Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has adopted dozens of secret orders-in-council (OICs) since coming to office in 2015, including two during the Freedom Convoy protests, according to CBC News.
A small number of reasons are available to governments for keeping OICs secret, including matters of national security, military operations and foreign investments in Canadian companies.
The unpublished OICs – which are hidden from both Parliament and Canadians – are government orders drafted by Cabinet and signed by the Governor General. The number of secret OICs is evidenced by an absent number in the Privy Council’s database.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government adopted 28 secret OICs during his nine years in office, the Trudeau Liberals are up to 72 in less than seven years – with 21 of them in 2020 alone.
Eleven secret OICs have already been filed in 2022.
Laurie Bouchard, a spokesperson for Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, said that 32 of the secret OICs between Nov. 2015 and Mar. 31 2021 were related to the Investment Canada Act. Fifty-five of the Trudeau government’s secret OICs were adopted during that time.
Seventeen secret OICs were adopted between Mar. 31, 2021 and now, but Bouchard said the number of secret OICs related to the Investment Canada Act is not available.
The Investment Canada Act, however, only explains a portion of the secret OICs adopted by the government.
Of the two secret OICs adopted within the timeframe of the Freedom Convoy protests, the Privy Council has refused to release the information.
The agency cited a section of access to information law allowing the government to keep secret documents which, if revealed, “could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada, or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.”
One OIC was adopted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, while the second was on Feb. 18. The first was near the beginning of the Freedom Convoy protests, while the second was on the day police began clearing freedom protesters from downtown Ottawa.
Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Michael Chong blasted the revelation of the 72 secret OICs, saying Trudeau had promised a more transparent and accountable government.
“While unpublished orders-in-council are sometimes necessary, the number of unpublished orders-in-council under this government raises concerns,” he said. “It’s incumbent on the government to provide a more detailed explanation of why the number of unpublished orders-in-council [has] increased.”
Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 occurred after border protests in a number of provinces had already been cleared. Meanwhile, Trudeau went ahead with a parliamentary vote to extend his government’s use of emergency powers on Feb. 21 even though the Ottawa protests had ended.
Trudeau nonetheless revoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 23 amidst pressure from the Senate. An inquiry into the government’s use of the act – as required by its legislation – is now underway.