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Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, in Ottawa on May 11, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Thursday that he stands by previous statements that the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act on the recommendation of law enforcement officials.

Mr. Mendicino has faced questions in recent days from Conservative MPs over which police force asked for the invocation of the never-before-used legislation after both interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told parliamentary committees that their forces did not specifically request the invocation of the legislation.

The act was first invoked on Feb. 14, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described taking the unprecedented step as a last resort to bring an end to a prolonged trucker demonstration in downtown Ottawa and blockades in Alberta, Manitoba and B.C. It was in place for 10 days.

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The use of the Emergencies Act will be the subject of much political discussion in the months ahead. MPs and senators on a special committee are examining the declaration of an emergency, which granted the federal government extraordinary powers, such as giving banks the authority to freeze personal and corporate bank accounts without court orders. The use of the legislation will also be examined separately in a public inquiry lead by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Paul Rouleau.

Speaking at the House of Commons public safety and national security committee on Thursday, Conservative MP Dane Lloyd pointed to Mr. Mendicino’s remark in the House of Commons on May 2, in which the minister said the government invoked the Emergencies Act after it “received advice from law enforcement.”

The minister also told a parliamentary committee in April that there was a “massive illegal occupation” in Ottawa for nearly a month and the government remained engaged with law enforcement throughout to ensure they had the support and resources required. When efforts using existing powers proved to be ineffective, he said that the “advice we received was to invoke the Emergencies Act.”

Mr. Lloyd asked the minister Thursday if he still stands by that comment, given that Chief Bell and Commissioner Lucki have both publicly said, respectively, that the Ottawa police force and the RCMP did not make direct requests for the act.

“There was consultation including seeking advice from the powers that were included in the Emergencies Act,” Mr. Mendicino said Thursday during an appearance before the committee on the government’s spending estimates.

“It was necessary and kept Canadians safe and we stand by that.”

Mr. Mendicino also told reporters Thursday that both Chief Bell and Commissioner Lucki testified there were conversations between the government and law enforcement to seek advice on the invocation of the act because the situation was “so precarious.”

The Canadian Association of the Chiefs of Police described the events in January and February in Ottawa as an unprecedented act of civil disobedience, he added.

“So naturally, the government would have had meaningful conversations with the law enforcement representatives and leaders of this country prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Act,” he said. “Both of those officials confirmed that.”

The minister said prior to the act’s invocation, there were also discussions about what kinds of powers would be used to restore public safety.

“We should embrace the scrutiny of the invocation of this act,” he said. “But we should be very clear-eyed about the fact that there was an emergency.”

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