Government of Canada Response to the Public Order Emergency Commission Recommendations

Introduction

The difficult but necessary measures taken by governments to keep Canadians safe from the spread of COVID-19 led to many hardships for Canadian families; many experienced impacts on mental health, separation from loved ones, friends and social networks, loss of employment, interrupted schooling and more. While the majority of Canadians supported governments in taking these actions, others did not.

For three weeks in early 2022, illegal blockades disrupted the lives of Canadians across the country, endangered public safety, and blocked critical infrastructure, including trade corridors and international border crossings. Some blockades and disruptions lasted for weeks and created very real adverse effects on the Canadian economy, and harmed Canada’s reputation with trading partners, at a time when the country was still recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effects of these blockades created a critical, and urgent situation that was national in scope and could not be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada. On February 14, 2022, the Government of Canada announced it was declaring a public order emergency under the Emergencies Act (the Act), invoking this legislation for the first time since it was enacted in 1988. The severity of the situation warranted use of the Act, which temporarily provided law enforcement with additional tools and powers to resolve the emergency. On February 23, 2022, the declaration of emergency was revoked, and all measures and orders ceased to be in effect.

In accordance with section 63 of the Emergencies Act, which requires that the Governor-in-Council order an inquiry following any invocation of Act, the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) was established by Order-in-Council on April 25, 2022. Pursuant to the terms of reference in that Order-in-Council, the Public Order Emergency Commission was mandated to examine the basis for the Government’s decision to declare a public order emergency, the circumstances that led to the declaration, and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the measures selected by the Government to deal with the then-existing situation. Over the course of seven months, Commissioner Paul S. Rouleau and the Commission reviewed more than 85,000 documents and interviewed 139 individuals. The Government of Canada welcomed this comprehensive review of the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in order to ensure transparency and accountability for Canadians.

On February 17, 2023, the Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency, was tabled in both Houses of Parliament (“the Final Report”). The Final Report provides an in-depth examination of the circumstances leading to the declaration of a public order emergency in February 2022, and an assessment of the measures taken by the federal government. The Commission found that the high threshold to invoke the Act had been met, and that the decision to invoke it was appropriate. The Commission’s Final Report provides 56 recommendations that cover: policing; federal intelligence collection and coordination; identification of critical trade corridors and infrastructure; addressing cryptocurrencies and social media misinformation and disinformation; the Emergencies Act and follow-up and accountability.

Many of the Final Report’s recommendations fall within the jurisdiction of other orders of government, or, where directed at the federal government, would require the collaboration of, and action by, other orders of government.

The Government of Canada has reviewed the Commission’s findings and recommendations, and taken the opportunity to engage provincial and territorial counterparts in discussions about the recommendations in the Final Report, and areas for collaboration across the federation. This response outlines the federal government’s consideration of the recommendations and a commitment to learn from the important findings contained within the Final Report to lessen the likelihood of future public order emergencies, and ensure more effective responses if they do, by supporting community safety and inter-jurisdictional collaboration. Of note, several recommendations are directed to other jurisdictions. The Government of Canada encourages these partners to publicly share how they are learning from and taking action on these recommendations.

We would like to extend our thanks to Commissioner Rouleau and Commission staff for completing their work under the tight timelines required by the Act. In addition to providing valuable insights into the events that led the Government to invoke the Emergencies Act and the subsequent actions of Government, the Final Report reflects a historical moment for Canada and Canadians.

Part 1: Policing

As noted in the Commission’s Final Report, the response by police to the blockades to our communities and our economy profoundly informed the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act. Police have one of the most important roles in our society – to enforce the law and maintain public safety while upholding constitutional rights. Policing duties during public order events can be incredibly difficult, and public confidence in police can suffer as a result. Canadians and people around the world watched as police and governments responded to the protests and blockades, expecting a unified, coordinated, and effective response to the situation that threatened the safety, security, and economic well-being of Canadians and Canada.

Policing responsibilities in Canada are shared between federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous, and municipal governments. Each order of government has roles and responsibilities to ensure adequate and effective policing, which may overlap. Further, the role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is complex. The RCMP is both Canada’s national police service with responsibility for investigating, and protecting Canada and Canadians from serious criminal threats that are national in scope, as well as providing provincial and municipal policing services under contract to all provinces and territories except for Ontario and Quebec. Interjurisdictional coordination and collaboration between policing services is vital to ensuring Canada is prepared and able to respond to major events including those that have national implications.

The Commission also considered the importance of policing oversight and governance, including greater information sharing between players during a major event, clear priority setting, and adequate funding for police services to mount an effective response to major events. Policing oversight and governance is again a responsibility shared by orders of governments and, when effectively carried out, can help maintain public confidence in police and governments.

Recommendation #1: The Commission recommended that the federal government should work with all partners to develop or enhance protocols on information sharing, intelligence gathering, and distribution.

The Government of Canada will continue to work with partners to ensure that processes for information sharing, intelligence gathering and distribution of information amongst partners are well understood, to streamline sources for information and to reduce the burden of collection for any one agency. As Canada’s national police service, the RCMP has engaged federal law enforcement and intelligence partners and other law enforcement agencies to improve criminal intelligence collection and sharing. The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC), with the RCMP’s assistance, is exploring how the Canadian Criminal Intelligence System (the databa se supporting the criminal intelligence and law enforcement community) could be better used to help manage and retain intelligence on serious criminality associated with public order events. CISC is an inter-agency organization in Canada designed to coordinate and share criminal intelligence amongst member police forces. 

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is Canada’s security intelligence agency, and collects, assesses, and reports on threats to the security of Canada. While CSIS national security investigations are independent from law enforcement and are not for the purpose of criminal evidence-gathering, CSIS investigations may at times yield information relevant to criminal investigations. To that end, CSIS continues to explore ways to improve intelligence sharing protocols with those agencies who are authorized to receive it, while respecting its distinct mandate and the need to ensure the appropriate safeguarding of highly classified information. CSIS is conducting an ongoing review of how it disseminates information and intelligence to identify gaps and areas for improvement.

