An Analysis of Canada’s Emergencies Act

Over 30 years ago, I wrote an article (copied below) analyzing the then-new Emergencies Act that had replaced the War Measures Act. The War Measures Act had been invoked during the First and Second World Wars. More controversially, it had also been invoked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1970 to deal with the “October Crisis” in Quebec. Concern about the resulting suppression of civil liberties during the “October Crisis” was one of the main reasons that there was broad support for replacing the War Measures Act by the Emergencies Act.

The Emergencies Act was not invoked until this year.

On February 14, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government declared a “public order emergency under the Emergencies Act to end blockades, disruptions and the occupation of the city of Ottawa.” This was in response to the so-called “Truckers Convoy” or “Freedom Convoy” that had blockaded part of Ottawa for several weeks.

On February 23, 2022, Prime Minister Trudeau’s government revoked the declaration.

As required by the Emergencies Act, there will be a Parliamentary committee that reviews the circumstances surrounding this declaration of an emergency. Many individuals and organizations are taking positions on what happened. There are several applications to judicially review the declaration. There is no doubt that this first use of the Emergencies Act will be the subject of much commentary for many years to come.

I am posting my old article below in the hope that some of it may prove useful to people who are evaluating the use of the Emergencies Act.

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Peter Rosenthal

Peter Rosenthal

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics (University of Toronto), retired lawyer and social justice activist. Authored math textbooks, legal articles and some fiction.