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Earlier this month, Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant said in the House of Commons that military “surveillance” flights had been conducted over Ottawa amidst February’s Freedom Convoy blockades.
Since the Canadian Armed Forces would not have been able to assist in enforcing the blockades without an invocation of the National Defence Act, Gallant’s question to the government benches on May 4 was the following: “Was the surveillance conducted without lawful authority?”
In his response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thrice dismissed the accusations as coming “dangerously close to spreading misinformation and disinformation,” and said it was “entirely irresponsible” that the Conservatives seemed so ready to “stray so close to misinformation and disinformation.”
But a surveillance aircraft leased by the Canadian Armed Forces had indeed flown over Ottawa while the city’s downtown was blockaded by anti-mandate protesters.
While there’s no evidence that the flight was anything other than a training mission, its presence in the air was a direct contravention of a directive to keep military equipment (including aircraft) away from the capital throughout the blockades. In other words, it may have been acting without “lawful authority.”
The exchange illustrates a persistent contradiction in the Trudeau government. No peacetime Canadian government has ever been more obsessed by the supposed scourge of “misinformation.” At the same time, it has a recurring habit of spreading its own misinformation, or of attributing that title to things that turn out to be true.
This came up quite a few times during the Freedom Convoy blockades of downtown Ottawa. At the time, Liberal MPs often repeated the claim that the demonstration was fuelled largely by foreign cash.
“The illegal occupation of our capital city by a group of centrally coordinated individuals who were terrorizing the citizens of Ottawa for three weeks with the stated intent of overthrowing the government … in fact had the majority of their funding from foreign sources,” said Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull on Feb. 20.
Although it’s possible that foreign money may have become a factor in the protests’ latter stages, the initial raising of more than $10 million for the protest came almost entirely from Canadian sources.
In March testimony for a House of Commons committee, GoFundMe president Juan Benitez said that 88 per cent of the $10 million his site had collected for Freedom Convoy had derived from Canadian sources (GoFundMe ultimately suspended the fundraiser, prompting the protest to instead solicit funds on the U.S.-based Christian website GiveSendGo).
Liberals were also involved in repeating the inference that anti-mandate protesters had conspired to burn down an Ottawa apartment building.
In a Feb. 17 Commons statement justifying the need to invoke the Emergencies Act, Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara mentioned the “attempted arson of a downtown apartment building” in Ottawa.
When Ottawa Police eventually charged two men they believed to be responsible for the Feb. 6 attempted arson, however, they wrote that there was no reason to believe the men were “involved in any way with the Convoy protest which was going on when this arson took place.”
On May 2, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told the House of Commons that the idea for the Emergencies Act came by way of law enforcement. “At the recommendation of police, we invoked the Emergencies Act to protect Canadians,” he said.
During testimony to MPs last week, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki had praise for the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, but poured cold water on the notion that police had requested it. Lucki said that it was ultimately the federal government’s call to invoke the act and the RCMP were merely “consulted.” This week, Ottawa Police similarly confirmed they never asked for Emergencies Act invocation.
The House of Commons has long been a bastion for half-truths and exaggerations (the Conservatives were certainly no stranger to such during Freedom Convoy). And nobody would ever accuse the Trudeau Liberals of being the first Canadian government to bend the truth in their own self-interest.
But the Trudeau government is one of the first to do so while simultaneously pursuing legislation designed to regulate whole swaths of the internet in the service of combating “misinformation.”
Bill C-11, currently before the House of Commons, would impose new controls over everything from podcasts to YouTube videos, and even empower a “Digital Safety Commissioner of Canada” to order 24-hour takedowns of “unauthorized” content, including content deemed to be a form of “disinformation” or “misinformation.”
It would obviously be in our best interest to pretend that the Ontario election is a close and dramatic battle for power. But it’s really just Doug Ford sleepwalking towards re-election, largely because Ontarians absolutely hate the opposition choices. This has been most apparent in the unprecedented number of union endorsements trickling in for the Progressive Conservatives. Unions basically never endorse conservative governments, but trade unions appear to be turning to Ford largely because of his promises to expand Ontario skills training, as well as drop a whole whack of money on infrastructure. Two labour unions who have thus far thrown their support behind Ford noted it was the first time in their organization’s history they had backed someone who wasn’t Liberal or NDP.
The Ontario leaders’ debate was Monday night. The most immediate thing to note was how cramped it was. While televised political debates (such as last week’s Conservative leadership debate) are typically held on spacious and majestically appointed stages, Ontario’s four major party leaders were virtually elbow-to-elbow in a broadcast studio so small that the moderator’s teleprompter and camera had to be awkwardly squished between NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. As to what happened during the debate, all four participants claimed they won (but you can judge for yourself at this Postmedia summary of the event).
IN OTHER NEWS
Conservative leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre keeps opening his rallies with the song Rockin’ In the Free World, an apparent reference to his repeated promise to make Canada the “freest nation on earth.” To anyone who takes a closer listen to the 1989 Neil Young hit, which mostly describes urban scenes beset by poverty and decay, it’s pretty obvious that the song’s title and chorus is intended to be deeply sarcastic (which shouldn’t be a huge surprise given Young’s own decidedly unconservative politics).
Prince Charles and Camilla touched down in Newfoundland today to kick off their three-day royal tour of Canada. It’s the 19th time that Charles has dropped in on Canada, where he’s expected to become Head of State upon the death of his mother. One thing you may have missed about the royal visit: Rather than hitching their own ride to Canada, an RCAF jet had to go to the U.K. to pick up the royal couple. An RCAF CC-150 Polaris that is typically employed to ferry the prime minister overseas picked up the royals in RAF Brize Norton before doubling back to Newfoundland. Canada doesn’t really do this with any other diplomats, but it’s different with the royals since they’re technically acting in their capacity as Canadian representatives, and thus it’s our job to take care of them.
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