Madam Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Willowdale.
I am addressing the House today in support of our government's invocation this past week of the Emergencies Act of 1988. I would normally say I am pleased to address this House, but today I am not pleased.
Today I am not pleased with the siege against Ottawa's residents, who have borne the brunt of the illegal occupation of their neighbourhoods. They have been living in fear, in fear that their apartment building may be torched by arson, in fear of being harassed, taunted or ridiculed on their walk to work or the grocery store.
I am not pleased for workers in Ottawa's downtown core, including the Rideau Centre, who have not been able to earn an income for three weeks now. I am not pleased for the business owners who had hoped to reopen after Ontario lifted its restrictions at the start of the occupation, only to have to shutter their businesses once again because of threats, intimidation and abuse by the occupiers.
I am not pleased for my staff, who are prevented from going to work out of fear and intimidation. The parliamentary precinct should be a safe place. Now it is not.
These are everyday Canadians who have been impacted by this illegal occupation. I am not happy for them. I am not pleased that these illegal occupiers are preventing our day-to-day interactions. I am not pleased that these innocent bystanders are experiencing hardships because of this illegal activity. I am sad for those who have had to undertake abuse, harassment and ridicule for following public health measures, the measures put in place to help protect our citizens and our health care system. Our doctors, nurses and health care workers are exhausted; I thank them.
I am sad for the hits to our economy, first hit hard by the pandemic itself and then again by the illegal whack-a-mole blockades spurred on by this siege in Ottawa. However, it is not only Ottawa that has been hurt. Ontario has been hurt, for example, by the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, forcing auto plant shutdowns among others. These illegal blockades are a blow to the economies of Alberta, where I was born and raised, as well as Manitoba and my present home province of British Columbia.
I know people are tired of public health restrictions. So am I, and so is pretty much everyone I know. I know that this pandemic is exhausting. It is challenging for all Canadians. It has been and will continue to be difficult for everyone. That frustration extends to the 90% of British Columbians who have rolled up their sleeves to receive the vaccine, yet such measures continue to be essential to reduce risk to our seniors and those who are immunocompromised, as well as to bring this pandemic eventually to heel.
I support B.C.'s measured approach to removing restrictions when and where possible, based on the state of the pandemic in the region. These actions are founded on good public health advice by highly qualified and experienced medical and public health practitioners. We must continue to listen to our public health officials so that we can continue to protect Canadians against this insidious disease, and that means protecting our health care systems and following public health guidelines.
Nobody likes the so-called vaccine passports, most certainly not me, but rather than seeing them as a divisive instrument, as many have chosen to do, we should see them as an opportunity that allows businesses, the economy and indeed travel to open up and carry on in a limited way, instead of having to completely shut down from time to time, as we had to do before we had such an abundance of tested, effective and safe vaccines. Nonetheless, they are the artifacts of the pandemic and they, as for the other pandemic-related measures, will abate in due course when the pandemic itself abates, not by merely wishing them away or demanding that the pandemic be ignored.
These are trying and emotional times, and it is in these most trying and emotional times that lawful, legitimate protests and sincere concern have been overtaken and overwhelmed. It is in these most trying and emotional times, with frustrations and tempers running high, that we have seen this unfortunate siege of Ottawa unfold, as well as many sympathetic whack-a-mole protests and blockades across the land.
In these most trying and dangerous times, the Ottawa Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and others elsewhere in the nation were unable to take the kinds of actions that are now under way. Now we can bring this siege to a peaceful conclusion through the Emergencies Act, with resources made available and authorities clarified.
Our government took this bold step this week to ensure that law enforcement is adequately resourced to end the illegal occupation peacefully and safely. Yesterday we finally started to see happen what most Canadians wanted to see happen for the last several weeks: removal of those involved in these illegal occupations, peace restored, and a return to having a safe city in which to live and work.
It is paramount that Canadians understand what this act does and does not do. It is critical to understand that the measures derived from the Emergencies Act are specific, focused and proportional. Crucially, they are time-limited and include adequate democratic checks and balances. A key to this is a built-in 30-day sunset clause, whereby the measures are subject to ongoing oversight by a parliamentary committee, with Parliament maintaining its right to revoke the declaration of an emergency as it sees fit. Furthermore, a public inquiry to determine the circumstances leading to and measures taken during this unprecedented emergency must ensue afterward.
Most significantly, the Emergencies Act does not involve the military, nor does it in any way suspend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and this is explicit in the act. These rights particularly include peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and the right to life, liberty and security. The preamble of the Emergencies Act is crystal clear on this. It states:
...and whereas the Governor in Council, in taking such special temporary measures, would be subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights and must have regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly with respect to those fundamental rights that are not to be limited or abridged even in a national emergency...
As a longtime active member of the Tri-Cities Chapter of Amnesty International, I fully respect and celebrate the Canadian reality that all Canadians have a right to protest, to speak their minds and to hold their elected representatives accountable. Even so, when we talk about rights, it must be clear that we do not have a right to block critical infrastructure like highways and hospitals. We do not have the right to intimidate, threaten or bully our fellow citizens, nor to deprive them of the safe enjoyment of their homes or disrupt their work or businesses.
Let must just mention that attempting to intimidate us with a manifesto demanding the removal of Canada's elected government is patently absurd, has no basis in any law anywhere and is not democratic. This is foolish anarchy, if not bluntly seditious, and it is a far cry from anything resembling the freedom that the siege purports to proclaim.
I know that most of those who support the protest themselves, whether that includes the blockades or not, are not anarchists or extremists. Most are sincere, everyday Canadians who are frustrated with restrictions. I get that, and I sympathize. Unfortunately, harassment and threats continue, and it is also clear that these linked events right across the country have been infiltrated by groups of white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers, people who are Islamophobic, anti-Semites and other garden variety racists, bigots or extremists. They leave an ugly and indelible taint wherever they are involved.
An excellent example is the seizure in Coutts in recent days of a significant cache of weapons held by individuals tied to extremist organizations. We also see dangerous behaviours, such as the man who drove a lifted pickup truck through a police barricade at Peace Arch crossing, and there are more examples. These and other threats underscore the embedded presence of small, systematized and perilous groups willing to intimidate and commit violence to achieve their own objectives, which typically do not reflect respect for our people, rights and institutions but do require our heightened vigilance.
However, even with the Emergencies Act in effect, I must emphasize that people can still protest and can certainly still disagree with the government, but they cannot join—