The Federal Minister of Public Safety said he wants people to celebrate Canada Day, but as protests are scheduled for the coming holiday weekend in Ottawa, Marco Mendicino hopes the mistakes of last winter are not repeated.
“I think Canadians should celebrate Canada Day. We have been through the pandemic marathon and there is reason for hope and optimism,” he said in an interview last week.
“I really think what concerns us is that some are fueling the flames…we don’t want a repeat of last winter, and we don’t want people to commit illegal acts or violence that is destroying society here in Ottawa or anywhere else.”
Protest groups have said they plan to hold continuous demonstrations throughout the summer, starting June 30 and moving closer to Labor Day.
The Ottawa Police Service said it was aware of the upcoming protests and was “planning accordingly.”
Capital Police continue to face criticism for their handling of last winter’s COVID-19 containment protests that locked down Ottawa for three weeks after protesters, some of whom called for the overthrow of the federal government, were able to park trucks and other vehicles. funds. on the main arteries around Parliament Hill.
This week, a House of Commons sergeant said he was “overwhelmed” by police inaction at the time.
The protesters were eventually forced out of downtown after the federal government took the unprecedented step of enforcing the Emergency Act. Eventually over 100 people were arrested, leaving the police with a multi-million dollar bill.
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“I think it’s important to learn from last winter,” Mendicino said.
“We will continue to give [police] the tools and support you need to keep the public safe during Canada Day.”
“We did what a responsible government would do” Mendicino
Mendicino ended the spring session of parliament, which began with a summer break, under intense questioning about how the decision to implement the Emergency Law was made.
The law authorized a travel ban on protest areas, allowed banks to freeze the accounts of some protesters, and allowed officials to requisition tow trucks. It also allowed the RCMP to enforce municipal ordinances and provincial offenses as needed.
The minister told a parliamentary committee investigating the matter that the government acted on “the advice of impartial professional law enforcement.”
Under questioning, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luckey and Interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell testified that they did not ask the government to enforce the law, although they said the new powers served as a deterrent.
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen called on Mendicino to resign, accusing him of “lying and misleading Canadians about the Emergency Act.”
Mendicino said his government talks to law enforcement on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.
“We did what a responsible government would do, which is liaise with law enforcement to make the decisions necessary to restore public safety,” he said.
At the time of the call, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued that its use was necessary to address “serious problems with law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law.”
But this reasoning has been questioned by the opposition and other critics, who have questioned whether other measures, including police tactics, could have been used.
Mendicino pointed to a testimonial Lucky gave in which she spoke of being able to dispatch tow trucks to help move cars clogging the streets of Ottawa.
“Other powers that were granted under the Emergency Law were implemented in response to recommendations that we actively sought from law enforcement prior to the implementation of the Emergency Law. This is how the system is supposed to work,” he said.
“It made a lot of sense for the government to negotiate with the police, identifying gaps in existing powers and then filling those gaps with unique, exceptional time-limited and targeted powers.”
Mendocino added that Lucky “confirmed this” in her testimony.
“I will never apologize for doing what was necessary”: Mendicino
In addition to the parliamentary committee, an independent inquiry into the reasons behind the decision to apply the Emergency Law for the first time will also soon begin.
“We hope we never have to use these rare abilities again,” Mendicino said.
“But I will never apologize for doing what was necessary to protect Canadians and applying the Emergency Act was the right thing to do.”
Upcoming protests are set to kick off as James Topp, a veteran marching across Canada against vaccination mandates, plans to end his cross-country journey at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa.
Last week, the federal government removed the vaccination requirement for federal employees and passengers wishing to board a plane or train in Canada.
Earlier this week, Topp and other organizers met with Conservative MPs near Parliament Hill, where he said the protest became something more.
“Their problem is less with mandates than with their satisfaction with the federal government,” Topp said.
“There is a division in this country that I have never seen or experienced before – I have only seen it in a war zone.”
Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP Jeremy Patzer said politicians of all stripes should listen to what the group has to say.
“I don’t want to demonize or accept this narrative that people who have views that other people disagree with should be demonized for holding those views,” he told CBC.