Trudeau knew about convoy talks but wanted his “emergency” anyway
My new book The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks that Shook the World has taken the #1 spot on the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail bestsellers list for the fifth week in a row. Thank you to all of you who’ve made this happen. It’s truly appreciated. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can order your copy here.
Closed-door negotiations between Freedom Convoy organizers and City of Ottawa representatives were bearing fruit by the time the Emergencies Act was invoked. The talks between former army captain Tom Marazzo and City of Ottawa manager Steve Kanellakos, along with convoy lawyers and several Ottawa and Ontario Provincial Police officers were significant and productive.
Both sides agreed to a three-day plan to move all the trucks in Ottawa onto Wellington St. – clearing side streets and residential areas – with the trucks that couldn’t fit heading out of town. This was a big operation, and a sign that convoy organizers were eager to minimize disruption to Ottawa residents and that the City of Ottawa was prepared to allow the legal protest to continue so long as its presence was limited to where federal buildings were.
While knowledge of the talks was kept to a small group, it was safe to assume Justin Trudeau had to have been briefed on them, certainly when his government was canvassing police agencies hoping they’d ask him to invoke the Emergencies Act (which none of them did).
My theory was that Trudeau was hellbent on invoking the Emergencies Act and knew his window was closing.
New court documents show my instincts were correct. The day before Trudeau put the Emergencies Act in play, his cabinet was told the City of Ottawa and convoy organizers were making progress.
Trudeau wilfully ignored the negotiations to give himself emergency powers, send in the cavalry, and suspend civil liberties.
According to minutes from the Feb. 13 cabinet meeting, security advisor Jody Thomas reported to Trudeau and his cabinet that “law enforcement gains have been important and that there was potential for a breakthrough in Ottawa.”
The City of Ottawa and convoy organizers secretly agreed to have Tamara Lich and Mayor Jim Watson publish carefully choreographed statements. As noted in The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks that Shook the World:
In his letter, published the afternoon of Sunday, February 13, Watson offered to meet with Lich to discuss the protesters’ concerns, conditional on the removal of all trucks from residential streets and Coventry, and agreement to not deploy more trucks or protesters in these areas. The letter demanded “clear evidence” of the departure from residential areas by noon on Monday, February 14.
Lich’s letter, published shortly after, affirmed the truckers “have always been about peaceful protest.” She wrote: “We have made a plan to consolidate our protest efforts around Parliament Hill. We will be working hard over the next 24 hours to get buy-in from the truckers. We hope to start repositioning our trucks on Monday.”
In truth, the movements were already underway, though the facts prove inconvenient for the federal government.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office said this week that the negotiations were “disavowed by many associated with the so-called Freedom Convoy and were ultimately unsuccessful.”
It’s not an unsurprising comment if one accepts, as I do, that Mendicino’s words generally bear little resemblance to truth (or intelligence, for that matter). The negotiations were successful, which is why the trucks were moving. The only point at which they stopped being successful was when the Emergencies Act put an end to police-convoy cooperation.
Far from being opposed by other protesters, Lich and her team spent considerable time and effort getting buy-in from the truckers, which is why things had been moving along without issue.
Convoy leaders couldn’t command or order protesters to do anything, but they wielded significant influence. The truckers trusted Lich, so they listened when she explained why the Wellington St. plan was in the protest’s interests.
As I pointed out at the time, Watson showed significant leadership and proved what is possible when you engage with your political adversaries rather than vilifying them. By building up the convoy as a group of unacceptable, swastika-waving white supremacists (the Trudeau Approach™), a peaceful and political resolution was impossible.
If Canadians saw Watson’s strategy of engaging to be effective, they would start to ask Trudeau why he couldn’t do the same. The only way out was to concoct an emergency, in the absence of justification.
It was always about power – the power to freeze bank accounts, seize assets, conscript tow-truck drivers, and arrest even truckless peaceful protesters (despite the government’s laughable claim that civil liberties would remain intact under rule by the War Measures Act’s successor.)
The Emergencies Act was always a sham – but now we have even more proof.
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