Six months after receiving the final report from the Emergencies Act inquiry, the federal government is still reviewing which recommendations it will accept, including whether to change how and when the act’s sweeping powers can be invoked.
In an update released by the government Thursday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said work is already under way in several areas, such as border infrastructure, policing, intelligence gathering, and interagency and intergovernmental co-ordination.
However, Mr. LeBlanc said responses to individual recommendations will only be released in February, 2024.
On Feb. 17, Justice Paul Rouleau released a report declaring that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act in February, 2022, to quell the protests gridlocking the capital and blockading border crossings, was appropriate. But he said he didn’t make the conclusion easily, because he did not consider “the factual basis for it to be overwhelming.”
Justice Rouleau also found that the public order emergency declaration could have been avoided if not for failures and missteps by police and government officials in responding to the protests, which were anti-government and opposed to vaccine mandates.
In the report, Justice Rouleau called on the federal government to publicly identify, within one year, which of his 56 recommendations it would accept and reject.
At the time, Mr. Trudeau committed to that deadline and said the government would also provide an interim progress report within six months. That update is encompassed in a six-page letter that Mr. LeBlanc sent to Mr. Trudeau, which the government released Thursday.
Over all, Mr. LeBlanc writes in his update to the Prime Minister that the government is particularly looking at the recommendations from Justice Rouleau that would improve collaboration between jurisdictions, address community safety and improve Canada’s “capacity to respond to similar events of national significance in the future.”
One of the most contentious recommendations in Justice Rouleau’s report is for the government to review the threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act and modernize the definition of a public order emergency. In his Thursday letter, Mr. LeBlanc said the government is giving those recommendations “thoughtful consideration.”
He did not hint at how the government will respond to those particular recommendations but said its final response will “outline a path forward for the act.”
During last year’s inquiry, Justice Rouleau heard from witnesses that intelligence gathering was disjointed and that the intelligence reports that were created were not always taken into account by police. His first recommendation was for better co-ordination in collecting and disseminating intelligence.
Mr. LeBlanc wrote Thursday that the RCMP is looking at “whether and how intelligence on serious criminality associated with public order events can be jointly managed and retained.”
Mr. LeBlanc’s update also says that the Canada Border Services Agency has revised border management plans and made infrastructure upgrades at 11 border crossings in response to the blockades. The letter provides no further details on what changes were made.
Many of the recommendations from Justice Rouleau involve other levels of government. In his update, Mr. LeBlanc wrote that he has sent a letter to Ontario’s Solicitor-General “seeking to better understand” how Ontario will respond to the recommendations from the report that were directed at the province.
Neither the Conservatives nor NDP issued comments on the government’s update.