It’s the last day of testimony at the inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, and after dozens of witnesses over several weeks it all leads up to the person whose signature paved the way for the end to the “Freedom Convoy” protests last winter.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take the stand at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is scrutinizing the events that led to the federal emergency declaration Feb. 14, weeks into protests that gridlocked downtown Ottawa and halted Canada-U.S. trade at several border crossings.
Seven cabinet ministers have already provided testimony this week, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland who drew a direct link between Canada’s economic and national security while defending the government’s decision to declare a public order emergency.
Trudeau is expected to be grilled about why he took the unprecedented step, who advised him to do so, did the convoy actually present a threat to national security, and his views on the apparent failures at all levels to respond to the protest.
In her testimony on Thursday, Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, said invoking the act was not a political decision.
“It was driven at its core in every meeting, how do we ensure the safety and security of Canadians,” she said.
Telford also told the commission Thursday federal officials considered possible engagement with the protesters more than once as a possible option to bringing an end to the blockade, but ultimately that option had little support across government.
“There were too many unanswered questions,” she said.
“There was no clarity in terms of who the discussion would be with on either side of the discussion, and what the discussion would be about and what it might result in.”
Trudeau’s appearance before the inquiry has the potential for some fireworks, especially during cross-examination by the lawyer for the convoy organizers, who in the last week was briefly kicked out of the proceedings and was served with a defamation notice.
Following Trudeau’s testimony, lawyers will give closing statements and then the expert panels begin next week.
Commissioner Paul Rouleau will then have until Feb. 20 to table a final report.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report