“In the report I chronicle the origins of the Freedom Convoy. I conclude it was not an organization with clear leadership. Rather it was a movement comprised of people who shared certain social, economic and political grievances, but also had countless individual views. Many of the protesters’ concerns long predated the Covid-19 pandemic. They were rooted in feelings of loss of place within Canadian society, alienation, economic anxieties and loss of faith in government.
“That said, the pandemic and responding public health measures were an important motivator that caused the Freedom Convoy to mobilize. Some will want my report to make findings or conclusions about Covid itself or the correctness of how government responded to it. Those people may be disappointed. My mandate is not about the pandemic or public health policy. Those are important topics but not one with which I have been tasked.
“I do however make two observations. First, the Covid-19 pandemic was perhaps a once in a generation crisis. Governments – federal, provincial, municipal – responded in good faith to circumstances as they understood them. Second, however one views those responses, they imposed real hardships on thousands of Canadians. People did not only lose family and friends to the disease, some also lost jobs, businesses, homes and savings. Many more such as health care workers laboured under extremely difficult circumstances.
“Truckers were another group that felt a heavy weight from the pandemic sometimes made more difficult by health measures put in place by government. When new rules that limited the ability of unvaccinated truckers to cross the Canada-U.S. border were announced, this served as a rallying point for those who disagreed with government policy. These individuals organized, mobilized and became what would be known as the Freedom Convoy movement.
“One of the most cherished rights enjoyed by Canadians is the right to engage in political protest. The ability of individuals and groups to publicly voice their dissent enriches and empowers our democracy. It’s hardly surprising that government health measures would cause some form of protest in response given their impact on people’s lives.
“What was surprising was the size and scale of these protests and the way in which they proliferated across the country. The majority of those who participated in the protest were animated by a genuine desire to engage in peaceful demonstrations so their voices would be heard by leaders in government. They wished to exercise their fundamental right to express their political views and they had a right to do so.
“However, like any large group, there was a diversity of views and intentions among the participants of the Freedom Convoy. Amongst the many who intended to protest peacefully were others who had more sinister goals or who were willing to engage in dangerous conduct to achieve their desired ends.
“For reasons I discuss in my report, what began as a massive protest evolved into something entirely unprecedented, an occupation of the core of the nation’s capital. The events of January and February 2022 were not limited to Ottawa. As I describe in my report, protests were occurring across the country in places such as Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man. and Windsor, Ont. These protests were also diverse. They ranged from peaceful marches to blockades of critical infrastructure.
“The size and scope of these protests was truly unprecedented. Police and governments alike struggled to respond. Ultimately the federal government’s response was to declare a public order emergency. The question is what role I should play in assessing cabinet’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act. There is no precedent that helps to answer that question…
“After careful reflection I have concluded the very high level threshold required for invocation of the Act was met. In particular for reasons I discuss in detail in the report, I conclude when the decision was made to invoke the Act on February 14, 2022 cabinet had reasonable grounds to believe there existed a national emergency arising from threats to the security of Canada that necessitated the taking of special temporary measures.
“I do not come to this conclusion easily as I do not consider the factual basis for it to be overwhelming. Reasonable and informed people could reach a different conclusion than the one I have arrived at.”