Mr. Speaker, I am struck today by the importance of this moment and also by the immense responsibility that we hold as members of Parliament. As people across the country deal with the impacts of the global pandemic, we are tasked with creating the laws that will best help them deal with the challenges they face, keep them safe and healthy and provide the supports they need.
In this already unparalleled moment in our history, on top of everything else, we have witnessed the occupation of our nation's capital. We are now tasked in this debate with examining and deciding on the use, for the first time ever, of the Emergencies Act. This is not a moment any of us should take lightly.
As someone who came to this role through community activism, attending countless protests, standing in front of trucks filled with contaminated soil, delivering food to tree sitters, protecting fragile ecosystems and organizing climate demonstrations, protest, dissent and social movements are vital elements of our democracy. We need to ensure that non-violent civil disobedience remains a protected and valued part of our society.
We also need to ensure there is effective oversight of any additional powers given to government. The Emergencies Act itself has provisions that require, after the emergency is over, an inquiry into the circumstances under which the declaration was issued and the measures taken. This should also include a public inquiry into the role of law enforcement in these occupations, the reports of officers supporting the occupiers and police refusing to enforce the law. It is clear there needs to be a sober examination of policing in Canada. The difference between how occupiers were treated by police versus how indigenous and racialized people have been treated is stark. This disparity is unjust and also undermines the trust of Canadians in law enforcement.
I have been contacted by many people who are concerned about the use of the Emergencies Act. Many are concerned that we should not set a precedent of cracking down on protests. It is important to note that what we have seen over the past 24 days has not just been a protest. It has not been peaceful.
The core organizers of this occupation were very clear from the outset that their goal was to overthrow a democratically elected government. I have to admit that I laughed when I first read their aim. Like most Canadians, to me it sounded preposterous. They could not seriously think the Governor General and the Senate could just remove the Prime Minister or that it would be possible in Canada to hand over power to an unelected group of occupiers, but these organizers, many of whom are well-known far-right figures, who have espoused Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-indigenous and other hateful views, published their goal to take down the government in a manifesto.
To quote Maya Anjelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them”. This illegal occupation raised millions of dollars, had significant foreign involvement and was explicit in its goal to undermine our democracy. We have also witnessed instances of organized militia-style activity, weapons seized, body armour with white supremacist insignia and thousands of rounds of ammunition. In January, as the convoy initially rolled across the country, there were supporters who went on TV to say they had guns and would stand up and bring them out. When people tell us who they are, we should believe them.
While all of this was happening, a number of Conservative MPs were welcoming the convoy to the city, handing out doughnuts, making excuses for the deplorable actions at memorials and encouraging the convoy participants to stay. The member for Carleton said that he was proud of the convoy and stands with it. Convoy participants occupied the city, making it unbearable for residents. They harassed journalists and health care workers. There were reports of attempted arson, bomb threats to hospitals and plans to block airports and railways. Our borders were shut down. Weapons were seized. There were attempted murder charges laid. The member for Carleton, who wants to be the prime minister of Canada, stands with them. When people tell us who they are, we should believe them.
If the Conservative members truly stand with truckers, they should stand with the 90% of truckers who are vaccinated and the truckers who have been profoundly negatively impacted by border blockades. They should listen to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which put out a statement saying that it applauds the use of the Emergencies Act to help end the illegal blockades.
In those initial weeks, while Conservative MPs encouraged the occupiers, the Liberal government stood idly by. As the convoy rolled toward Ottawa, as the far-right rhetoric rose in the truck convoy, as foreign funding poured into a movement that aimed to undermine our democracy, the government did nothing. It should have never come to this.
The use of the Emergencies Act is an acknowledgement of a failure of leadership. The government has allowed things to escalate unchecked and could have addressed this crisis early on but failed to. After over two weeks of turmoil and chaos, the Ottawa Police Services Board chair stated, “Frankly, the response to this crisis so far has been ineffective.” She said that police have been “unable to adequately enforce our law and our residents continue to be terrorized.”
In this debate, we are being asked whether the Emergencies Act is necessary. It has been clear that for the past three weeks the municipality and a number of provinces were not able to maintain security in our nation's capital and at our borders. This is one of the key reasons why the situation meets the definition of a national emergency under section 3 of the act.
Once the Emergencies Act was enacted, the interim Ottawa police chief made it clear that without these additional powers, they would not have been able to make the progress that they have made. Over the past week, we finally saw police taking appropriate and measured steps to remove the occupiers.
The act allowed the RCMP to direct tow truck drivers to tow vehicles. In addition, without the Emergencies Act, the RCMP and financial institutions could not quickly freeze funds that were fundraised with the explicit intent to destabilize our elected government.
We know there has been significant foreign funding. When the convoy's GoFundMe site was shut down, they started using GiveSendGo, a Christian platform infamously known for being the platform used by many of the groups involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and also for raising millions for the Proud Boys, a listed terrorist entity in Canada. A recent data leak identifying GiveSendGo's donors to the convoy campaign showed that over half of the donors were from the U.S. and less than a third of the donors were Canadian.
The Emergencies Act also gives the power to prohibit bringing children to unlawful assemblies. Many of us watched in horror as occupiers brought their children to block the border crossing. We heard reports of occupiers keeping their kids near the police line, using them as shields. As a parent, it is hard to wrap my head around the choice to bring children into such dangerous situations.
The powers granted by the Emergencies Act were needed as they did help secure our national capital. Yesterday, the occupation was still happening and there were still border closures happening in Surrey because of the convoy protest. Today, things are quieter. New Democrats have been clear that we are ready to withdraw our support at any time. If the situation is actually under control, then the government has to provide a compelling reason for why it still needs these emergency powers. If there is not one, then we have said all along that we will withdraw support.
We have heard again and again comparisons to the War Measures Act, but we know this is not the same law. It is not even close. Under the War Measures Act, there is no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no provincial constitutions. The government would have the power to do anything it wants to intern citizens, to deport any citizen, to arrest any person. We can all agree that is unacceptable.
That is why Tommy Douglas and other New Democrats voted against it. The War Measures Act suspended the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is why, in 1988, the act was repealed. The Emergencies Act, the act that replaced it, is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is subject to the Canadian Bill of Rights.
There is a still a valid concern that the government could misuse the powers in the Emergencies Act. This is why New Democrats have been clear that if we vote in favour of the government's request, the government must stay within the established powers or we will withdraw support.
We will protect the right to protest. We must continue to hold dissent and non-violent civil disobedience as sacred, as integral parts of our democracy.
I want to close my speech by speaking to the vast majority of Canadians who have been following public health orders, who banged pots to show support for health care workers, who have been helping out their neighbours, who have made great sacrifices in order to keep their loved ones, their families and their communities safe.
As mandates and restrictions begin to lift, they should know that it is because of their acts of solidarity and the fact that they got vaccinated, and the convoy participants, while they might not realize it, owe the majority of Canadians a great debt of gratitude. The vast majority of Canadians have not only saved lives, but they are also the reason we are going to get through this together.