In addition, the Government of Canada has built a professional cadre of intelligence analysts, including within the Privy Council Office (PCO), CSIS, the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) and the RCMP. Analysts from each of these federal agencies work within their respective legal frameworks and thresholds to, among other things, assess the potential implications of violent or harmful rhetoric often found on social media. This includes tailored training on how to conduct intelligence analysis within each of the different agencies, and ensuring that analysts understand their thresholds and limitations for the collection and retention of information and intelligence, respecting privacy and other Charter rights.

Recommendation #2: The Commission recommended that the federal government and stakeholders should consider the creation of a single national intelligence coordinator for major events of a national or interprovincial or interterritorial dimension.

The Government of Canada acknowledges the importance of improving coordination among governments, police services, and intelligence agencies regarding intelligence sharing.

Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Government of Canada created the position of National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister (NSIA) as a single national entity to coordinate national security intelligence. The NSIA reports directly to the Prime Minister of Canada and is housed within PCO. The NSIA provides the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council with strategic assessments, and policy and operational advice in relation to foreign affairs and national defence issues, national security and intelligence, and emergency preparedness and management. To do so effectively, the NSIA engages with Canada’s national security and intelligence community at all orders of government, and receives information provided by the federal security and intelligence community, including information related to ongoing security incidents and threats to Canada’s national security. PCO continues to work with the federal, provincial, territorial and international security and intelligence community to explore opportunities for continual improvement related to the sharing and coordination of intelligence for major events with a national or inter-jurisdictional dimension.

Recommendation #3: The Commission recommended that police and other law enforcement agencies should develop, in conjunction with affected governments, protocols around requests for additional law enforcement resources.

The Government of Canada acknowledges the importance of clear processes and procedures for law enforcement agencies to call upon others when additional resources are required.

Under contract, the RCMP provides frontline policing services in all provinces and territories excluding Ontario and Quebec, including over 150 municipalities. If requested by a province or territory, the RCMP has an established process whereby the agency can temporarily redeploy RCMP resources to support the local police of jurisdiction’s response to an emergency. During the convoy, the City of Ottawa and Province of Ontario requested, and received, additional RCMP policing resources to manage illegal protests and international border blockades, respectively.

Recommendation #4: The Commission recommended that all police services boards in jurisdictions that may be the subject of or adversely affected by major events including large-scale protests should create policies that delineate their oversight and governance roles in addressing those events.

Recommendation #5: The Commission recommended that governments should consider incorporating the points in Recommendation 4, in whole or in part, in policing legislation and/or mandating the creation of board policies that incorporate these points.

The establishment of police services boards falls under the purview of other orders of government. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of effective civilian oversight of the police to promote public confidence, accountability and governance.

Recommendations #6: The Commission recommended that the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General should consider formalizing the responsibilities of its police services advisors in interacting both with police services boards and the Ministry, informed by the issues identified in this Report.

Recommendation #7: The Commission recommended that the Province of Ontario should create protocols to be potentially incorporated into its policing legislation, regulations, or policing manual related to the criteria for the exercise of powers in provincial policing legislation, models of integrated or unified command and control, and how the province would compel, in exceptional circumstances, a municipal police service to accept an integrated or unified command and control model to manage a major event.

The Government of Canada will not offer a response to recommendations directed to Ontario.

Recommendation #8: The Commission recommended that the federal government, other provincial and territorial governments, and Indigenous governments should create protocols or memoranda of understanding to address either major events other than in Ontario or Territories, or major events of a national or interprovincial / territorial dimension.

The RCMP has well established protocols in place to engage and coordinate with provinces, territories and municipalities, as well as seek any required approval to withdraw and redeploy policing resources in emergency situations, including under the Police Service Agreements with 11 provinces and territories. The RCMP is also developing protocols for independent provincial and municipal police forces to request additional RCMP police resources as a result of a major event or emergency.

Recommendation #9: The Commission recommended that all governments and their police services should work cooperatively to create national standards on how major events are addressed.

The Government of Canada will continue its work to engage all orders of government and police services to prepare for and respond to major events in Canada. The Commissioner of the RCMP routinely engages with chiefs of police from across Canada through the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), which has developed a National Framework for Police Preparedness and Demonstrations and Assemblies. This Framework sets out essential principles for police preparedness for demonstrations and assemblies, to ensure public safety, and to prevent criminal activity in relation to demonstrations and assemblies. Building on a best practice put in place during the illegal blockades, the federal-provincial-territorial Crime Prevention and Policing Committee, comprised of Assistant Deputy Ministers of Public Safety and Justice, continue to use this forum to quickly convene and share information on major events of national or regional scope.

Recommendation #10, #11, and #12: In summary, the Commission recommended that jurisdictions consider steps to provide for the creation of event management units or major event management coordinator to address and coordinate policing responses across the country to major events of a national dimension.

The Government of Canada acknowledges that proper planning for major events that includes effective coordination of policing responses is critical.

The RCMP Operational Coordination Centre (ROCC) operates 24/7 to monitor and coordinate the RCMP’s official response to major events. It is an integral part of the federal government's emergency response plans, and acts as the principal contact point between the RCMP and its national and international major event management partners. It is responsible for the continued functioning and enhancement of multi-departmental working groups involved in national security and counter-terrorist plans, and for the communication of time-sensitive tactical and strategic information and intelligence. Also, RCMP Federal Policing has additional resources and personnel in place to prepare for and coordinate security for major events.

