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Freedom Convoy

CSIS warned Emergencies Act would radicalize protesters and push them toward violence


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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned cabinet ministers on Feb. 13 that invoking the Emergencies Act could push “Freedom Convoy” protesters toward violence, a public inquiry was told Monday, while the mayor of Windsor, Ont., testified he hoped it would act as a deterrent.

A record of the advice from CSIS was released to the media Monday through the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is examining the first-ever invocation of the act by the Liberal government to clear protests in Ottawa and at border crossings across the country.

The document shown in the public hearing suggests CSIS officials offered advice to cabinet the day before the act was invoked, and warned it could “galvanize” anti-government narratives and push some to believe that violence was the protesters’ only solution.

After the law was invoked, CSIS again warned more people would be pushed to violent ideologies.

The document, classified as “secret,” also showed that CSIS found no indications that ideologically motivated extremists were planning any violence as of Feb. 3.

The document was presented to the commission by a lawyer representing the organizers of the Ottawa protest, but was withdrawn after an objection by the City of Windsor’s lawyer.

Earlier Monday, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told the inquiry that he supported the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, even though police had already cleared out the serious blockade at a local border crossing.

He feared protesters would return to the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, he testified.

The government invoked the act to clear “Freedom Convoy'” protesters who were blockading streets around Parliament Hill and several border crossings in opposition to COVID-19 mandates and the Liberal government.

The protests began in Ottawa Jan. 28 and spread to several border crossings in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

Dilkens said “slow-roll” convoys began disrupting traffic along the main road to the Ambassador Bridge in late January. He said that on Feb. 4, he got the first indication the convoy intended to block the bridge entirely and a text message exchange shows he relayed that information to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino that same day.

“Thx man,” Mendicino responded, and suggested the two of them touch base on the weekend.

By the evening of Feb. 7, Canada’s busiest border crossing was completely blocked as protesters set up a camp and declared they would not leave.

Dilkens said that blockade sparked “a national economic emergency” halting cross-border trade and travel for days while the demonstrators protested COVID-19 mandates.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of trade are carried across the bridge daily, particularly for the automotive industry, which the city said suffered under the temporary closure.

On Feb. 11, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association successfully sought a court injunction to ban the demonstrators from blocking the border. Police moved in to remove the protesters who refused to leave in the following days and laid 44 charges.

The bridge reopened to traffic in the early hours of Feb. 14.

But Dilkens said he was worried the protesters would return.

“Anything that would send a signal to people contemplating coming to Windsor to start this over again, I thought from my chair, was extremely helpful,” Dilkens told the inquiry Monday.

Further text messages between Dilkens and Mendicino show the two spoke about the possibility of invoking the act in the hours after the border crossing was cleared.

“Are you guys taking some legislative action re: Emergencies Act,” Dilkens wrote to Mendicino on the morning of Feb. 14. He told the commission he had read about the possibility in a news report

Mendicino responded that he would give him a call, but told him “to the extent that you can be supportive of any additional authorities that gets Windsor the resources that you need to keep the bridge open, keep people safe, that would be great.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a public order emergency on the afternoon of Feb. 14.

Dilkens said he gave Mendicino the support he sought but Dilkens also said he is not sure any Emergencies Act powers were ultimately used to prevent further blockades.

Other documents the City of Windsor submitted to the commission show it was also concerned that if protesters were cleared from Ottawa, they would try to block the Ambassador Bridge again.

The Public Order Emergency Commission, which is required under the Emergencies Act, has scheduled public hearings in Ottawa through to Nov. 25.

At the heart of the matter is whether the emergency declaration and the powers under the act were necessary to clear the protests which lasted for more than three weeks.

Among the special but temporary powers adopted under the act were the ability to freeze bank accounts of some participants, force the cancellation of insurance for vehicles parked in designated red zones and compel tow-truck companies to help remove the vehicles.

The commission also learned that Dilkens was in direct contact with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was facing pressure from businesses who relied on the bridge to transport goods and workers between the United States and Canada.

“We need to get that bridge open ASAP,” Ford texted Dilkens on Feb. 13 after police regained control over the bridge. “I have every major company all over me.”

Ford and then-solicitor general Sylvia Jones were asked to appear before the inquiry to give evidence about their response to the protests, but challenged the summons in federal court.

A Federal Court judge decided Monday the premier and his minister will not have to testify due to immunity provided to them by parliamentary privilege, though both witnesses “may have valuable evidence to offer.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2022.

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Emergencies Act commission report to be delivered Feb. 20

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The federal commission looking into the Liberal government’s decision to use the Emergencies Act is being granted an extension to deliver its report to the cabinet and the public at the same time this month.

The Public Order Emergency Commission is investigating use of the act to end the “Freedom Convoy” protest, which paralyzed downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks in the winter of 2022.

Justice Paul Rouleau was given 360 days to deliver his report.

An order-in-council creating the commission has been changed to remove a Feb. 6 deadline to submit the report to the government.

The new deadline is Feb. 20, the final day allowed under law for the report to be given to Parliament and released to the public.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government invoked the Emergencies Act in February of last year, giving extraordinary powers to authorities to limit protesters’ movements and freeze bank accounts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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Freedom Convoy

Convoy organizer says plans to stage a 2023 protest in Winnipeg are off

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Freedom Convoy 2.0 appears to be a bust.

Canada Unity, one of the anti-government protest groups behind the protests that headlined much of last year, is calling off its plans to restage the event this February.

Canada Unity founder James Bauder initially planned to bring a four-day blockade to Ottawa but then said it would be moved to Winnipeg.

Bauder now says in a Facebook post it’s not going to happen at all, citing security breaches and personal character attacks on him.

As the 2022 protest in Ottawa was forced to end last February Bauder was among dozens of people arrested and charged with mischief and various counts of disobeying police and court orders.

The first iteration of the Freedom Convoy blockaded downtown Ottawa for three weeks and shut down at least four border crossings, resulting in the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 2, 2023.

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