Emergencies Act committee can’t ignore Indigenous concerns about precedent, police bias say parliamentarians

‘Let’s make sure we have an Indigenous lens or somebody that understands where we’re coming from,’ says Sen. Michèle Audette


The occupation of Ottawa and solidarity border blockades wound down nearly two weeks ago but debate over the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to quell the convoy protests is still ramping up.

A committee is being struck to study how the state mishandled the anti-vaccine mandate uprising, and two First Nations parliamentarians say it can’t ignore Indigenous people’s concerns.

“Yes, I’m concerned,” Sen. Michèle Audette told Nation to Nation. “With the committee who will examine everything since the beginning of this, let’s make sure we have an Indigenous lens or somebody that understands where we’re coming from.”

Freshly appointed to the upper chamber, Audette said the prospect of voting to give more power to the same institutions that oppress and imprison Indigenous people was not a welcome one.

The former commissioner with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls ultimately didn’t have to vote, however, because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revoked the emergency while the motion was on the Senate floor.

But the Emergencies Act, which gives Ottawa extraordinary powers in times of crisis, forces Trudeau to order an inquiry nevertheless. It isn’t yet clear whether it’ll be a public inquiry and what its mandate will be.


Read more:

What could Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act mean for the future of Indigenous direct action?


New Democrat MP Leah Gazan, in a fiery speech in the House of Commons, recently accused the Liberals and Conservatives of fuelling social disunity for partisan gain, calling the entire affair “a colossal failure of national security and the complete failure of the government.”

Gazan said those failures need to be probed, telling N2N she shares Audette’s fears.

“My concern is that we ensure things are put in place so that it doesn’t go after, for example, environmentalists or Indigenous land and water protectors, and that it’s not misused in the future,” she said. “That’s the purpose of this study.”

The appearance of preferential policing for the convoy also cries out for further inquiry, Gazan added.

“We have to look at systemic racism in policing and changes that are necessary in policing,” she said. “It was fairly obvious, and I think we need to address that.”

The federal Green Party also in the wake of the protests called for a national commission into racism and white supremacy in policing and defence.

Interim Green leader Amita Kuttner explained why.

“Our entire state, as it is, is founded on colonialism and white supremacy, and is perpetuating genocide,” said Kuttner. “It is deeply structured into every system. We saw the way police responded to the convoy.”

Kuttner, an astrophysicist hoping to rehabilitate the party as it seeks a new permanent boss, joined N2N to react to a new United Nations report on the climate crisis.

The UN’s secretary general called its contents “an atlas of human suffering.”

Watch the full interview above.

Online Journalist / Ottawa

Brett is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in Ontario. He grew up in Ottawa where he obtained an English degree from Carleton University. Brett is a creative writer, poet, and journalist. He joined the Ottawa bureau for APTN News in December 2019 as a digital reporter.