Recommendation #13 and #14: In summary, the Commission recommended that federal, Indigenous, provincial, and territorial governments should consider either the creation of national standards for policing a major event, or changes to existing legislation, regulations, policing manuals, policies, and procedures that identify essential elements of strategic, operational, and tactical planning for major events, such as protests. Such standards, frameworks, legislation, policies, procedures, or manuals should include key information.

The Government of Canada recognizes the critical value of clear policies and procedures that lay out how to plan for and respond to a major event, including public order events. Guiding principles for effective police preparedness and response to protests, such as those found in the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police National Framework for Police Preparedness and Demonstrations and Assemblies are helpful to guide these efforts and ensure the safety of protest participants and the communities in which protests take place.

Recommendation #15: The Commission recommended that the RCMP should consider leading an initiative, working with other police agencies, for police services across the country to adopt a single command and control model, with shared nomenclature to facilitate integrated operations in appropriate situations.

The Government of Canada agrees that common nomenclature and common command and control models not only facilitates the effective collaboration and rapid integration of officers from different police services across the country into a single command structure during the response to a major event, but allows for interoperability with other first responders as well. Across Canada, the Incident Command System (ICS) is the common model in use across most police and first responder services, however elements of other models have begun to be incorporated to supplement ICS. The RCMP is analyzing major event management and command and control structures to identify options for an effective national model and will work with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) to support broad adoption and understanding of police services across the country of a common approach.

Recommendation #16, #17, #18 and #19: The Commission recommended that police services should have a contingent of trained Police Liaison Team (PLT) officers or have entered into an agreement with another service to access such officers or appropriate expertise, as needed. Police service boards should also create procedures, if they do not already exist, that clearly articulate the role of PLT officers within the context of major events, and that PLT officers and major event commanders, as well as senior leadership, should receive specialized training and education. Finally, the Commission noted that police should recognize the unique considerations that should inform a policing response to Indigenous based protests.

The Government of Canada agrees that trained Police Liaison Team officers can be of assistance during protests to support Canadians’ right to protest peacefully and safely. Even when arrests are justified, police will often choose to employ other strategies to deal with protesters such as Police Liaison Teams. By engaging with protesters, these teams attempt to maintain open lines of communication and aim to develop a relationship of trust, to facilitate a safe and lawful environment where protesters can exercise their freedom of expression and assembly. After the invocation of the Emergencies Act, police liaison teams were able to respectfully bring the illegal blockades to an end, without the use of violence.

The RCMP uses and trains Police Liaison Teams, also referred to as Divisional Liaison Teams (DLTs). Every DLT member is trained in liaison, conflict management and resolution including mediation and negotiation skills development through the National Community Conflict Management Group course. In provinces where the RCMP is the police of jurisdiction, police services may request additional RCMP resources with expertise in relationship building and negotiation, who will work with individuals or groups to facilitate peaceful events. Best practices from the Ontario Provincial Police Framework for Preparedness for Indigenous Critical Incidents and the CACP National Framework for Police Preparedness for Demonstrations and Assemblies could inform future improvements to the RCMP approach.

The RCMP will continue to ensure that officer training is responsive to local needs and communities and that cultural needs are considered, including Indigenous and racialized cultural competencies.

Recommendation #20 and #21: The Commission recommended that the federal government, working together with other affected governments, should develop an expedited accreditation process for RCMP or interprovincial officers to exercise legal authority to enforce provincial legislation or municipal by-laws where applicable, and where their training and education ensure that they are competent to exercise such authority. Additionally, any expedited accreditation process should address police oversight and accountability mechanisms.

As noted in response to recommendation #3, the Government of Canada agrees that swift accreditation processes are beneficial for police from different jurisdictions and/or levels of policing to work together in the event of an emergency. The Government of Canada will continue to engage in interjurisdictional collaboration to obtain the accreditation necessary for police from different jurisdictions and levels to work together in the event of an emergency.

Recommendation #22: The Commission recommended that Municipalities, police services boards, and police services should, when dealing with major events, provide the public with accurate, useful, and regularly updated information.

The Government agrees that effective public communication includes accurate, timely, and consistent messaging. The RCMP has made improvements to the way it communicates with the public during a critical incident. Police across Canada are now using the Alert Ready system to issue emergency alerts and the RCMP has implemented robust national and divisional policies on public alerting, including integration into the Cadet Training Program. The RCMP has also updated national crisis communications protocols, which help guide communications with the public during critical incidents.

Recommendation #23: The Commission recommended that the federal government, in conjunction with other governments and with police services and other stakeholders, should comprehensively examine the scope and limitations on police powers in relation to protest activities.

Any police powers in relation to protest activities are subject to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. Police have the authority to investigate and prevent illegal conduct and behaviour and to ensure the safety and security of all persons, including in the context of lawful protests. This authority is limited by statutory duties and constitutionally granted Charter rights. 

The Government of Canada will continue discussions about policing responses to protest activities with provinces and territories at existing forums, such as the Crime Prevention and Policing Committee, and the Deputy Minister and Ministerial Justice and Public Safety forum. In addition, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have expertise related to reviewing situations and complaints regarding the police use of powers in relation to protest and other activities.

Recommendation #24: The Commission recommended that: Consultations and discussions should continue, through a working group, led by the federal government but including other governments, police agencies, and the Parliamentary Protective Service, to study, on a priority basis, whether changes should be made to the division of responsibilities for policing and security in the National Capital Region.

The Government of Canada will continue discussions with security, police and government partners responsible for policing and security in the National Capital Region (NCR). The National Capital Region is unique from a legal and jurisdictional perspective, with multiple orders of government operating within a small, dense urban space. Parliament Hill is one of the most significant and iconic sites in Canada and the Parliamentary Precinct is the physical and symbolic heart of our nation’s democracy. Security of the Parliamentary Precinct and the surrounding area and the safety of Parliamentarians, staff, and visitors, is essential for the effective functioning of Parliament. The Government of Canada is currently advancing efforts to address recommendations from the POEC and the 2022 study from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) titled, Protecting the Parliamentary Precinct, Responding to Evolving Risks.

