Six-month progress report on the Public Order Emergency Commission’s Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency
The Right Honourable Justin P.J. Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Room 315-A, West Block
House of Commons
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing in response to your letter of April 3, 2023, asking me to coordinate the Government Response to the Public Order Emergency Commission’s (the Commission) Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency (Commission’s Final Report) by February 17, 2024. I am pleased to provide you with a six-month progress update on work to date.
Our key objective in preparing the Government’s Response to the Commission’s Final Report is to maintain public trust and confidence in the ability of police and all orders of government to work together to keep Canadians and our communities safe and secure.
The 2022 convoy protests posed a new kind of threat to the security of Canada and Canadians. These blockades descended into unlawful gatherings and disrupted critical infrastructure, key supply chains and our economy. Residents of affected communities were also subjected to prolonged harassment and intimidation. In this context, the Government of Canada took decisive action to protect the safety and security of Canadians by invoking the Emergencies Act (the Act) for the first time and declaring a public order emergency. An independent commission of inquiry, which was established as per the Act, was responsible for reviewing the circumstances that led to the declaration and the measures taken for dealing with the emergency.
The Commission found that the high threshold to invoke the Act had been met and that the decision to invoke it was appropriate. Nonetheless, the Commission’s Final Report provides 56 recommendations, of which 49 recommendations focus on policing practices and modernizing the Act. There are also recommendations addressing Canada’s critical trade corridors, intelligence collection and coordination, cryptocurrencies, and combatting mis- and disinformation. The federal government is considering these recommendations carefully, particularly those that will improve collaboration between jurisdictions, support community safety, and help strengthen our capacity to respond to similar events of national significance in the future.
In addition, intergovernmental collaboration to ensure a more synchronized response to events of national significance was a strong theme across the Commission’s Final Report and will be an important consideration in how the federal government responds to the final report.
This six-month update is framed around six key themes which capture the main areas outlined in the Commission’s Final Report:
- Policing reform;
- The Emergencies Act;
- Intelligence collection and gathering;
- Identification and protection of trade corridors;
- Addressing cryptocurrencies and social media misinformation and disinformation; and,
- Strengthening intergovernmental collaboration: Intergovernmental strategy.
Twenty-seven of the Commission’s recommendations focus on policing, including enhancing collaboration between law enforcement agencies, improving information sharing, intelligence gathering and distribution practices, clarifying protocols for requesting additional resources, and improving command and control practices during major events.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is considering ways to improve policing during public order events, building on existing collaboration amongst police of jurisdiction and the RCMP. Public Safety Canada, with the RCMP, are undertaking an assessment of the RCMP contract policing program in anticipation of the end of the current policing contracts in 2032. The assessment is an opportunity to gather important feedback from partners and stakeholders on the contract policing program and to learn more about how to better support the needs and interests of all partners and Canadians in building a more sustainable contract policing model. In addition, a report on federal policing by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is expected this fall, with observations and recommendations on how to improve the RCMP’s federal policing mandate activities. The RCMP will consider recommendations from this report in tandem with the recommendations in the Commission’s final report.
Consistent with ongoing work on federal policing, the RCMP is acting on the Commission’s recommendations to improve information sharing and coordination across the law enforcement community. The RCMP is working closely with Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC), a network of 400 law enforcement agencies, to explore whether and how intelligence on serious criminality associated with public order events can be jointly managed and retained.
Both the Commission’s final report and the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report, which examined the tragic April 2020 mass casualty event in Nova Scotia, called for a renewed, collaborative approach to managing crises, and a common command-and-control model for all law enforcement agencies in Canada. The RCMP is reviewing command-and-control models to ensure it can integrate seamlessly with other police and emergency services to respond to crises and emergencies.
The Emergencies Act
The Commission has put forward 22 key recommendations for modernizing the Act. Most notably, the Commission has recommended that various actions be taken to review the threshold for invocation for public order emergencies, including removing reference to the CSIS Act and “threats to the security of Canada” and a full-scale review of Part 2 of the Act concerning public order emergencies. The Commission’s Final Report also recommended broadening consultation under the Act with provinces, territories and Indigenous groups during invocation. Lastly, a suite of recommendations were aimed at improving how Commissions of Inquiry would operate under the Act, including lengthening the duration of proceedings, providing clarity on the direction of commissions, expanding the scope of records provided to the commission protected under privilege, and addressing federal parliamentary privilege as a means for not testifying at a commission.
The Commission’s Final Report noted that while the Act is in some respects imperfect or outdated, it is firmly anchored in the principles of the rule of law and public accountability. Nonetheless, the recommendations related to the Act and its proposed amendments are being given thoughtful consideration as part of the Government Response, which will outline a path forward for the Act and help ensure that the federal government is better positioned to respond to future similar events of national significance.
Intelligence collection and gathering
The Commission’s Final Report recommended that the federal government examine whether a federal institution should have the authority and responsibility to monitor and report on information contained in social media for “appropriate purposes and with appropriate safeguards,” and to initiate a review ensuring that federal agencies responsible for the collection or analysis of security intelligence are fully coordinated among themselves.
The Privy Council Office (PCO) is taking multiple steps to address the Commission’s intelligence recommendations. To bolster Canada’s intelligence efforts, the National Security and Intelligence Advisor is revitalizing the governance of the Canadian national security and intelligence community through deputy head committees that will focus on enhancing coordination, dissemination, storage, and tracking of intelligence.
The creation of a new National Security Council will also enable ministers to deliberate on and address issues of pressing concern to Canada's domestic and international security.
Identification and protection of critical trade corridors
To protect critical trade corridors and infrastructure, the Commission recommended that the federal government initiate discussions with provincial and territorial governments, as well as consult Indigenous governments and affected municipalities, to identify critical trade transportation corridors and infrastructure, and establish the necessary protocols to protect them and respond to interference with them.
