Prime Minister Doug Ford’s government intends to contest his summons to appear at an Emergency Act inquiry | Catch My Job


Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been subpoenaed to testify at an inquiry into the Emergency Act – but his government says it will challenge the subpoena in court.

The inquiry is looking into the federal government’s use of the Emergency Act in response to a protest convoy that descended on Ottawa and a series of border crossings last winter.

The commission has repeatedly asked Ford and Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones — who was the province’s solicitor general during the protest — to appear, according to a letter from the commission’s legal counsel provided to the CBC.

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones — who was the province’s solicitor general during the convoy protests — has also been called to testify at the inquiry. (Tiana Martin/The Canadian Press)

“We hoped that Prime Minister Ford and Secretary Jones would agree to voluntarily appear before the Commission,” the letter states.

“However, as all repeated invitations have been refused, the Commission has today issued a summons to Prime Minister Ford and Minister Jones.”

The commission has statutory powers to call witnesses to testify before an investigation. A spokesman for the Ontario attorney general’s office said the government will challenge the subpoena, arguing that Jones and the premier have parliamentary privilege.

“Overall, our position has always been that this was a police matter and that police witnesses testifying can best provide the commission with the evidence it needs,” the spokesman said in an email.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, an advocacy group participating in the investigation, called Ford’s decision to challenge the call “disappointing.”

“The fact that the province of Ontario would go to this length to ensure that the premier and former solicitor general Jones do not have to appear in person and testify is quite striking,” said Laura Berger, a lawyer with the association. “It’s disappointing and looks like another attempt to avoid accountability and transparency.”

WATCH | Lawyers say Prime Minister Doug Ford should testify:

‘I think it’s really disappointing’: Lawyer Paul Champ on Ford government’s response to calls

Lawyers involved in the Emergency Act inquiry say Prime Minister Doug Ford should testify. “I think it’s really disappointing that the prime minister will say he can’t take a few hours out of his day to respond to the people of Ottawa,” said Paul Champ, who represents residents and businesses on the commission.

Before the inquest, lawyer Paul Champ, who represents a coalition of community associations and business improvement areas in downtown Ottawa, said Ford’s testimony was a “missing piece” and called on the premier to reconsider his court challenge.

“[Parliamentary privilege] is usually, in my experience, just when a politician doesn’t want to answer questions in court,” Champ said.

The letter states that Ford and Jones were asked to sit down for private talks with the commission’s legal advisers as early as September 19. The commission said it later asked them to testify voluntarily; it was not said when that request was made.

At an unrelated press conference last Monday, a reporter asked Ford why he would not testify in the investigation.

“I wasn’t asked,” Ford said in response.

Evidence presented to the commission during public hearings suggested that Ottawa was asking the province for more police resources during the protests.

In a Feb. 7 letter to Jones, Mayor Jim Watson asked Queens Park to help meet Ottawa’s request for 1,800 officers and called the situation in Ottawa “downright psychological warfare.”

During his testimony last week, Watson told the commission he was frustrated by Ford’s refusal to participate in a meeting between the three levels of government to discuss the situation in his city.

Watson suggested Ford stayed away “because of politics” and called Jones’ claim that Ontario was providing 1,500 officers “disingenuous” during a Feb. 8 conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We’re fighting a losing battle, it’s like hitting a mole,” Watson said, according to a rough transcript of the call.

WATCH | Ottawa’s mayor has pushed for funding to address the convoy protests:

Ottawa’s mayor has pushed for resources to deal with the convoy protests

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pleaded with the Ontario government for help in dealing with the “lawlessness” caused by the protest convoy, but grew frustrated with the lack of response, a public inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergency Act said.

Trudeau participated because of Ontario’s response during that call.

“Doug Ford was hiding from his responsibility for that for political reasons,” Trudeau said, according to the transcript. “I [it’s] it’s important that we don’t let them get away with it.”

Watson’s testimony and supporting evidence came a day after he attended an unrelated news conference with Ford and Trudeau.

During that press conference, Ford said he supported the federal government’s implementation of the Emergency Act, adding that he “stood shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister.”

On February 14, the federal government invoked the Emergency Act in response to the convoy’s occupation of downtown Ottawa. It gave authorities new powers to freeze the finances of those associated with blockades and protests, ban travel to protest zones, ban people from bringing minors to illegal gatherings and seize tow trucks.

The commission was directed to investigate the circumstances that led to the declaration of the state of emergency, including the actions of the police before and after the declaration.


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