So, the Public Order Emergency Commission has concluded that the federal government met the threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act to bring an end to the so-called Freedom Convoy protests and blockades.

“I have concluded that in this case, the very high threshold for invocation was met. I have done so with reluctance,” said Commissioner Paul Rouleau of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to declare a public order emergency, in a mammoth five-volume report released Friday.

Rouleau’s report largely exonerates Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act. But the prime minister does not escape criticism.

For example, Rouleau said Trudeau’s reference on Jan. 27 to some protesters as a “fringe minority” likely inflamed the situation and hardened protesters’ resolve. 

Right from the outset, it was obvious that Trudeau did not see the protest as legit, but more a core of hard-nosed rabblerousers out to make extreme points, harass the core-city populace with air horns at all hours  and upset the ebb and flow of the nation’s politics.

The sudden appearance of a hot tub and a bouncy castle became almost emblematic of the protesters’ headspace and threw a wrench into the serious side of COVID-19 regulations getting any serious news space.

It was this negative image of the protest that led to Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre getting criticized for wandering into the protest and speaking with many of the participants.

Asked by the press on what his thoughts were of the “extreme elements” trying to control the truck convoy after reports that members of the protest hold “far-right” views, Poilievre said that he found it “interesting” that when there’s a left-wing protest on Parliament Hill, “we don’t see the liberal media going through every single name of the people who attend to try and find one person that they can disparage the whole group with.”

It was a good observation, because the mere presence of a Confederate flag and a couple of neo-Nazi decals unfairly painted the entire protest as a bunch of Neanderthals having a hate party.

The commission concluded that, while the prime minister met the bar for invoking wide-sweeping powers to address the anti-COVID-19 restriction and anti-government occupation and blockages at key Canada-U.S. border crossings, this move could have been avoided if it wasn’t for “a series of policing failures” and all levels of government failing to “rise above politics.”

“Some of the missteps may have been small, but others were significant, and taken together, they contributed to a situation that spun out of control. Lawful protest descended into lawlessness, culminating in a national emergency,” Rouleau writes in his 273-page executive summary.

The report states that the series of events that transpired can be seen as “a failure of federalism” as Canada’s leaders failed to anticipate or properly manage the “torrent of political protest and social unrest” that was aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Had various police forces and levels of government prepared for anticipated events of this type and acted differently in response to the situation, the emergency that Canada ultimately faced could likely have been avoided,” writes Rouleau. “Unfortunately, it was not.”

In his assessment, the commissioner said that the first-ever invocation of the Emergencies Act itself had a “deterrent effect.” And, while most of the unprecedented measures cabinet put in place to respond to the situation — from wide-sweeping police powers, to cracking down on protesters’ access to funds — were appropriate and effective, “others fell short.”

The report finds that the federal government adequately consulted ahead of the Feb. 14 invocation, and that he believes “cabinet was reasonably concerned that the situation it was facing was worsening and at risk of becoming dangerous and unmanageable.”

Or, in other words, it got spooked.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.