In response to both the Supply Chain Task Force and the Commission’s Final Report, Transport Canada is working to better identify and protect key trade transportation corridors and infrastructure. Beginning this summer, Transport Canada is consulting stakeholders, owners and operators, and Indigenous organizations, provinces, and territories to enhance coordination between orders of government when responding to significant disruptions related to transportation infrastructure. In addition, Transport Canada is examining emergency management response systems and protocols to enhance departmental preparation and preparedness for such events.
As part of efforts to renew Canada’s National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure, federal organizations, including the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Transport Canada, are also supporting an interdepartmental process to modernize Canada’s approach to critical infrastructure security and resilience. This work, which aims to strengthen the security and resiliency of Canada's critical infrastructure, is being led by Public Safety Canada and is targeted for completion in 2024.
Lastly, to further augment the security of our borders, the CBSA has updated and improved border management plans and made infrastructure improvements at eleven ports-of-entry in response to blockades during the illegal protests.
Addressing cryptocurrencies and social media misinformation and disinformation
The Commission recommended that the federal government work with its partners to further study the impact of social media, including misinformation and disinformation, while addressing the serious challenges that misinformation, disinformation, and other online harms present to individuals and Canadian society. Further, the Commission also recommended that the federal government continue to study cryptocurrencies, with an eye to leverage findings from the report to inform this work.
Social media, misinformation and disinformation
In a strong democracy, access to diverse and reliable sources of news and information is essential to exercising freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. It also empowers citizens to hold governments and institutions to account and participate in robust public debate. Consistent with the Commission’s recommendations, there are several initiatives in place to study and address the impacts of disinformation on Canadian society.
The Government of Canada has made it a priority to provide citizens with tools and supports to critically assess online information. For example, in advance of the 2019 election, Canada put in place the Plan to Protect Canada’s Democracy. The Plan was the first of its kind internationally and recognized the importance of an informed citizenry through the establishment of the Digital Citizen Initiative. The Digital Citizen Initiative (DCI) was launched in 2020 to support democracy and social inclusion in Canada by building citizen resilience against online disinformation and building partnerships to support a healthy information ecosystem. The DCI funds research to better understand the origins, spread, and impact of online disinformation in Canada as well as digital media literacy activities to help citizens look at information with a critical eye, and to build skills to participate in online spaces without being susceptible to disinformation.
More recently, the Protecting Democracy Unit within PCO was established to coordinate, develop, and implement government-wide measures designed to combat disinformation and to protect Canada’s democratic institutions. The federal government has also announced a $5.5 million investment to create the Canadian Digital Media Research Network (CDMRN), a new partnership with civil society to help combat disinformation and strengthen the capacity of civil society partners to counter disinformation. The Media Ecosystem Observatory, a research initiative led by McGill University and the University of Toronto, will independently administer the CDMRN.
Cryptocurrencies, financial crime and anti-money laundering and terrorist financing
The Government of Canada is implementing concrete actions that furthers research on cryptocurrencies, as suggested by the Commission, and begins work for monitoring and regulating decentralized finance. Finance Canada is undertaking a financial sector legislative review and is working closely with federal and provincial partners to adapt to the increasing digitalization of money, and to maintain stability and security in the financial sector.
Finance Canada is engaging with provincial and territorial authorities on reviews of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and Canada’s Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing (AML/ATF) Regime, as announced in Budget 2023, in addition to legislative changes laid out in the Budget Implementation Act 2023, No. 1. This includes identifying, assessing, and mitigating new cryptocurrency and digital asset risks in collaboration with FINTRAC as they emerge. This review includes a public consultation that will examine ways to improve Canada's AML/ATF Regime, as well as examine how governments can better use existing tools to seize the proceeds of crime, including unexplained wealth orders.
The federal government has introduced legislative amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act and other laws to implement a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry through Bill C-42. This registry will cover corporations governed under the Canada Business Corporations Act and will be scalable to allow access to the beneficial ownership data held by provinces and territories that agree to participate in a national registry. Lastly, the RCMP has also launched a series of initiatives to help build investigator capacity, capability, and awareness on how to trace, seize, and analyze cryptocurrencies in criminal cases.
Strengthening collaboration across all orders of government: Intergovernmental strategy
Half the Commission’s recommendations have intergovernmental implications, including developing standards and protocols for policing and information sharing, improving accountability and oversight of police services, enhancing protections for critical infrastructure, and amendments to the Emergencies Act. Many of the recommendations fall, at least in part, under the jurisdiction of other orders of government. Acting on these recommendations will require collaboration amongst provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments – and the Government of Canada will lead those efforts.
Discussions are taking place at existing federal, provincial, and territorial engagement tables on policing, public safety, justice, and transport to address recommendations in areas of shared jurisdiction. For example, Public Safety Canada is actively engaging PTs on policing and public safety recommendations.
Given the specific recommendations for Ontario, I have written to the Solicitor General of Ontario seeking to better understand Ontario’s intentions to consider the recommendations from the Commission’s report directed at the province, and to offer collaboration on areas of mutual interest with officials.
The decision to invoke the Emergencies Act was not taken lightly, and the exceptional powers required were needed to restore public safety and protect Canadians.
I will continue to work closely with my colleagues on these issues and will present a comprehensive Government Response in February 2024.
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., K.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs
- The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
- The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Transport and Quebec Lieutenant
- The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages
- The Honourable Karina Gould, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
- The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage
- The Honourable Dan Vandal, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
- The Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence
- The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, P.C., M.P.
President of the King’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada
- The Honourable Arif Virani, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
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