Within days of the convoy protests descending on Ottawa last winter, federal cabinet ministers began considering whether they needed to break the glass on the never-before-used Emergencies Act. But it only became a serious option after more than two weeks of police inaction in Ottawa and as copycat protests spread to border crossings.
Text messages, e-mails, meeting minutes and secret cabinet documents, which were released through the inquiry studying the act’s use, reveal an “inexorable march” to the Emergencies Act. They show the mounting pressure on government officials, miscommunications, and last-minute consultations in the frenetic 30 hours leading up the act’s invocation.
What we learned at Emergencies Act inquiry after six weeks of testimony
"Windsor has been cleared."
– OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique texts RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
"I think we are on an inexorable march to the EA."
– Justice Minister David Lametti texts his chief of staff.
"I was thinking maybe we use CAF but in our uniforms"
– Commissioner Lucki texts Commissioner Carrique, referring to the Canadian Armed Forces.
"Our only other legal option is the Emergencies Act."
– Mr. Lametti texts Liberal MP Greg Fergus.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland meets with bank CEOs. They urge government intervention. She says options that could seem "draconian" are on the table.
4 - 5:30 p.m.
There is "no definitive timeline" for reopening Ambassador Bridge, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino tells cabinet's Incident Response Group, chaired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Commissioner Lucki attends the meeting. She doesn't speak at it but messages with her senior commanders throughout.
"Finalizing plan to re-open bridge" in Windsor.
– RCMP commander messages group chat with Commissioner Lucki.
"We have not yet exhausted all available tools."
– Commissioner Lucki e-mails Mr. Mendicino's chief of staff.
Full cabinet meeting to discuss the invocation of the Emergencies Act.
Around 12:20 a.m.
The Ambassador Bridge reopens to traffic.
"We should go to Ambassador and inspect the bridge re-opening and thank law enforcement and RCMP … it's a powerful visual."
– Mr. Mendicino texts his chief of staff.
The RCMP seizes a cache of firearms, arrests 11 people at Coutts, Alta.
Mr. Trudeau briefs his caucus on the Emergencies Act.
"I'm against that clearly"
– Quebec's François Legault tells Mr. Trudeau in consultations with all premiers on the Emergencies Act.
"This isn't just COVID and is a threat to democracy."
– Jody Thomas, national security and intelligence adviser, e-mails officials as she urgently asks for a threat assessment.
"To the extent you can be supportive of any additional authorities … that would be great."
– Mr. Mendicino texts Windsor mayor.
"Does it meet security threshold?"
– then-interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen asked Mr. Trudeau during meetings with opposition leaders.
"PCO recommends you approve" EA invocation.
– heavily redacted memo from Privy Council Clerk Janice Charette to Mr. Trudeau, which shields legal advice on the decision. A detailed threat assessment is meant to arrive "under separate cover" but does not.
Trudeau announces the invocation of the Emergencies Act.