Debate on the Emergencies Act
February 19, 2022
Mr. Len Webber (Calgary Confederation, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today we debate the invoking of the Emergencies Act … it is definitely not something I thought we would be debating just weeks ago. Like all Canadians, I expected proper leadership would rise up and deal with this situation long ago. And of course that did not happen with this Liberal government and this Prime Minister.
Instead, we stand here debating this matter because of a gross lack of leadership.
Instead of leadership that brought us closer together, closer to a solution, we have a Prime Minister that focused on inflaming the situation with reckless name-calling, provocation, division, smearing, and dismissive attitude.
Before I get to my comments on the Act, I want to make it clear that I strongly support the right of all Canadians to peacefully and lawfully protest. I have never, and will never, support law breaking in the name of protesting. Our society rests on the rule of law and it must always be this way.
There are plenty of ways to lawfully and effectively protest.
I also believe protests are about having your message heard, not destroying our economy and the lives of your fellow citizens. One only needs to look at the debates in this House, media coverage, social media and the like, to see that their message was heard long ago – so now it is time for the protesters to go home.
We must remember that if people feel they are not heard, they will not listen. It’s as simple as that.
Protests are about being heard, not necessarily getting your way. Governments have a responsibility to listen to protestors, but no obligation to concede to their demands. Like any debate, including those in this House, we have a right to be heard, but not a right to get our desired result.
Canadians are justifiably concerned about the implementation of this Emergency Act and how it will affect them.
A lack of details about the legislation, its implementation and how it will be used, is causing great angst for many.
Like almost everything since the beginning of the pandemic, a lack of a coherent long-term plan from the Liberal government has resulted in Canadians living with an unacceptable level of uncertainty. It is hurting our economy and more importantly, our mental health.
This is not the first protest in Canada and it won’t be the last. Canadians have always cherished their right to protest peacefully.
Unfortunately, not all protests start or end peacefully and we have many, many laws on the books to deal with these situations. One way or another, police have found a way to end these protests with the tools already available to them.
Even now, as we debate the use of this Emergency Act, the Liberal government has still failed to explain why existing laws are not sufficient to deal with this current situation.
The Emergency Act is an important and necessary legislative tool to have on the books, however it is only meant to be used when existing legislation is insufficient to get the job done.
This subject has generated significant mail to my offices, and I am sure to all of my colleagues as well. Let me share some of them with you, as I think it is important that my constituents are heard in their own words.
Leanne said in a letter to the Prime Minister and copied to me,
“While I can understand your frustration with some of the actions of the ‘freedom convoy’ protests, your actions go much too far.”
As Joe said in a letter to the Prime Minister and I,
“Even if you truly believe that these measures are justified now, have you considered what kind of precedent you’re setting? When protestors were burning churches and committing other hate crimes last summer, would you have supported a call to freeze the bank accounts of Indigenous activists? What will you say if a future federal government bans crowdfunding by Black Lives Matter protestors?
Do you really want to be remembered as the Prime Minister who made it ‘normal’ for Canadian governments to take these actions against any protest movement that they disagree with?
Canada must remain a country where people of all viewpoints can protest freely, regardless of whether the people currently in power happen to agree with them.
Step back, Prime Minister. You’ve gone too far.”
“I do not believe the Prime Minister when he states that this will be a measured and time limited response. This is the foot in the door to allow him, or any standing government to overstep their authority in order to control Canadian citizens.”
“There is no need to escalate what is currently a civil, peaceful, legal protest (albeit with vehicles illegally parked and ticketed causing disruptions to traffic, daily life and commerce in a small area). There is a practical political solution. I say – Do NOT ratify the imposition of the Emergencies Act.”
As Beau pointed out,
“Section 3 of the Emergencies Act spells out the circumstances under which it may be invoked. These are:
- a) A national emergency that seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it, or
- b) A national emergency that seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity of Canada.
Neither of these conditions are met.
… By invoking the federal Emergencies Act in the complete absence of any reasonable justification, the Prime Minister (“Justin Trudeau”) is setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the right of all Canadians to peaceful assembly and association or protest.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on for hours – literally… with the hundreds and hundreds of letters I have received and I have read them all. I only have a single letter, just one, that supports the Liberal government’s intentions.
Remarkably, the Prime Minister and the Liberal government have united Canadians on one issue — do not use the Emergencies Act like this, do not use it now.”
I am deeply concerned that using this legislation will normalize its use every time we have a few hundred protestors. This poses a direct threat to all Canadians in the future when a government uses a hammer to deal with a fly.
Once we cross this line and use the Emergencies Act, it will make it politically easier for any future government to do the same. I truly expect we’ll see it used again by this very government.
Will it be used and abused against Indigenous protests in the future? Will it be used and abused against environmental protestors in the future? Will it be used and abused against those protesting religious issues, immigration issues, race issues, global issues, taxation …. you name it.
You bet it will. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum or where you sit on an issue, you ought to be united in your concern to protect your right to lawfully protest, your right to be heard.
Canadians cannot afford to build and entrench measures that silence Canadians when democratic governments around the world should be striving to do a better job of listening to their citizens.
Governments often limit activities over time, but rarely do they go the opposite way. If you lose something to the state today, you’ll likely not get it back any time soon.
Mr. Speaker, I have listened. I have heard my constituents and I will vote against the use of the Emergencies Act at this time.
And to my colleagues in the NDP, down the aisle, I will let you know that many NDP supporters in my riding have written to me in dismay that their party is supporting this legislation. They realize the dangerous precedent this would set and are deeply concerned if this passes. They are concerned it will be used against them in the future on issues that are important to them. While many of these NDP supporters in my riding have made it very clear in the past that they do not support the policies of my party, on this matter, they are very appreciative of our responsible and principled decision.
Will my NDP colleagues do the same?