A dedicated working group, comprising Public Safety Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Privy Council Office, as well as parliamentary partners and various law enforcement agencies, is currently examining policing issues unique to the Parliamentary Precinct and the surrounding area.

Further to commitments made in response to similar recommendations in the Government Response to the 19th Report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the federal government reaffirms its commitment to continue discussions with the City of Ottawa to transfer a portion of Wellington Street to the federal government, with the goal of marking the legal and geographic boundaries of the Parliamentary Precinct, and clearly defining security and policing roles and responsibilities in the area.

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is the police of jurisdiction in the national capital and responds to over 800 demonstrations or events each year; with a majority of these events being predominantly located in or around the Parliamentary campus. Coordination and collaboration amongst policing and other stakeholders is critical to ensure the safety and security of parliamentarians, businesses and residents, who work and visit the Parliamentary campus every day. Work is underway to improve security and policing and ensure that the right resources are available to protect this location of national significance.

Additionally, there is work underway to improve safety and security issues in the Parliamentary campus by strengthening operational planning and response. The RCMP is working with over 20 agencies at the municipal, provincial and federal level to renew the INTERSECT agreement and its governing structure the NCR Strategic Security Council.

The INTERSECT Program was initiated in 2005 with the endorsement of the National Capital Region Strategic Security Council (NCRSSC). It aimed to establish an integrated response framework for first responders in the NCR resulting from the increasingly complex threat environment following September 11, 2001. INTERSECT became an operational program in 2010 and has since expanded to a multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary emergency management and preparedness program spanning several municipalities, two provinces, and all three orders of government, with the Federal government making up over 50% of the overall membership in 2023. INTERSECT is governed by the NCRSSC and chaired by three (3) Co-Chairs represented by the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), the Sûreté du Quebec (SQ) and the RCMP Protective Operations Unit.

The RCMP is advancing efforts to improve how agencies coordinate and communicate through INTERSECT. This partnership, which involves first responders and agencies at the municipal, provincial and federal level, is a multi-jurisdictional, all-hazards emergency preparedness program.

In collaboration with security partners, the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) has begun developing all-threat assessments tailored to individual ministers, and other federal elected and public officials as required.

Recommendations #25 and #26: The Commission recommended that where the Federal Government proposes to declare a public order emergency and introduce law enforcement measures, it should obtain the views of those law enforcement agencies likely to be primarily affected by these proposed decisions; and that the perspectives of affected law enforcement agencies should be summarized in writing and made available to decision makers.

The Government of Canada agrees that the views of implicated law enforcement agencies could be useful to inform decision-making when considering any future invocation of the Emergencies Act.

Recommendation #27: The Commission recommended that the federal government develop publicly available guidelines that set out how information should flow between police services and elected officials and/or senior government officials.

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the independence of police operations and the separation of policing and political concerns. Preserving the principles of operational independence upholds the rule of law, fosters public confidence in policing, and enables ethical decision making within the police governance and accountability system.

Part 2: Federal Intelligence Collection and Coordination

The Government acknowledges the importance of effective and efficient intelligence collection and coordination as a safeguard for our democracy and national security.

Recommendation #28: The Commission recommended that the federal government should examine the question of whether a department or agency of government should have the authority and responsibility to monitor and report on information contained in social media for appropriate purposes and with appropriate safeguards.

The Government of Canada agrees to consider and explore the Commission’s recommendation to ensure that departments and agencies of government have the necessary authority and responsibility to monitor and report on information contained in social media, for appropriate purposes and with appropriate safeguards.

Under the direction of the NSIA, the Canadian intelligence community has launched an internal review of open-source intelligence activities, and is seeking to update related policies and develop clear frameworks regarding online monitoring, including of social media and other complex online platforms. To bolster Canada’s intelligence collection and identification efforts, the NSIA is also revitalizing the governance of the Canadian national security and intelligence community through Deputy Head committees that will focus on enhancing coordination, dissemination, storage, and tracking of intelligence.

CSIS continues to collect, analyze, retain, and report intelligence on threats to the security of Canada, including on activities directed toward or in support of the threat or use of serious violence for the purpose of achieving a political, religious, or ideological objective. This can include the influence of social media on extremism, radicalization, and misinformation and disinformation. Over the last few years, CSIS has increased resources dedicated to investigating and analyzing Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE) threats.

Recommendation #29: The Commission recommended that the federal government should initiate a review to ensure that the federal government agencies with a responsibility for the collection or analysis of security intelligence are fully coordinated among themselves.

The Government of Canada agrees that the coordination of federal government agencies that collect and analyze security intelligence is essential. To that end, the federal national security community is currently working to improve intelligence collection and dissemination through the launch of public consultations on potential legislative changes to the Criminal Code, Security of Information Act, Canada Evidence Act, and the CSIS Act. These proposed legislative changes include, but are not limited to: providing Canada’s national security agencies with the legal ability to disclose information about threats to the security of Canada to domestic partners, in addition to federal government departments; improving the ways the legal system deals with sensitive information, including security intelligence, in administrative and criminal proceedings; and adequately protect Canadians and Canadian institutions in a digital world, for example, by modernizing CSIS’s collection authorities to regain its ability to collect from within Canada intelligence about foreign states and foreign individuals in Canada, even when that  intelligence resides outside Canada.

Part 3: Critical Trade Transportation Corridors and Infrastructure

Ensuring that Canada’s borders and critical infrastructure are well protected is paramount to the safety and security of Canadians.

