OTTAWA — The public inquiry into the federal government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during “Freedom Convoy” protests last winter begins on Thursday, and dozens of witnesses, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and high-profile convoy organizers, are expected to testify.
The Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, granting to police extraordinary temporary powers to clear people out of downtown Ottawa and to banks to freeze the accounts of some of those involved.
The decision came after nearly three weeks of protesters whose trucks clogged downtown Ottawa streets and also set up blockades at several border crossings.
Protesters, who had raised millions of dollars through online crowdfunding sites, were calling for an end to the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and in some cases an end to the Trudeau government.
Protesters had set up a bouncy castle, a hot tub and dozens of structures on the streets surrounding Parliament Hill by mid-February, while people in big rigs kept their trucks running and blared their horns day and night until a court injunction lessened the noise. Protesters pledged to stay.
The noise and disruption led to mounting public frustration from people living nearby, and Ottawa police and city officials described a state of “lawlessness” as they struggled to maintain order.
Trudeau cited “serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law” when he announced plans to invoke the act for the first time since it was introduced in 1988.
“This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people’s jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions,” he said at the time.
The Emergencies Act requires that a public inquiry be called to examine the government’s decision-making any time it is invoked.
The Public Order Emergency Commission and Ontario Appeal Court JusticePaul Rouleau, who is the lead commissioner, will assess the basis for the government’s decision and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the measures taken to deal with the blockades. They will also review whether there should be any changes to the Emergencies Act itself.
Since it was established on April 25, the commission has been collecting documents and interviewing dozens of people, including central figures in the “Freedom Convoy” such as Tamara Lich, Chris Barber, Pat King and James Bauder — all facing criminal charges for their roles.
A draft list of potential witnesses at the hearings includes outgoing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and senior city officials, members of the Ottawa Police Services Board and David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Peter Sloly, who resigned as Ottawa police chief during the convoy, and his replacement, interim police chief Steve Bell, are also expected to testify. So are Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.
Mendicino told reporters last week the Emergencies Act was necessary to restore order across the country, including on Wellington Street “where for three weeks, the situation was virtually ungovernable.”
Temporary measures under the act gave police greater leeway to make arrests, impose fines, tow vehicles and freeze assets.
“We will co-operate fully with Judge Rouleau and his review and his commission, and look forward to receiving any lessons learned or any recommendations that come out of it,” Mendicino said.
Keith Wilson, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms who is representing a number of key convoy organizers, said his clients are eager to talk about what was happening and why they were in Ottawa.
“They’re hoping it will become apparent, which many already know, that there was no need to invoke the Emergencies Act,” he said.
A number of community groups representing people living in and around downtown Ottawa are also taking part.
“I’m hoping they will delve a little bit about the actual impact on businesses and residents and not just the occupation,” said Louise Lapointe, who leads Action Sandy Hill.
The government said it will be providing sensitive cabinet documents to the commission, but there have been concerns about whether that — and other critical information — will be made public. Rouleau has not said whether he will release information protected by cabinet confidence.
Ryan Alford, a professor at Lakehead University who is representing the Canadian Constitution Foundation at the inquiry, said he is concerned government and police agencies will try to shield evidence from the public, citing national security concerns.
“This would be a nightmare,” he said.
Commission lawyers will question witnesses, much like in a regular court setting, but unlike a court, the inquiry is tasked with fact-finding and making recommendations, rather than assigning blame.
Cara Zwibel, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says the process will hold government accountable and help get the full story about why cabinet enacted the emergency legislation.
The commission has until mid-February to deliver its final report to Parliament.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 10, 2022.
David Fraser, The Canadian Press
More 'police' centres run by China found around world: NGO – CTV News
A human rights organization says it has found dozens of additional overseas Chinese “police service centres” around the world, including at least two more in Canada.
In a new report released Monday called “Patrol and Persuade,” the Spain-based non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders says it used open source statements from People’s Republic of China authorities, Chinese police and state media to document at least 48 additional stations.
This on top of the 54 stations revealed in September, bringing the total number of documented centres to 102 in 53 countries. Some host countries also have co-operated in setting up these centres, Safeguard Defenders says.
