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Trudeau Government Facing Lawsuits Over Invoking Emergencies Act

Published: February 24, 2022
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens during the first North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) since 2016 in the East Room at the White House Nov. 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Trudeau government is facing several lawsuits due to his government invoking the never before used Emergencies Act to quell peaceful protests across Canada and in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. (Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Despite the Trudeau government’s abrupt revocation of the Emergencies Act it will still have to defend its use in court after two civil liberties groups filed legal challenges asserting that invoking the act against peaceful protesters was unlawful. 

Both the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) have filed separate court actions requesting a hearing in Federal Court. 

In an announcement, CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn asserted, “Prime Minister Trudeau has set a dangerous precedent by invoking the never before used federal Emergencies Act to address the current situation. The high threshold for declaring a public order emergency in the Emergencies Act has not been met.”

Van Geyn continued, “The decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, which has never been used or interpreted by the courts, is unprecedented. If Parliament authorizes the proclamation of the public order emergency, the courts will be the last defence for the rule of law.”

Lawyers, Suhit Choudhry and Janani Shanmuganathan are the lawyers representing the CCF.

In a statement, Abby Deshman, Director of Criminal Justice for the CCLA welcomed the government’s decision to revoke the Emergencies Act referring to the decision as “overdue,” however argued that “Even though the orders are no longer in force, Canadians are left with the precedent that the government’s actions have set.”

The CCLA believes that there was insufficient legal basis for the Trudeau government to resort to invoking the Emergencies Act and argues that the orders the Canadian government passed under the legislation were “unconstitutional.” Further to this, the CCLA is attempting to address potential future consequences and seeks to avoid normalizing the use of such draconian legislation in the face of legally protected protest and other legal activities.

The premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Jason Kenney, is also pursuing legal action against the Trudeau government for invoking the act.

On Wednesday, following the revocation of the act, Kenney introduced a motion condemning the federal government’s move, saying governments and police already had the authority to deal with the weeks-long protests.

Like the CCLA, Kenney is arguing that Trudeau’s revocation of the act doesn’t matter because it set a “dangerous” precedent. Kenney said that the invocation of the act amounted to “one of the most obvious overreaches of government power in my lifetime.”

Prior to speaking in the legislature on Wednesday, Kenney posted to social media saying that the province will seek a judicial review of the use of the act, asserting that it’s extraordinary powers were never justified. 

Candice Bergen, the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), the Trudeau government’s official opposition, is putting pressure on as well.

In a statement posted to Twitter Bergen says that the CPC knew invoking the act was wrong claiming that both experts and Canadians at large knew it was wrong as well stating, “Canadians want and deserve answers on why the Prime Minister invoked this sledgehammer in the first place that has had a direct impact on their lives.”

Demanding answers, she asserted, “The most important question that needs to be answered now is: when will this Liberal government put forward a plan to end the unscientific mandates and restrictions?”