Recommendation #30: The Commission recommended that the federal government initiate discussions with provincial and territorial governments, in consultation with Indigenous governments and affected Municipalities, to promptly identify critical trade transportation corridors and infrastructure, and establish protocols to protect them and respond to interference with them.

The Government of Canada agrees that discussions with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous groups on identifying critical trade corridors and infrastructure continue and are a sound first step toward developing protection protocols.  Building on public consultations in 2022, Public Safety Canada is leading efforts to renew Canada’s National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure. The new strategy, which will aim to strengthen the security and resilience of Canada’s critical infrastructure, will be released before the end of 2024.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) made various temporary and permanent security improvements at 11 ports of entry and updated its border management plans in response to the illegal blockades in 2022. The CBSA remains committed to evaluating and enhancing the security posture at Canada’s ports of entry on an ongoing basis and as required.

Recently, the Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada launched consultations on possible legislative amendments to counter foreign interference. These consultations will in part explore strengthening criminal law deterrence measures for interfering with, abandoning or limiting access to essential infrastructure, by amending the law of sabotage in the Criminal Code to ensure it covers modern forms of critical infrastructure, while striking the right balance between public safety objectives and potential impacts on Charter protected rights and freedoms.

Transport Canada (TC) began consultations with transportation stakeholders, owners and operators, and Indigenous organizations, provinces, and territories in 2023 to enhance coordination between all orders of government when responding to significant disruptions related to transportation infrastructure. TC is also examining emergency management response systems and protocols to enhance departmental preparation and preparedness for such events.

Part 4: The Emergencies Act

The Emergencies Act is an extraordinary piece of federal legislation that grants the federal government temporary additional powers when other tools are no longer sufficient to deal effectively with a particular challenge or set of challenges. Commissioner Rouleau presented many thoughtful recommendations to modernize this Act, which received Royal Assent in 1988, and to ensure it is a tool fit to the threats and challenges of our time. The Government of Canada will engage Provinces and Territories, Indigenous partners, stakeholders, and civil society on all 22 Emergencies Act related recommendations, including seeking views on potential legislative amendments as described in the recommendations.

In carrying out its mandate, the Commission had access to a wealth of information, including institutional reports, thousands of Government documents, and days of witness testimony. This richness of material, and the Commission’s meticulous work to analyze and make sense of it for Canadians, is now enshrined in our history. This moment in time was marked by distinct motivating factors and actors, within a unique set of circumstances, and included specific Government actions to respond to the specific situation.

It is not possible to fully anticipate and prepare for every single unusual combination of circumstances that could lead to a potential emergency event. The Government of Canada must have the capacity to respond to future emergencies swiftly and proportionally. Future governments must have at their disposal a full range of tools and instruments, so that they can best respond to anticipated and unexpected challenges alike. We hope that in future, the use of the Emergencies Act will remain exceptionally rare.

It is important that all jurisdictions have the tools they need to deal with emergencies as they arise. The Government will continually consider the laws of Canada to ensure that they can effectively deal with serious threats and risks to Canadians, and avoid where possible recourse to the Emergencies Act. The Government will also continue to collaborate with provinces, territories, Indigenous governments and other appropriate bodies to ensure that that they have sufficient authority to effectively deal with serious threats to public order and other risks to Canadians, without recourse to the Emergencies Act.

Recommendation 31: The Commission recommended that the incorporation by reference into the Emergencies Act of the definition of “threats to the security of Canada” from the CSIS Act should be removed.

Commissioner Rouleau noted that the incorporation by reference in the Emergencies Act of the definition of “threats to the security of Canada” from the CSIS Act could be a source of controversy and misunderstanding. There is ongoing litigation on this issue and the Government will carefully consider those decisions, along with other factors, with a view to assessing whether any amendments to the Emergencies Act are necessary.

Recommendation #32: The Commission recommended that there should be an in-depth review of Part II of the Act dealing with public order emergencies.

The Government of Canada agrees that both the policy and current legislative framework for addressing emergency situations through the invocation of the Emergencies Act is a matter of public importance and interest. Any future amendments to this section of the Act should ensure that governments can continue to effectively and rapidly address future emergencies that may be difficult to foresee and occur in challenging circumstances.

Recommendation #33: The Commission recommended that Section 25 of the Emergencies Act should be amended to include a requirement to consult with the Territories.

The Government is of the view that Section 25 of the Emergencies Act already mandates consultation with Canada’s territories, consistent with the definition of the term “province” provided for in section 35(1) of the Interpretation Act. As a result, the Government does not believe further amendments are necessary.

The Government complied with this already existing duty in 2022 by engaging with the territories at various federal-provincial-territorial forums and seeking the Premiers’ perspectives prior to invocation.

Recommendation #34: The Commission recommended that the federal government engage in discussions with Indigenous communities to establish the appropriate parameters for consultations regarding possible recourse to the Act.

Canada agrees that any future decisions regarding whether to invoke the Emergencies Act could benefit from consultations with Indigenous groups whose interests or rights may be affected, either by the declaration of an emergency or by the implementation and effects of specific emergency measures. Such consultations would also be consistent with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and Canada’s Action Plan.

Recommendation #35: The Commission recommended that should invocation of the Emergencies Act be necessary and to the extent that circumstances permit, the federal government should cooperate with the provinces to ensure that the measures it adopts to deal with the emergency comply with the requirements of subsection 19(3) of the Act so as to mitigate any infringement on provincial jurisdiction.

Recommendation #36: The Commission recommended that, although not determinative, the views of provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments that such measures are not needed within their jurisdictions should be considered in the development of the measures and the jurisdictions to which they are made applicable.

The Government agrees to continue collaborative discussions with provinces, territories, and Indigenous Governments, including discussions respecting what measure may complement, and not unduly impair, the ability of an affected province or territory or Indigenous group to deal with an emergency, to inform its decisions, including those made under the Emergencies Act.