The stations are accused of targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, particularly those who allegedly committed crimes in China, in order to coerce them to return home.
Safeguard Defenders reports that along with the three police “stations” previously confirmed in the Greater Toronto Area, which are operated out of the Chinese city of Fuzhou, it has found newly confirmed centres in Vancouver, operated out of Wenzhou, and another whose location is unknown but operates out of Nantong.
In a statement to CTV National News on Monday, the RCMP said it’s “investigating reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police’ stations.” No further details were provided.
A similar statement was given by the police force to CP24 in late October following the previous report of Toronto-area stations.
The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China said at the time that the stations are to help Chinese citizens renew their driver’s licences, given many of them are unable to return to China due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the “local volunteers” facilitating this “are not Chinese police officers.”
However, Safeguard Defenders says the vast majority of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, years before the pandemic began.
In its previous report in September, Safeguard Defenders found that Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022. Among the tactics used, Safeguard Defenders said, included denying suspects’ children in China the right to education and punishing relatives through “guilt by association.”
The U.S. Department of Justice accused seven people in October of a yearslong campaign to harass and intimidate a U.S. resident to return to China.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G20 summit in Indonesia in November, his office told reporters that he had raised concerns with Chinese President Xi Jinping of “interference” in Canada.
Asked about what specific interference he referred to, Trudeau later told the House of Commons, “We’ve known for many years that there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities, with local media, reports of illicit Chinese police stations.”
With files from CP24 Web Content Writer Joanna Lavoie, CTV National News Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy, CTV News Toronto Videojournalist Allison Hurst and The Canadian Press
Trudeau 'extremely concerned' about report Canadian parts ended up in Iranian drones – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Trudeau shared his worries with reporters in Ingersoll, Ont., Monday after the Globe and Mail reported on Sunday the discovery by a non-profit organization, Statewatch. Its “Trap Aggressor” investigation detailed last month that an antenna manufactured by an Ottawa-based Tallysman Wireless was featured in the Iranian Shahed-136 attack drone.
Federal government ‘extremely concerned’ about report Canadian-made parts found in Iranian attack drones used in Russia: Trudeau
The drones have been used recently by Russia in Ukraine as Moscow increases its strikes on the country’s energy and civilian infrastructure.
“We’re obviously extremely concerned about those reports because even as Canada is producing extraordinary, technological innovations … we do not want them to participate in Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, or Iran’s contributions to that,” Trudeau said.
“We have strict export permits in place for sensitive technology that are rigorously enforced, and that’s why we’ve been following up with this company, that’s fully cooperating, to figure out exactly how items that we’re not supposed to get into the hands of anyone like the Iranian government actually ended up there.”
The Shahed-136 is manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries, one of two Iranian drone makers Ottawa sanctioned last month for reportedly supplying Russia with its lethal drones. After denying reports it was supplying Moscow, Iran acknowledged for the first time on Nov. 5 it had sent Moscow drones before the Feb. 24 war began.
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It denied continuing to supply drones to Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Iran of lying, previously saying Kyiv’s forces were destroying at least 10 of its drones every day.
Aside from its Iranian-made engine, the Shahed-136 consists entirely of foreign components, Statewatch said in its report. It cited Ukrainian intelligence managing to identify more than 30 European and American companies’ components, with most parts coming from the United States.
Drones like the Shahed are packed with explosives and can be preprogrammed with a target’s GPS coordinates. They can nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile, hence why they have become known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones.
Shaheds are relatively cheap, costing roughly US$20,000 each — a small fraction of the cost of a full-size missile.
Drones “provide a critical capability” to exploit vulnerabilities in defences, and their use may be a prelude to a new phase in the conflict, U.S. Army Lt.-Col. Paul Lushenko previously told Global News.
Gyles Panther, president at Tallysman, told the Globe the company is not “complicit in this usage” and “is 100-per cent committed” to supporting Ukraine.
Ottawa is working to understand how the parts ended up in the drones, and wants to “ensure” incidents like this don’t “happen again in the future,” Trudeau said.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Available Nexus appointments Canada
There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.
To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.
It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.
The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.
The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.
Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.
Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.
Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.
If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.
To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.
“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”
Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.
And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.
More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.
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