Emergencies Act, 'Freedom Convoy' records withheld until days before inquiry end: PCO

Speaking during question period on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s decision invoke the Emergencies Act as it dealt with weeks of anti-mandate protests occupying Ottawa.

Bureaucrats supporting the Prime Minister’s Office claim they need until February 2023 to decide whether to release records about the so-called “Freedom Convoy” — the same month the judicial inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act is set to wrap up.

Global News submitted a request under access to information laws to the Privy Council Office on Feb. 24, 2022, asking for records prepared by the department for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Specifically, the request sought seven days’ worth of emails and other records about discussions on the use of the Emergencies Act, and records that included the following words: “trucker convoy,” “public order emergency,” “state of emergency” or “emergency powers.”

But according to the Privy Council Office, they need an extension on processing the request and deciding whether the records can be released until Feb. 13, 2023.

That’s exactly one week before the final report from the judicial inquiry probing whether the invocation of the Emergencies Act was warranted is required to be tabled in the House of Commons.

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Justice Paul S. Rouleau, an Ontario appeals court judge, is leading that inquiry.

In the letter advising Global News of the extension on the record request, the Privy Council Office said it needs up to eight months to “undertake a consultation process.”

“Should the consultations be completed in a shorter timeframe than specified, we will endeavour to respond to your request before the due date,” the office said.

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In response to questions from Global News, the office said late Friday afternoon the length of the extension was not due to the inquiry underway but because of a large number of records.

The Liberals continue to face questions about their invocation of the Emergencies Act in response to the convoy that blockaded the downtown core in the nation’s capital for three weeks earlier this year.

The demonstration was deemed an illegal protest and saw a massive police operation to clear out demonstrators, as well as hundreds of criminal charges laid against those who took part.

Both police and officials from the federal and municipal governments frequently now refer to the demonstration as an “occupation” of the city.

The interim Ottawa police chief, Steve Bell, said during committee testimony in March that he would not call the demonstrators in the city either “peaceful” or “unobtrusive.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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