Governments of all three levels, convoy organizers and police have been granted standing in the public inquiry looking into the invocation of the federal Emergencies Act, but the federal Conservative Party and a number of individuals who had their bank accounts frozen have been left out.
Granting groups or individuals standing allows them certain privileges in the inquiry process, including the ability to suggest witnesses or cross-examine them. It also means they are given advance notice on documents being submitted into evidence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act on Feb. 14 — for the first time in Canada’s history — during the Freedom Convoy. The act gave the federal government temporary powers to deal with the anti-COVID-19 restriction blockades that gridlocked Ottawa for three weeks last winter as protesters parked trucks that blocked neighbourhood access and main arteries around Parliament Hill.
Paul Rouleau, the commissioner heading the inquiry, wrote in his decision that the deadline to submit the inquiry report weighed on his final determination.
“I must keep in mind the practical realities facing the commission, including the strict timeline in which to complete the Inquiry,” Rouleau wrote.
The federal government, the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta have been granted full standing, while the government of Manitoba will be allowed to enter written submissions.
Key convoy organizers including Tamara Lich, Tom Marazzo, Chris Barber and Daniel Bulford have been granted full standing.
“Their contributions to the work of the commission are necessary, as they are uniquely situated to offer information to the commission and give firsthand evidence as to the goals and organization of the convoy,” Rouleau wrote of the organizers.
The Ottawa Police Service has been granted full standing, while its former chief Peter Sloly will be allowed to produce documents and examine witnesses.
The cities of Ottawa and Windsor have also been granted standing.
Conservatives, individual participants denied
The federal Conservative Party and individual protesters are some notable exclusions in Rouleau’s decision.
In his dismissal of the Conservatives, Rouleau pointed to the parliamentary committee reviewing the use of the act and said the inquiry needs to remain above the political fray.
“The political process that involves elected representatives from the various parties has a role to play in how the use of the Emergencies Act is reviewed and assessed,” Rouleau said.
“There is also an important role for an independent non-partisan process. Both ought to operate independently from one another.”
A number of individual protesters, including some who had their bank accounts frozen, were also denied standing in the inquiry.
Rouleau reasoned that individual protesters would have limited perspective on what unfolded earlier this year.
“By and large, their contribution would be limited to what they saw, heard or experienced from their particular vantage point as a participant or supporter of the convoy,” Rouleau said, adding that individuals will be able to have their voices heard during public hearings.
The commission’s final report must be submitted by February 2023.