Invocation of emergency powers: Self-serving reports to justify emergency measures

To simply repeat that the emergency measures and police powers protect national security is a ruse to deceive the public about what is going on.

On Sunday, February 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the eighth meeting of the “Incident Response Group” where “ministers and senior officials” are said to provide “updates on the current situation and an assessment of the progress being made” in the implementation of the Emergency Measures Regulations and the Emergency Economic Measures Order under the Emergencies Act.

The report of the meeting says “the group was briefed on the ongoing efforts by police in Ottawa, where law enforcement agencies from across Canada have worked together to restore order in the Parliament Precinct and the city’s downtown core.” It goes on to identify what they mean by “police in Ottawa” as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Ottawa Police Service who, the report says, carried out a “methodical and complex law enforcement effort.”

Showing that the report is an exercise in self-serving justification, it says: “The group acknowledged the comments from the police today highlighting that this operation in Ottawa directly benefitted from the Emergencies Act, noting that provisions of the Act have allowed them to maintain the perimeter, restrict travel and ensure that they continue to restrict financial support and other assistance to protesters.” This presumably serves to answer the question repeatedly raised in the parliamentary debate on the emergency measures as to whether the threshold to invoke the emergency measures has been met.

The “group” also informs: “Over the past few days, there have been close to 200 arrests, 389 criminal charges have been laid and a total of 76 vehicles were towed. The job is not done yet and work is expected to continue to bring an end to the illegal blockades and occupations.”

The report informs that the “group” was briefed about “law enforcement actions being taken elsewhere in Canada,” and reiterates the self-serving claim that the aim is “to avoid further blockades and protect jobs and the economy.” The report says that these actions “reconfirmed the goal to see order restored as soon as possible to ensure the safety of Canadians, as well as to continue to assess the use of the Emergencies Act to ensure that, as intended, it is time-limited, reasonable, and proportionate to the threats it is meant to address.”

The report from the seventh meeting held on February 19, similarly toots the government’s horn about the great job it is doing. It “reemphasized that the scope of the measures will be time-limited, as well as reasonable and proportionate to the threats they are meant to address.” It underscores that the “group” “acknowledged the important work of parliamentarians in the House of Commons as it resumed debate today on the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, as significant enforcement actions were taking place in front of Parliament Hill.”

While not saying so, this reads as if to say that the measures have support in the Parliament. In fact, there is now talk about making the vote in the Parliament on the emergency measures a “confidence vote.” This means the cartel parties must suspect difficulty in keeping their ranks united when it comes to casting their vote in whatever way their leader has decided.

One of the aims of the reports on these meetings seems to be to argue for certain emergency measures to be made permanent by saying that the cost to “taxpayers” of maintaining law and order, and losses due to disruptions, are very high. The report says the “group discussed the announcement earlier today of an investment of up to $20 million to provide non-repayable contributions to Ottawa businesses who have suffered losses due to the illegal blockades and occupations. They noted the significant costs to Canadians caused by these illegal blockades – from policing costs to disruption of our supply chains due to blockades at ports of entry.” What is the point they are making?

The report informed that “finance-related measures under the Emergency Economic Measures Order” includes “the freezing of 113 financial products, the disclosure of 47 entities, 251 Bitcoin addresses have been shared with virtual currency exchangers, and one financial institution proactively freezing the account of a payment processor to a value of $3.8 million.” No information is provided about who the people affected are, on the basis of what intelligence they were selected or who benefits.

All of this raises the problem that the serious question is not the violation of civil rights per se, but how in the name of the security of the state and the national interest, governments rule on the basis of prerogative powers which they assign to themselves. They act on the basis of information which is kept hidden and in the name of national security — aims which are also kept hidden from the public. What methods do they then resort to, to unite the people behind whatever they are up to? Or, if they cannot unite the people in their favour, to keep the people divided and otherwise diverted and unorganized?

To simply repeat that the emergency measures and police powers protect national security is a ruse to deceive the public about what is going on. The best way to defend the security of the state is to unite the people in action for an aim which they themselves adopt. This is not the way despots of various persuasions act. Not only the reports of the so-called Incident Response Group, but the parliamentary debate on the emergency measures itself insidiously diverts attention away from substantive issues such as what is going on with this so-called freedom blockade, who is behind it and how the emergency measures will sort out the problem. Surely, information about the money and accounts which are being seized and/or frozen would shed light on such matters, as would whatever intel the government and police forces are acting on.

The report says the group “was briefed on the work being done by other federal government organizations, as well as efforts underway across the country to avoid further blockades, including at the Pacific Highway border crossing in British Columbia and at Prescott, Ontario. They reconfirmed the goal to bring a safe end to these illegal blockades and occupations and see order restored as soon as possible to ensure the safety of Canadians and an end to the economic disruptions.”

What does anyone learn from these reports? When it comes down to it, nothing — except that the use of language is indicative of the justifications the government is giving for the measures it is taking. At the end of the day, it will be to declare that the temporary measures will be made permanent at all points the government defines as critical infrastructure which affects the security of Canada. This is the modus operandi whether the despotism be liberal, social democrat or conservative.

Since 9/11, 2001, every time emergency measures are presented for adoption, the issue is made the need to strike the right balance between security and civil rights. It is a farce, because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms imposes “reasonable limits” on the exercise of rights. This leads to a clamour over whether the limits imposed are reasonable. Enter the justification about national security which then becomes a shell game because intelligence is secret, the deals reached by the police powers wielded by the government are protected, the dirty tricks of the political police and special forces whose duty it is to uphold “the security of the state” are secret.

The police justify no matter what actions in the name of carrying out their duty to defend the safety of the population under the law, to which they add they also have a duty to defend their own safety, as the spokesperson of the RCMP said about the operations at the Coutts border crossing in Alberta. The claim that they are not influenced by governments at any level is sophistic given that the entire system is contrived in a manner which defends private interests. So too the modus operandi of adopting emergency measures introduced since 9/11. After the dross is discarded, what the governments of the day want to become permanent, they make permanent. And that, they hope, will be the result today as well.

What is missing from their calculations, however, is the role of the working class and people who will never agree to be suppressed when crimes are committed in their name. And that, history shows, is the bottom line.

(Renewal Update, posted February 21, 2022)

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