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Investigation of the Emergency Law: what Lametti revealed

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Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti took the podium at the Public Order Emergency Commission on Wednesday, where he was questioned about his role in the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act.

During his hour-long appearance, Lametti invoked attorney-client privilege on many occasions, as in his capacity as attorney general he provided cabinet legal advice and opinions on the issuance of the unprecedented powers that resulted from the declaration of an emergency. of national public order.

Lametti was also put on the spot by some of their text message conversations, which ranged from illuminating about how early he was thinking about the Emergencies Act to what he admitted was a “bad mood” about how protests were being handled.

“Too bad this wasn’t a few decades ago because you’d already be hanging from a light pole in downtown Ottawa for your treasonous crimes against Canadians,” reads a direct message sent by someone with the online name “Justin Castro.” .

When asked by the federal attorney if he had experienced anything similar to the degree of such threats throughout his political career, this is what Lametti said:

“Not to that degree. I’ve received threats. I’ve received threats online. My family has received threats from time to time and has reported them from time to time. I often think from an anecdotal perspective, often the product of mental illness and that’s a problem we have to combat. But, there really was a marked increase in virulence and threats… I think the threats to kill me, and the way people want to kill me, has… accelerated immensely. ”

Here is a summary of the most outstanding aspects of the testimony of the Minister of Justice.

LAMETTI PRESENTS THE EMERGENCY LAW ON JANUARY 1 30

One of the key things the commission learned on Wednesday was that Lametti was very early in the protests and raised the question of whether the Emergencies Law should be considered.

An exchange of text messages with his chief of staff, Alex Steinhouse, shows that Lametti asked on Sunday, January 30, if there was “a contingency for these trucks to be removed tomorrow or Tuesday (if they were black or indigenous…)”.

He goes on to ask, “What regulatory authority do we have or is any order needed? EA?” and tells his main staffer that he’s “here if you want to chat.”

When asked about the part in parentheses, Lametti told the commission that the conversation was not meant to be public. That said:

“Look, there’s evidence of systemic racism in our justice system. It’s in my mandate letter. I do everything I can to try to eradicate it with various policies. And there was certainly legitimate criticism leveled at law enforcement regarding that.” Weekend. That if it had been a Black Lives Matter protest or an indigenous protest, maybe the police reaction might have been different.”

Regarding the reference to the Emergencies Law, Lametti testified that he was “being prudent” as he had had previous discussions with the cabinet when they explored invoking the Law during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So, I knew we had to start thinking about it, whether or not it was ever an option… to get the department to start thinking about it.” [the Act] in case we need it. Because the worst case scenario would be that something blows up and we’re not ready to use it because we haven’t done the kind of consultation or we haven’t asked the right questions of the right people to do it.”

A February 4 message from the same staffer shows that Lametti was informed that he would be invited to a meeting about the convoy and that it was believed that “the angle is entering the Emergencies Act.”

Lametti told the commission that this referred to “preparatory work” being done for the possibility of enacting the Law.

Later text in this thread dated February 13 shows Lametti saying, “I think we are on an inexorable march toward EA.”

This was the same day that an important cabinet meeting took place, as the commission has already heard. The next morning, the provinces were consulted on the possible invocation of the Act, and by the end of the day, Trudeau announced that unprecedented powers were being enacted.

During cross-examination another remarkable text exchange from that day came to light.

It was between Lametti and Liberal Hull-Aylmer, Que. Deputy Greg Fergus. He showed that on February 13, Fergus was frustrated after a caucus called “integrated command” so far the best the federal government had to offer.

In response, Lametti said: “Our only other legal option is the Emergencies Law.” Fergus then said, “That’s exactly where the people are. That’s where I am.”

“And me,” Lametti replied.

When asked to speak on this on Wednesday, Lametti made it clear that he thought the Emergencies Law should be invoked.

“On February 13, I was at a point where I thought the Emergency Law should be invoked. I prepared my colleagues early on for the possibility of this happening, like a good attorney general would, like a good minister of fairness it would, based on my experience of the pandemic, where I also prepared my colleagues and we didn’t use it. By the time we got to this last one this third weekend, I had come to that conclusion which is self-evident here, but as you can see, no decision had been made,” he said.

Then, 10 days later, when the Act was repealed, Fergus texted Lametti again: “I’m glad we’re done with the EA, but would it have been more appropriate to wait until Friday, 44 hours after the voting seems unseemly”.

