Monday, April 25, 2022

Can we stop hyperventilating over the Emergencies Act?

Yes, let's all agree that the federal government looks really, really bad in refusing to explain the justification for invoking the Emergencies Act (if this is, in fact, what they're doing). But I think we're all missing the bigger picture here.

There seems to be some sort of shrieky, hysterical accusation that the Emergencies Act horribly violated the basic, constitutional rights of Canadians and, while we can argue whether invoking the EA was necessary or constitutional, the more important question to ask is, "Um ... exactly which rights?" That is, can someone point to some fundamental right of which they were deprived solely because of the invocation of the EA? Let me explain.

If memory serves, the federal government was initially reluctant to get involved in the "Freedom Convoy" siege of Ottawa, insisting (quite correctly, I would suggest) that both local police services and the province had more than enough resources to handle this and, frankly, I am inclined to believe that. The basic problem was that Ottawa cops were clearly not interested in exercising even the most basic powers they already had, like enforcing parking or noise or anti-idling bylaws.

When it eventually became clear that Ottawa police services were, in fact, totally in bed with the yobs and yahoos terrorizing the city, the effect of invoking the EA seemed to not so much give the police more powers; rather, it seemed to inspire them to do nothing more than start handing out tickets for stuff they could have been handing out tickets for all that time.

I'll say that again -- it seems that the most important effect of the EA was to convince indescribably lazy Ottawa police to finally do their fucking jobs.

I say this because it seems that the primary argument against the EA was that it deprived Canadians of some sort of fundamental rights. But did it? Is someone who was ticketed or fined, or had their truck impounded for parking it on Wellington for two straight weeks and refusing to move it despite days of warnings, seriously going to argue in court that, without the EA, they would have been just fine?

It seems to me that, if one wants to argue about the unconstitutionality of the EA, one better be prepared to argue how that EA deprived protesters of their rights above and beyond what the police were already allowed to enforce. Because if the best you can do is say, "If it weren't for Justin Trudeau's fascist Emergencies Act, I would never have gotten that horn-honking ticket!", then you really don't have much of an argument.

So, really, if the worst you can say about the EA is that it finally got Ottawa cops off their fat asses and enforcing laws that were already on the books, your argument in court should be very short indeed.

BONUS TRACK: I'm thrilled that the first anonymous commenter understood precisely the point I was making -- that the constitutionality or proportionality of Canada's Emergencies Act is utterly irrelevant if it did not affect the fines, tickets or charges that resulted from simple police enforcement of the laws already on the books.

The one exception that I was already thinking of was the very one he/she mentioned -- the freezing/seizing of bank accounts. And, yes, I'm open to people commenting on that, but keep in mind that Canada already has mechanisms to do just that with alleged "terrorist" organizations, so it's not clear how that plays into this.

However, if some dumbass lawyer stands up in court and claims some sort of constitutional protection against a parking ticket or moving violation, the judge should say nothing more than. "Bailiff, kick this lawyer and his idiot client in the butt."


Anonymous said...

You're right that invoking the EA didn't add much to the powers police already had. I think the main civil liberties argument is going to be about the guvmint freezing people's bank accounts. That was new and perhaps over the top.

CC said...

Anon: In fact, that was the one issue where I thought someone might have an argument, but it all depends on what powers the feds already had to do that.

MgS said...

A couple of things I would add:

Not only did the Ottawa Police fail to carry out their duties WRT the Convoy in the first place, it was also painfully clear that the Ford Govt sitting in Queens Park sat on their hands when aid was requested. What aid they did commit to was clearly designed to be inadequate to the job of clearing out the (by then) entrenched protestors.

The second issue that Anonymous @ 8:24 raises regarding the freezing of bank accounts:

I expect the government’s position on that will be along the lines of it being very clear that the protest organizers had access to significant amounts of cash to fund what was clearly a non-trivial logistics organization. It was therefore appropriate and necessary to choke that supply of money off to bring the occupation to an end as quickly as possible.

Were I to speculate wildly, I suspect that there is emerging evidence that connects that money flow to a series of known partisan actors - which is part of why the conservatives are going to screech about the investigation as some kind of massive coverup … right up to, and including the moment that their own are facing charges for financial crimes like money laundering.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the feds already had the power to freeze bank accounts. I once worked in the IT dept of a financial institution, and had to take a course in reporting possible money laundering or terrorist financing. This was over a decade ago, so I don't remember a lot of the details.
With the FluTruxKlan Ottawa takeover, you had literally millions of dollars being sent from inside and outside Canada to a single group with no oversight. That money was intended to fund the shutting down of Canada's capital city and attempt to overthrow a legitimately elected government.
FINTRAC would likely have had to have been checking into things, and would likely need to freeze funds in order to properly investigate to ensure that no money laundering or financing of actual terrorist activity or criminal activity was taking place.

Anonymous said...

Did they ever reveal what was in the trailers parked 200 metres from the Parliament buildings?

Probably the security people were the only ones not surprised the next week, when the footage appeared of Ukrainian military unloading many Stingers from the back of a transport truck. A truckful of shoulder fired missiles with a 5km range aiming at buildings 200m away, complete with many shoulders to fire them from, was likely a scenario considered by those whose job it is to worry about such things.