Last winter, anti-vaccine and mandate protesters, dubbing themselves the Freedom Convoy, brought day-to-day life in downtown Ottawa to a screeching halt.
For nearly three weeks this past January and February, protester vehicles blocked city streets, often accompanied by the incessant blaring of horns.
Pressure from residents and businesses affected, and Ottawa municipal officials ultimately resulted in the federal government invoking the Emergencies Act this past Valentine’s Day.
Days later, during a debate in the House of Commons, NDP MP Leah Gazan chastised the Liberal government over the Emergencies Act.
“The fact that this legislation is being contemplated, let alone invoked, is a failure of leadership at all levels of government to respond adequately to clear threats to national security and our very own democracy,” she said at the time.
The federal government used the act to freeze the bank accounts of protest organizers and ban travel to protest zones.
Although it was only in place for a matter of days, its use mandated a public inquiry be held which began on Thursday.
Sixty-five witnesses, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, local Ottawa residents and protest organizers, will give testimony over the next several weeks.
Gazan told Nation to Nation guest host Annette Francis that she does support the inquiry but not without getting in a dig at the Liberals.
“This happened under the current government’s watch, this happened under the watchful eye of police who allowed this illegal occupation, this lawless occupation to get out of control and I think that we need a review that’s independent, that’s transparent,” she said.
“And I think people across Canada deserve answers about how this ended up becoming such a crisis in the first place.”
The Liberal government was able to invoke the Emergencies Act with the help of the NDP.
Francis asked Gazan if, in hindsight, she regretted her party’s support.
“I think it got to a point where particularly Ottawa residents wanted their lives back you know the city was completely taken over, over a span of several weeks and again, I’ll go back to my point what I said at the time, we should have never been in the position, we should have never been in the place where we had to make this decision.”
Native Women’s Association of Canada not invited to justice ministers meeting
Justice Minister David Lametti is hosting a meeting of provincial and territorial justice and public safety ministers in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
On Wednesday afternoon he met with some Indigenous leaders including Métis National Council (MNC) President Cassidy Caron and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) President Natan Obed.
But absent was representation from the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Last week the organization issued a statement criticizing the federal government for the oversight.
“If NWAC does not hold a seat at the table, Canada’s promises of reconciliation and gender-based equality remain empty,” it stated.
NWAC President Carol McBride appeared on Nation to Nation to talk about the perceived snub. But she still remained conciliatory.
“For now, I’m just going to leave it as it is. Let this meeting place first and then let’s talk to the minister,” she said. “I want to know the reasons why and we’ll take it from there.”
APTN News asked Lametti after his meeting with Indigenous leaders why McBride had not been invited.
He said working with the three Indigenous organizations, the Assembly of First Nations, MNC and ITK, on a distinctions-based approach has been a “hallmark” of the Liberal government since first being elected in 2015.
“That does not mean we do not work with, we do not speak to NWAC, or other groups that slice that segment differently of, that represent Indigenous voices differently,” he said. “Obviously I have a duty as an elected leader to interact with NWAC and I will meet the new leader soon and we will I think to build a productive working relationship as I do with a number of others.”
Also on Nation to Nation this week is Pamela Hart, the executive director of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto.
Last week she hauled a 4,000-page, 11 kg, document to the Prime Minister’s Office in downtown Ottawa and set it down at one of the doors.
Each page contains a portrait and brief description of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman or girl. It had also been displayed at Queen’s Park in Toronto.
She told host Annette Francis the reason behind the project.
“Each woman deserved a cover page. And each woman’s story still deserves to be heard and spoken about, and we all grieve each time we read a story, each time we learn about another indigenous woman who is missing and murdered,” she said.