Lametti replied: “No, we needed to get ahead of the NDP and the senators were saying they would vote against it based on their view that there was no longer an emergency.”

Asked to comment on these post-revocation comments, Lametti told the commission: “We had said from the beginning, sir, that we would not uphold the Act one minute longer than necessary. It is something we told the NDP And it’s something that we told the senators, and I’m being completely consistent here in saying that we needed to get ahead of that in terms of keeping our promise to not keep the law in place one minute longer than necessary.”

TEXTS ABOUT SLOLY, JOKES ABOUT TANKS

Lametti’s morning testimony also brought to light a series of text messages he exchanged with his cabinet colleague, Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino, which the justice minister described as “occasional attempts at bad temper.”

For example, a February 2 text thread with Mendicino shows Lametti jokingly saying that his ministerial counterpart needed “the police to move. And the CAF if necessary.”

Mendicino replies: “How many tanks are you asking for? I just want to ask Antia how many we have available.”

To this, Lametti says “I think one will do!”

When asked to explain himself, Lametti told the commission in these exchanges that he was acting as a colleague and “friend” and not in his capacity as AG.

“So there will be jokes,” he said. “There will be occasional attempts at sulking on both sides.”

“I’m in no way saying we need to direct the police,” Lametti said, later calling this exchange simply “a joke.”

Another posed example, less an attempt at humor and more an indication of his frustration, shows Lametti once again texting Mendicino, saying on February 4, “Sloly is incompetent.”

This reference to then-Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly was made after Mendicino texted Lametti: “The police have all the legal authority they need to enforce the law… They just need to exercise it and do his job”.

To this, Lametti testified that, as a part-time resident of Ottawa, he felt unsafe, he was “forced to abandon my living arrangements” because he felt that where he lived was unsafe due to the proximity to the protests.

“So I was frustrated. I had to admit that this is a complete product of the heat of the moment. He’s frank, I think I’d smooth it over now with the benefit of hindsight,” he said of his Sloly comment. “But I think it reflects the fact that my life had been upended by this. My staff were being harassed going to work by members of the convoy who objected to their wearing masks, particularly the women on my ministry team, and I was pretty frustrated, I’ll admit.”

Another exchange that included Lametti texting about the need for Sloly to be “quick, quick, quick,” which the Justice Minister testified on Wednesday was a reference to his favorite Christmas movie, “Love Actually.”

ADVICE TO THE CABINET, CSIS ON ACTS OF INTERPRETATION

Even before Lametti began testifying, a federal government lawyer said the minister would be limited in what he can say given that the government has not waived attorney-client privilege when it comes to advice he provided in his role as prosecutor. general.

In the course of their testimony, one lawyer after another tried to insist on what kind of assessment they provided to the cabinet on the decision to invoke the Emergencies Law, and they generally did not get very far.

“You agree that the cabinet has received a legal opinion on the Emergencies Law, is that fair?” asked Freedom Corp. attorney Brendan Miller. “I won’t confirm…” Lametti began before a federal government lawyer stepped in to object on the basis of attorney-client privilege.

One of the most dedicated areas of this questioning delved into what the Justice Department provided to CSIS Director David Vigneault when he came seeking clarity on how the government’s legal interpretation of the Emergency Act definition of a ” threat to the security of Canada” was broader. than the definition in the CSIS Act.

Even there, Lametti remained mum but confirmed what the commission had already heard about there being a “broader set” of national security threat considerations on which the cabinet relied than what is outlined in the Act. CSIS. He described it as “just the starting point.”

“I am going to be careful about attorney-client privilege. I am not going to link facts to arguments in a way that would impute the type of legal advice I may or may not have given, or may or may not have been given in this process… But I think you’ve heard from a number of witnesses this week, including Mr. Vigneault… given the different purposes of the CSIS Act, given the different goals that CSIS has as to why it’s to use a The definition of ‘Section 2’ for one of your investigations… is different from the context in which the Emergency Act was brought in. And the decision-making body is different. It’s not CSIS. It’s the Governor-in-Council, of course. So there’s a broader set, as you’ve heard from a number of different witnesses this week, there’s a broader set of input,” Lametti said at one point during cross-examination, one of his most comprehensive attempts to answer questions on this topic. .

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