Saturday, April 13, 2024

Emergencies Act ruling should have surprised no one

Many Canadians were taken off guard this week when a judge ruled that the federal government’s implementation of the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022, was “not justified”.

But it would not have surprised anyone who read The Canadian prime minister’s emergency act. Written by BIG Media Ltd. chief legal correspondent Kevin Burron immediately after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unprecedented move, the article provided logical, fact-focused analysis and left little doubt that putting into effect the Emergencies Act was anything but appropriate.

Some readers will consider my comments here boastful — and that is OK (Yes, you can be boastful AND intellectually humble) — but understanding the difference between good journalism and terrible journalism is critically important these days.

On February 14, 2022, while our news media rivals were scurrying to shock you with cherry-picked tidbits and sensational comments from people predisposed to pumping out propaganda, Kevin focused on facts and relevant context.

Remarkably, we could not at the time find any media outlet that had cited the text from the government’s order regarding the Emergencies Act as part of their news reporting.

Their coverage had plenty of colourful quotes from “both” sides of the story. But I could not find any with intelligent analysis of underlying principles. You know, the kind of information that would actually help people understand if the government’s position was justified.

Almost every article read as though two press releases were jammed into one superficial report in a way that would allow readers to continue arguing about a matter they would continue to know little or nothing about. Television and radio broadcasting, with more limited time frames, were as bad or worse.

There are many factors that render most news organizations unequipped to tackle the most pressing matters responsibly, including ownership bias, incompetence among reporters and editors, the pressure to produce vast amounts of content on tight deadlines, and the most common and most influential flaw in news media circles – sensationalism that comes with prioritizing audience size (to please advertisers, management, shareholders, etc.) over audience intelligence.

(Editor’s note: if you know of another news organization that covered the enacting of the Emergencies Act responsibly, please send us a note with a link to the coverage. We would love to know if there are others out there capable of covering a big story appropriately.)

Those who read Kevin’s article were empowered with fundamental truths and critical context. He described, with proper attribution, what the Emergencies Act was all about, including that it was to be used in times of national emergency.

He then outlined what is considered a national emergency, according to Canadian government legislation. Makes sense, right? A portion of the text from Kevin’s article:

“In this case, the government has declared a public order emergency. The declaration expires after 30 days unless it is extended.[1]

Public order emergency is defined in the Emergencies Act as follows:[2]

an emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency.

“Threats to the security of Canada” is defined as:[3]

(a)  espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage,

(b)  foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person,

(c)   activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious, or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state, and

(d)  activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of, the constitutionally established system of government in Canada,

but does not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any of the activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d).”

If the shoe fits, as they say … Well, anyone who steps back and looks at the fundamental facts in the case should see that the Emergencies Act fit the situation in February 2022 like a Size 20 clown shoe on a five-year-old ballerina.

[1] Emergencies Act, s. 18(2)

[2] Emergencies Act, s. 16

[3] Emergencies Act, s. 16, incorporating  s. 2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-23

Rob Driscoll
Rob Driscoll
Rob Driscoll is co-founder and president of BIG Media Ltd. He is a writer and entrepreneur who is deeply committed to elevating the level of coverage of our society's most pressing matters as well as the level of respect in public discourse.

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