Additionally, the Government agrees to continue discussions with provinces, territories, and Indigenous groups, including respecting what may or may not be needed or useful in their specific circumstances, to inform its decisions, including those made under the Emergencies Act.

Recommendation #37: The Commission recommended that Section 63 of the Emergencies Act be amended to require that the inquiry be called pursuant to Part I of the Inquiries Act.

The Government of Canada agrees that an Inquiry established pursuant to Part I of the Inquiries Act could be an appropriate forum for the inquiry required by section 63 of the Emergencies Act.

Recommendation #38: The Commission recommended that the Emergencies Act be amended to provide greater direction to the commission of inquiry established in consequence of the declaration of a public order emergency and, at a minimum, direct it to examine and assess the basis for the declaration and the measures adopted pursuant thereto.

The Government of Canada agrees that an inquiry under Section 63 of the Emergencies Act could usefully consider both the declaration of emergency and any measures taken and will consider this recommendation for any future amendments to the Emergencies Act. It is also important to note that the Commission was not the only oversight mechanism for the Emergencies Act. Three parliamentary committees (the Standing Committee on Finance, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency) reviewed either parts or the totality of the Government’s actions.

Recommendation #39: The Commission recommended that the prospective commissioner of a commission of inquiry pursuant to the Act should be consulted as to the substance of the terms of reference for the inquiry.

The Government of Canada understands the underlying rationale for this recommendation. Given the unpredictable nature of emergencies, the decisions as to how to structure the terms of reference of any future inquiry pursuant to the Emergencies Act should be left to the Government of the day.

Recommendation #40: The Commission recommended that the Emergencies Act be amended to require that, at the time a commission of inquiry into the declaration of a public order emergency is established, the Government deliver to the commission a comprehensive statement setting out the factual and legal basis for the declaration and measures adopted, including the view of the Minister of Justice of Canada as to whether the decision to proclaim an emergency was consistent with the purposes and provisions of the Emergencies Act, and whether the measures taken under the Act were necessary and consistent with the Charter.

The Government notes that the Section 58 (1) report containing the explanation for the declaration of the public order emergency and report on consultations that took place before the declaration, which were laid before both houses of Parliament as part of the motion for confirmation of a declaration of emergency, were indeed a “comprehensive statement” that assisted the Commission in its work. These documents contained the factual information relied upon by the Government in taking its decision to invoke the Act and communicated the Government’s legal position, and formed the basis for the role in the House of Commons, which endorsed the declaration of emergency. The Government agrees that a comprehensive statement setting out the factual and legal basis for the declaration and measures adopted could facilitate the work of an inquiry into a declaration of an emergency.

Recommendation #41: The Commission recommended that amendments be made to the Emergencies Act to impose upon the Government the obligation to create and maintain a thorough written record of the process leading to a decision to declare a public order emergency. That obligation should apply to both elected officials (and their exempt staff) and public servants.

The Government notes that the explanation of the reasons for issuing a declaration under the Emergencies Act, and a report on any provincial consultations with respect to such declaration, which subsection 58(1) of the Emergencies Act requires to be laid before each House of Parliament as part of a motion for confirmation of a declaration of emergency, within seven sitting days after the declaration is issued, may serve, as a record of the process leading to a decision to declare a public order emergency, thus facilitating the work of the inquiry. The Government agrees that a thorough written record of the process leading to a decision to declare a public order emergency could facilitate the work of an inquiry into a declaration of an emergency.

Recommendation #42: The Commission recommended that the Government commence the work of collecting and organizing its documents and information as soon as the decision to declare a public order emergency is made. Such records should be produced to the commission at the outset of its work or as soon thereafter as is feasible.

The Government agrees that early collection, and early disclosure, of relevant documents would facilitate the work of an inquiry into a declaration of emergency.

Recommendation #43: The Commission recommended that a Government that has declared a public order emergency should be bound to produce to the resulting commission of inquiry all of the inputs to Cabinet and to ministers on the issue. “Inputs to Cabinet” should be understood as encompassing all information, advice, and recommendations provided to Cabinet, Cabinet Committees, or individual ministers.

With respect to Cabinet confidentiality, neither the Emergencies Act nor the Inquires Act authorize the disclosure of Cabinet confidence to a Commission of Inquiry. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the constitutional convention of Cabinet confidentiality is essential to good government as it protects the public’s interest in ensuring that the executive branch of government can conduct its internal business in private. The confidentiality of the Cabinet decision-making deliberations is fundamental to Canada’s system of government because it allows Ministers to express their views and opinions in private, to negotiate, to change their minds, and even to accept defeat of a proposal to make decisions for which all Ministers are collectively responsible. Neither the Emergencies Act nor the Inquiries Act authorize the disclosure of Cabinet confidence to a commission of inquiry.

On an exceptional and voluntary basis, the Government decided to provide a partial voluntary disclosure of information subject to Cabinet confidentiality to the Commission—specifically, the inputs that were before Cabinet when it considered the circumstances that led to the declaration of the public order emergency and the special temporary measures for dealing with the emergency—in order to assist the Commission in examining the circumstances that led to the declaration of the public order emergency and the special temporary measures taken for dealing with the emergency. This was only the fourth time since Confederation that access to Cabinet confidences has been granted in similar circumstances. A decision to authorize the disclosure of information subject to Cabinet confidentiality may only be taken after a public interest balancing analysis has been conducted, weighing the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in maintaining confidentiality, and must be taken in relation to specific information in a specific context.

Should the Emergencies Act be invoked in the future, it will therefore fall to the Government of the day to perform that fact-specific public interest balancing analysis before deciding whether a future Commission of inquiry should be granted access to information subject to Cabinet confidentiality.

