The Public Order Emergency Commission report on the Emergencies Act was released Feb. 17 and it reeked like a pungent bag of partisanship. Commissioner Paul Rouleau was appointed to hand the prime minister the conclusion he wanted. Rouleau wrote five volumes totaling 2,093 pages that would put insomniacs to sleep. The object, of course, was to ensure that few people read it.
The report wrongly stated that the Emergencies Act was necessary. A normal child amidst the Freedom Convoy protest would have had a more honest answer but we are now in a world where if the powerful don’t want to play by the rules, they don’t. Possession of power is nine-tenths of the law.
Let’s recall that the national security threat was a three-week protest of parked trucks and intermittent honking in downtown Ottawa. Let’s also not forget that the offensive demand from the terrible protestors was a meeting with the prime minister to discuss ending vaccine mandates. In two volumes of evidence, Rouleau grasped at a lot of anecdotes to warrant riot police but not one word about the federal government’s cowardly no-show.
Almost everyone downtown Ottawa had a smart phone for one of the most visually-exciting protests in Canadian history. Police had drones overhead. If there had been violence that required a violent response it would have been caught on video. How did Rouleau miss that obvious conclusion? Instead, we got reams of testimony outlining inconvenient red-herrings and non-sequiturs. But surely, 2,000 pages proves that hell had been unleashed.
“Some residents were afraid to leave their homes,” (Vol 2, page 199) Rouleau reported. But Rouleau didn’t bother to discern whether it was because of protestors or because they were listening to the CBC. And since when did fear constitute a national security threat? I could write a report that reads, “Protestors feared that the police were going to beat them up.” That would be true. But should fear alone be cause to condemn police? Of course not. But when the police did bash protestors, smash windows, use pepper spray and rubber bullets, that should have been of monumental concern. Nothing to see here, says Rouleau. Move along.
The appearance of one Swaztika flag and a confederate flag were debunked as one-offs and likely used to detract and stain the protest. But Rouleau drags them back into his report, proving his exercise was a clown show, an amateur investigation, a wink to the bully who pulled the trigger to go to war against his own citizens.
“Residents saw symbols of hate in their community, including swastikas and Confederate flags.” (vol 2, page 197.) Really? Were there ever more than two flags? And did they return after one brief appearance long enough to be caught on camera? Rouleau had months to investigate but doesn’t seem interested.
“A core group would remain in downtown Ottawa during the week, and thousands of additional protesters would come to reinforce them on the weekends.” (vol 2. Page 191) And do what? Break things? Beat people up? Do some insurrecting? Rouleau doesn’t bother to say. So, rather than feed another innuendo, I will fill in the blanks. They brought their kids and gifts for the trucker and farmers and cheered on the men and women they esteemed as true Canadian heroes. What was not to love about the barbecues, the music and seeing people without masks? People had been locked down for two years, remember?
“More than three-quarters of businesses surveyed about the protests reported lost revenues. By some estimates, lost business revenue and lost wages totaled between CAD$150 million and CAD$210 million. I have no difficulty accepting that the losses suffered by downtown businesses were significant. The government relief funds available to those businesses could not likely make them whole.” (vol. 2, page 199)
What is he talking about? All of those businesses suffered because the public servants who had been working downtown were working from home for the past two years. The police then instilled fear and pressured businesses and even churches to close again during the protest. The restaurants that refused to close were packed every day. Police, not protestors, closed Laurier Street, preventing east-west travel in the city. One year after the protest the city had still blocked traffic from using Wellington Street.
Rouleau finds one negative event after another and doesn’t bother to test their veracity or look past the freedom convoy as the cause or even consider any other solution than a wooden police stick. He overlooks the fact that the city police, OPP and RCMP didn’t see the need for the Emergencies Act and Rouleau was unable to list one charge of a violent crime that could be linked to the protestors.
The Liberal cabinet “was reasonably concerned that the situation it was facing was worsening and at risk of becoming dangerous and unmanageable,” (vol. 3 page 241) Rouleau wrote in his conclusions. So, the situation was not dangerous but could become dangerous and the answer was to crush them, just in case, rather than have the obvious meeting to negotiate. Who needed protection from whom?
Rouleau makes 56 recommendations, mostly pointing fingers at governments and police, and calling for better communication and training. Recommendation 54 suggests that the federal government continue studying cryptocurrencies. Since Rouleau brought up money, there was not a word about the federal government colluding with banks to freeze bank accounts of people who have never been charged with a crime.
In the end, Rouleau leaps to the conclusion expected of him. “Lawful protest descended into lawlessness, culminating in a national emergency,” he wrote. He had all the pages in the world to come up with one good argument to back that up and it’s appalling that he didn’t come close.
This partisan report will succeed in one thing. It will further divide the country along ideological lines and increase the numbers of Canadians who no longer trust government.