest posed a national threat, as defined in the legislation.
“You have the RCMP, you have CSIS, you have the entire intelligence apparatus in the federal government and none of them said that this threshold was met, did they?” Miller asked Stewart during cross-examination Monday.
“They weren’t asked,” Stewart said.
The government worried that the longer the protest went on, the more likely it was that ideologically motivated violent extremists would take advantage of the situation, said Dominic Rochon, the senior assistant deputy minister of the national and cybersecurity branch of the government.
“That was a significant concern for the security intelligence community,” Rochon said during his testimony Monday.
By the time the act was invoked on Feb. 14, Ottawa streets had been barricaded by large idling trucks and huge groups of protesters calling for an end to COVID-19 public health restrictions for weeks, forcing the closure of many businesses in the downtown area.
Two major international border crossings in Alberta and Ontario had recently been cleared, but other smaller demonstrations continued across the country.
In a letter to premiers on Feb. 15, Trudeau said the federal government believed the situation reached a point “where there is a national emergency arising from threats to Canada’s security.”
“We are facing significant economic disruptions, with the breakdown of supply chains. This is costing Canadians their jobs and undermining our economic and national security, with potentially significant impacts on the health and safety of Canadians,” he wrote.
“It is affecting Canada’s reputation internationally, hurting trade and commerce, and undermining confidence and trust in our institutions.”
The testimony Monday provided the commission with its first look behind the curtain at cabinet discussions before they invoked the act for the first time since it replaced the War Measures Act in 1988.
As early as Feb. 7, John Ossowski, who was then-president of the Canada Border Services Agency, suggested to federal, provincial and territorial officials that the Emergencies Act could be used to compel tow truck drivers to help remove large rigs, the commission has learned.
On Feb. 10, cabinet formally discussed the idea of invoking the act. A summary of notes from an emergency cabinet committee meeting that day says Trudeau raised the notion of two tracks forward: actions that could be undertaken under existing authorities, and the process of invoking the Emergencies Act.
Most of the details from the ensuing discussion have been blacked out.
Cabinet ministers did consider plans to engage with the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa in an effort to shrink the protest.
Stewart tolda cabinet committee on Feb. 8 that 80 per cent of protesters in Ottawa had a “weak” connection to the protest.
An Ontario Provincial Police negotiator suggested protest leaders might be encouraged to leave and denounce the blockade in exchange for being able to register their complains with the federal government.
It was hoped many demonstrators would then leave before police moved in to clear the protest, but the idea was abandoned after a discussion among ministers.
Stewart says the effort was not co-ordinated with other attempts by the provincial and municipal governments to engage with the protest organizers.
When preparing to brief the public on the government’s decision to invoke the act, Stewart encouraged staff to come up with examples of ways police could use the new powers to quash the protests and stop new ones from cropping up, according to an email released by the public inquiry.
“I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of great ideas because there aren’t a lot of significant benefits, but we have to try to tout (public safety) portfolio specifics as much as we can,” Stewart wrote on Feb. 14.
Stewart told the commission Monday that he underestimated the benefits of the Emergencies Act, which proved useful in clearing the demonstrations.
“There was, within two weeks, very little manifestation of those kinds of protests around the country,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2022.
Canada province experiments with decriminalising hard drugs – BBC
Canada’s province of British Columbia is starting a first-in-the-nation trial decriminalising small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
From Tuesday, adults can possess up to 2.5g of such drugs, as well as methamphetamine, fentanyl and morphine.
It follows a similar policy in the nearby US state of Oregon, which decriminalised hard drugs in 2020.
Ahead of the pilot’s launch, British Columbia and federal officials outlined the rules under the federally approved exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
While those substances will remain illegal, adults found in possession of a combined total of less than 2.5g of the drugs will not be arrested, charged or have their substances seized. Instead, they will be offered information on available health and social services.
Federal minister of mental health and addictions Carolyn Bennett on Monday called the move “a monumental shift in drug policy that favours fostering trusting and supportive relationships in health and social services over further criminalisation”.
Some 10,000 residents have died from drug overdoses since British Columbia declared drugs to be a public health emergency in 2016, officials said.
“Decriminalising people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports,” said Jennifer Whiteside, the British Columbia minister for mental health and addictions.
Thousands of police officers in the province have been offered training on the rule change, including those in Vancouver, the largest city in the province.
The programme will run from 31 January 2023 until 31 January 2026, unless it is revoked by the federal government.
Some experts have questioned the 2.5g limit, saying that it is not enough to account for the habits of many addicts.
There are some exemptions to the scheme.
The sale of drugs remains illegal. It is also illegal to possess drugs on the grounds of schools, childcare facilities and airports.
Canada legalised the use of recreational cannabis for adults nationwide in 2018.
But the four drugs now allowed in small quantities remain prohibited, meaning there are no plans to sell them in stores, unlike marijuana. Trafficking them across borders also remains illegal.
