The director of CSIS told the Public Order Emergency Commission on Nov. 21 that he advised the prime minister the Emergencies Act should be invoked, even though his agency had found that the protests of last winter didn’t pose any threats to national security as defined by its mandate.
“We did not make a determination that the event itself” was a threat to national security, said Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault.
Where CSIS stood on the Freedom Convoy along with related protests and border blockades had surfaced earlier at the commission, but not that Vigneault had advised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the act to deal with the situation.
Vigneault told the commission that he provided this advice “based on all of the other information that I became aware of during all of the interdepartmental meetings and cabinet meetings I participated in.”
“That opinion was provided, if you want, as a national security advisor, as opposed to the director of CSIS specifically.”
Vigneault also said that the Liberal cabinet was aware that CSIS did not assess the protests to be a national security threat.
Vigneault’s in camera interview summary with the commission says that he was asked by Trudeau at the Incident Response Group meeting of Feb. 13 whether he thought it was required to invoke the act.
The next day on Feb. 14 the Liberal government declared a public order emergency based on the Emergencies Act.
The act defines an emergency as arising “from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency,” and those threats are defined by section 2 of the CSIS Act.
These include espionage or sabotage, foreign-influenced activities, terrorism, and violent revolution.
Vigneault told the commission he asked for a legal interpretation from the Department of Justice on the Emergencies Act and was told the threat upon which a public emergency can be declared is broader than the CSIS Act.
The act also defines a “national emergency” as a situation the provinces cannot deal with and that cannot be addressed with normal authorities.
Other federal officials that have testified so far have provided different takes on the rationale for invoking the Emergencies Act.
National and Security Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas said that the CSIS Act was too narrow and that other threats needed to be considered, such as the “inability to conduct a livelihood,” the “threat to public institutions and the undermining of the confidence in public institutions.”
The Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council Nathalie Drouin told the inquiry that the “real ground” for invoking the act was section 2c of the CSIS Act, which deals with threats or the use of acts of serious violence for ideological reasons. This went against CSIS’ own assessment.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who said she was not using the CSIS Act to assess the threat, told the commission she did not consider that the protests posed a national security threat.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair testified after Vigneault, and the commission will hear from other ministers this week, including Trudeau.