Recommendation #44: The Commission recommended that the government have the obligation to provide a commission of inquiry with all of its documents and information holdings without redactions on account of irrelevance, or on account of national security confidentiality and similar public interest privileges.

The Government of Canada acknowledges that an inquiry into a declaration of emergency requires access to relevant information to complete its work. The instruments establishing inquiries often specify how certain types of information will be treated, within the context of applicable privileges and immunities that protect specific types of information.

Recommendation #45: The Commission recommended that should a future commission of inquiry create a working group to work through challenges to claims of national security and related privileges, the Government should actively engage in the working group with a view to resolving issues expeditiously.

The Government of Canada agrees that the work of an inquiry into a declaration of an emergency would be facilitated by the active participation by Government on inquiry working groups – including those considering national security and other privileges.

Recommendation #46: The Commission recommended that the Emergencies Act be amended to allow the commissioner appointed for the inquiry to appoint an individual who will have jurisdiction to resolve any claim of privilege that would normally be within the jurisdiction of a superior court judge in accordance with such expedited procedures as adopted by the adjudicator.

The Government of Canada acknowledges this recommendation and will study its proposal.

Recommendation #47: The Commission recommended that, where it can reasonably be anticipated that claims will be made by the government pursuant to section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act, a request should be made to the chief justice of the Federal Court to appoint a judge to determine all challenges to such claims on an expedited basis.

The Government of Canada agrees that the work of an inquiry into a declaration of an emergency involving evidence for which claims under the Canada Evidence Act are made would be facilitated by early engagement of the processes under section 38 of the Act, including requesting the assignment of a designated judge to determine those claims.

Recommendation #48: The Commission recommended that the Emergencies Act should be amended to give the commission the power to order a person to produce any information, document, or thing under the person’s power or control.

The Government agrees that an inquiry into a declaration of an emergency could benefit from similar authority to compel a witness to produce evidence under their control as described in section 4 of the Inquiries Act.

Recommendation #49: The Commission recommended that the Emergencies Act should be amended, subject to any constitutional constraints, to clarify that a federal Parliamentarian may not claim Parliamentary privilege to refuse to testify before a commission of inquiry into a public order emergency.

Parliamentary privilege includes rights, privileges and immunities that are necessary to enable parliamentarians to perform their legislative functions. It is for Parliament to decide whether any adjustments to parliamentary privilege are required.  

Recommendation #50: The Commission recommended that the Emergencies Act be amended to allow for greater flexibility in the time within which the Commission must complete its work.

The Government of Canada agrees that the time provided for the Commission to complete its work under the Emergencies Act was challenging. The Government acknowledges that the accountability and transparency provisions within the Act, including the timely conclusion of the Commission, are important to ensure Canadians receive a timely, unbiased review of a decision to invoke the Emergencies Act. The Government agrees that an inquiry under the Emergencies Act could benefit from greater flexibility in its reporting deadline.

Recommendation #51: The Commission recommended that Section 62 of the Emergencies Act be amended to clarify the mandate and timing of the Parliamentary Review Committee.

The Government of Canada agrees that the work of any future inquiry into a declaration of an emergency could potentially be affected by the timing and content of simultaneous hearings conducted by a Parliamentary Review Committee. Bringing further clarity to this Committee’s role could assist the work of a future committee, in the case of a future invocation of the Act. The Government also agrees that it would be beneficial that the Committee be struck as soon as possible to allow it to exercise its oversight function, and that the Committee’s review be conducted expeditiously.

Recommendation #52: The Commission recommended that subsection 28(1) of the Federal Courts Act should be amended to add: (1) a commission of inquiry established pursuant to section 63 of the Emergencies Act; and (2) the Governor in Council when it issues a proclamation pursuant to subsection 17(1) of the Act among matters the Federal Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear applications for judicial review.

The Government acknowledges the desirability of prompt judicial review of a decision by the Governor in Council to proclaim a public order emergency under subsection 17(1) of the Emergencies Act, as well as any subsequent decisions by a Commission of Inquiry called under section 63 of the Emergencies Act. The Government notes that such decisions are already subject to review through the process provided for under Section 18.1 of the Federal Courts Act.

Part 5: Other Areas for Further Study

Recommendation #53: The Commission recommended that all levels of government should continue to study the impact of social media, including misinformation and disinformation, on Canadian society, with a focus on preserving freedom of expression and the benefits of new technologies, while addressing the serious challenges that misinformation, disinformation, and other online harms present to individuals and Canadian society.

The Government of Canada agrees that all orders of government should continue to study the impact of social media, including misinformation and disinformation, on Canadian society.

The Government recognizes that a strong democracy relies on Canadians having access to diverse and reliable sources of news and information so that they can form opinions, hold governments and individuals to account, and participate in public debate. Several initiatives, consistent with the Commission’s recommendations, are in place to study and address the impacts of misinformation and disinformation on Canadian society. These include commitments to introduce legislation to address online hate speech and hate crimes, and supporting international efforts to understand and address harmful impacts of social media.

In addition to these initiatives, and consistent with the Commission’s recommendations, several initiatives are in place to study and address the impacts of misinformation and disinformation on Canadian society. This includes initiatives such as the Digital Citizen Contribution Program (DCCP), created as part of the Plan to Protect Canada’s Democracy. The DCCP is administered by Canadian Heritage, and it supports a community of Canadian researchers through financial assistance. In June 2023, the Government announced a $5.5 million investment to create the Canadian Digital Media Research Network, which will further strengthen Canadians’ information resilience by researching how quality of information, including disinformation narratives, impact Canadians’ attitudes and behaviors, and by supporting strategies for Canadians’ digital literacy.

On February 26, 2024, the Government introduced Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act, to confront serious forms of harmful content online. If passed by Parliament, the legislation and associated regulatory framework will focus on a range of harmful content including content that foments hate, content that incites violent extremism or terrorism, and content that sexually victimizes children or revictimizes survivors. A suite of legislative amendments to confront hate, including the changes in former Bill C-36 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code are included.