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Health Canada reviewing safety of controversial breastfeeding drug – CBC.ca
Health Canada has launched a safety review of the psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping or reducing use of a drug commonly prescribed to help women breastfeed.
The agency confirmed the review in an email to CBC News.
“A safety review is currently under way for domperidone and drug withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing the dose of domperidone used to stimulate lactation,” the statement said.
Domperidone is approved in Canada to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Health Canada has never authorized its use as a lactation aid, but it is widely prescribed off-label for this purpose.
The Health Canada review follows a CBC News investigation into severe psychological effects that can occur when some women stop taking the drug. Women who spoke to CBC described anxiety, lack of sleep and thoughts of self-harm severe enough that in some cases they became incapable of caring for their children or returning to work. One woman described multiple attempts to take her own life.
CBC’s investigation also found domperidone is prescribed by some doctors to stimulate lactation at doses three to five times higher than what is recommended by both Health Canada and the drug manufacturer. Because this is not an approved use or dosage anywhere in the world, there are no large-scale clinical trials that shed any light on how often these side effects occur.
This makes it challenging for regulators like Health Canada to evaluate the safety of a drug for an off-label purpose, said Mina Tadrous, an assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto who specializes in drug safety.
“The company may not have intended it for that, so the original clinical trials were not designed for that. And so it means that they have to look at different mechanisms to be able to evaluate the safety of these drugs,” he said.
That can include looking at data from other countries with larger populations, according to Tadrous.
Case studies document concerns
There are, however, case studies documenting the withdrawal effects, including three published in November 2022 in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine. Domperidone blocks dopamine receptors in the brain, which stimulates the release of prolactin. This causes lactation, the authors note, but can also cause domperidone to act as an antipsychotic. The authors also noted withdrawal symptoms are typically less severe when women taper off the drug slowly.
The most recent case studies are from the United States, where domperidone is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for any purpose. CBC’s investigation found some American women get the drug from doctors in Canada.
Health Canada will review “all relevant domestic and foreign case reports,” the statement said.
Reviews can result in Health Canada requesting more information, studies or monitoring by the manufacturer. They can also result in warnings to patients and health care providers, changes to how a drug is labelled or, if necessary, the withdrawal of a drug from the market “if the benefits no longer outweigh the risks of the product,” according to the statement released by the department.
“The decision to take action, including issuing a warning, is not based solely on the number of case reports, but on a comprehensive assessment of the information contained in these case reports,” Health Canada’s statement said.
“Should new safety risks be confirmed, Health Canada will take appropriate action and continue to keep Canadians informed.”
WATCH | Women report alarming withrawal effects after taking domperidone as a lactation aid:
The distinction between quantity and quality of reports is important, Tadrous said, because large numbers of reports, especially from non-clinicians, may only indicate people believe there’s a connection between a drug and a reaction.
“That’s the lesson we’ve learned with vaccines, for example, where these adverse event systems are flooded,” he said.
“And so if you base something just on the number of reports without doing a thorough investigation and a different type of study design that reduces bias … you might reach a false conclusion.”
Health Canada has conducted multiple safety reviews of domperidone, most recently in 2021. Previous reviews confirmed the risk of serious abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death related to domperidone use. These reviews resulted in Health Canada introducing a maximum daily dose recommendation of 30 mg and restricting its use in patients with certain cardiac conditions or taking other drugs.
The Holocaust strikes our very being
To be a Jew is not something special,
being a human being is normal.
Dealing with prejudice, hatred, and oppressive action,
now that’s something special for the Jewish Nation.
Oppression, hatred, and genocide besides,
is not just a Jewish person’s situation.
Armenian, Cambodian and Jewish Peoples deal,
with a national eradication event.
People of the world unit,
genocide is an international delight.
Oppress your people, crush opposition too.
The elites of the world are making exceptions for you.
Don’t be weak, allowing excuses to be made,
but lift your hands in justice’s cruel wave.
Hatred knows no reasonability, it knows no mercy.
Hatred, oppression, and prejudice need no exception.
Long ago Jews were murdered by the millions,
Cambodians died at the hands of their neighbors.
Palestine still walks within the borders of other nations,
and peace is nowhere to be found, my friend.
If your arms are in righteous ways demand justice for all,
for the people who hate will not see our peaceful ways.
A gun, a bayonet, and a saber be brought,
for the right to justice begins today,
and ends with blood if the opposition has any say.
Gandhi spoke of peaceful ways,
while Martin Luther Jr surrendered his life. to the cause.
Young blacks die each and every day,
while the power of prejudice wins the day.
My first lifts in anger that is for sure,
while the average person just shrugs this day.
But the goose-stepping troops may one day march on,
and the ignorance that prevails will let them carry on.
Open our eyes to the wrongs before us,
clear our minds and accept what bothers us.
Injustice is a prevailing horrid thing,
and ONLY YOU CAN BRING IT TO AN END.
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