The Government of Canada is also supporting research and prevention programming to understand and address drivers of violent extremism, both online and offline, where misinformation and disinformation may play an important role. Housed at Public Safety, the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (Canada Centre) leads the Government of Canada’s efforts to counter radicalization to violence, including to support frontline organizations working to improve Canada’s understanding and capacity to prevent and counter violent extremism, through the Community Resilience Fund. Examples include support for research by Ontario Tech University and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue about the motivations, activities, and connections of IMVE movements in Canada; and for work by Digital Public Square to examine and address how mis- and dis-information can connect to xenophobic, anti-authority, gender-driven and other ideologically motivated forms of radicalization to violence. Such initiatives are adapting and expanding their analysis and prevention programming to understand and address the grievances stemming from the Israel-Hamas conflict, including the harms from the proliferation of hateful, violent extremist, terrorist and traumatizing content. To build the evidence base on prevention for such grievance-fueled violence, the Canada Centre also works closely with international counterparts, such as through the Five Country Research and Development Countering Violent Extremism Network (5RD CVEN), including to produce systematic evidence reviews through the Campbell Collaboration on risk and protective factors driving violent extremism, and the efficacy of interventions designed to prevent and counter it.

Moving forward, the Government must be prepared and willing to confront the spread of misinformation and disinformation and must consider different responsibilities and responses in safeguarding against polarization and potential harms. The Government of Canada commits to further examining the growing threats of misinformation and disinformation via social media platforms.

Recommendation #54: The Commission recommended that the federal government should continue with its study into cryptocurrencies. This study should be informed by the findings of this Commission. Federal officials should seek to collaborate with counterparts at other levels of government to benefit from existing study in this area and to ensure that any jurisdictional issues may be addressed.

The Government of Canada agrees that more work is needed to better understand these new technologies to avoid the funding of illegal or criminal activities in Canada.

Since the public order emergency in Winter 2022, the Government has taken several steps to enhance monitoring of cryptocurrencies, as well as on financial crimes broadly. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions launched consultations on November 20, 2023, with federally regulated financial institutions on the public disclosure of crypto-asset exposures. The Government has also completed targeted consultations with stakeholders to better understand how digital assets are evolving and their potential implications.

In addition, Canada and Spain co-led, on behalf, of the Financial Action Task Force a report on Crowdfunding for Terrorism Financing, published in October 2023. This work has raised awareness of the terrorist financing risks posed by crowdfunding platforms and demonstrated the relevance and importance of addressing these risks not only in Canada but globally to address emerging terrorist financing threats.

On November 2, 2023, Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts received Royal Assent, to implement a free, publicly accessible, and searchable beneficial ownership registry for federal corporations. The establishment of the federal registry is a key step in advancing federal leadership and cooperation with provinces and territories to ensure pan-Canadian access to information on ownership and control of Canadian corporations to prevent their misuse and assist law enforcement investigations of financial crimes.

The 2023 Fall Economic Statement announced that the Government’s intention to introduce legislative measures to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering/Anti-Terrorist Financing (AML/ATF) Regime through changes to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). These amendments include addressing sanctions evasion, support operational effectiveness, combat trade-based financial crime and environmental crime, and expand the framework to address risks related to white-label Automatic Teller Machines and in the real estate sector.

The Government took steps in Budget 2023 to respond to the findings of the Government of British Columbia’s (BC) final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in BC, also known as the Cullen Commission, which highlighted significant gaps in Canada’s AML/ATF Regime. Budget 2023 included legislative amendment to the Criminal Code and the PCMLTFA to strengthen the investigative, enforcement, and information sharing tools of Canada’s AML/ATF Regime as well as cooperation across orders of government.

The Government announced in Budget 2023 that it will launch a parliamentary review of the PCMLTFA in 2023. A committee of Parliament will soon begin its work to fulfill the statutory obligation. The Parliamentary Review of the PCMLTFA will inform the Government’s forward-looking efforts to continue to reinforce integrity of Canada’s financial sector.

Part 6: Follow-up and Accountability

Recommendation #55: The Commission recommended that within twelve months following the tabling of the commission’s report, the Government should issue a public response identifying which recommendations it accepts and rejects. For the recommendations the Government accepts, it should provide a detailed timeline for their implementation. For the recommendations the Government rejects, it should provide a detailed explanation of its refusal to implement them.

The Government of Canada has endeavored to respond to this recommendation in this response to the Final Report, where possible and where applicable. Some recommendations are directed at other orders of governments, and many recommendations require collaboration or action by other orders of government, Indigenous governments, police services, and stakeholders. In this response, the Government of Canada speaks only to its’ own intentions and commitments to next steps, without seeking to bind future governments who may be faced with realities that are different from today. The Government recognizes and thanks the Commission for the thoroughness and quality of its Final Report.

Recommendation #56: The Commission recommended that the Government’s response should be referred to an implementation committee, the mandate and composition of which are to be determined by Parliament.

The Government acknowledges that Parliamentary oversight is available, in accordance with standard parliamentary procedures. 

Conclusion

The Commission observed that the events of January and February 2022 were a singular moment in Canadian history that divided Canadians and weakened confidence in public institutions. While the Commission found the Government was justified in declaring a public order emergency, it acknowledges that much work remains to improve coordination between police services and federal, provincial, municipal and territorial governments. The Government of Canada is committed to collaborating with all partners, including Provinces, Territories, and Indigenous governments to continue to take action on the issues identified in the Final Report of the Public Order Emergency Commission.

The Commission’s Final Report is an important milestone in the process of restoring public confidence and healing the divisions across Canadian society. The government’s actions and commitments outlined in this response represent an important step in achieving this goal.

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