The army did not have the capability to clear Coutts, Alberta. blockade “without significant risk”: government document

The letter said the RCMP had “exhausted all local and regional options to mitigate week-long service disruptions at this important international border.”

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The Canadian Armed Forces did not have the “assets” to safely help clear the blockade at Coutts, Alberta. earlier this year, when the Alberta government had the power to deal with the problem on its own under provincial law, Public Safety Canada told the Minister of Emergency Preparedness.

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The briefing note was prepared by the department for Bill Blair in February and obtained by the National Post through Freedom of Information. He was responding to a letter from the Government of Alberta, asking for the federal government’s help in removing the blockade at the Coutts border crossing that began in support of the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver wrote to Blair and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on February 5, requesting equipment and personnel to move approximately 70 tractor-trailers and 75 personal vehicles and recreational. The letter said the RCMP had “exhausted all local and regional options to mitigate week-long service disruptions at this important international border.”

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The Public Safety briefing note, dated February 9, acknowledged that Alberta had been unable to obtain assistance from private sector tow truck operators in the western provinces or United States, but said the federal government did not have the capacity to help either.

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“This could be the result of private industry concerns about negative consequences if they help break down barriers,” the briefing note said.

He said all “key partners” had been “consulted on the ability of the Government of Canada to meet this request.”
“Given the lack of commercial resources, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has been identified as the only federal asset likely to meet the demand.

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However, the briefing note states that “discussions with the CAF have made it clear that the CAF does not possess the type of assets required nor the expertise to do so without significant risk.”

Blair’s briefing note said Alberta was able to handle the issue under provincial legislation, Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defense Act. “Alberta has the legal authorities to enforce compliance because a highway is considered critical infrastructure,” he said.

The memo said “this remains a matter of provincial jurisdiction.”

The briefing note, which was signed by Deputy Minister Rob Stewart on February 9, does not mention the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, which occurred days later, February 14th. The Alberta government has criticized the legislation – Premier Jason Kenney said in February that the province would challenge it in court, and in May Alberta was granted intervener status in other legal challenges. the use of legislation by the federal government.

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Blair’s response to Alberta refers to the Emergencies Act, even though it is dated Feb. 25, two days after the Emergencies Act was terminated. “These measures provide the temporary authority to regulate, prohibit and lift lockdowns in designated areas such as borders and other critical infrastructure,” he told McIver, adding that Alberta had the authority to manage the blockade under the provincial Critical Infrastructure Defense Act.

CMP Commissioner Branda Lucki told a parliamentary committee in May that the RCMP “also turned to the military and ultimately what ultimately happened was the government of Alberta bought tow trucks, which was just the start of invoking the Emergencies Act.

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She also said that the RCMP “have done numerous investigations regarding the use of the Canadian Armed Forces”, but she was told that the army does not have the necessary equipment.

In his letter to Alberta, Blair said the government understands “that you have already purchased equipment to assist in the removal of vehicles involved in the blockade. The Government of Canada will help reimburse Alberta for these purchases.

Blair also promised to “work with you to help find operators and drivers.”

After the protests ended, a joint House of Commons and Senate committee was convened to consider the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act. Much of the attention on the recent work of this committee has focused on the Public Safety Minister’s statement that the government invoked the Emergencies Act based on advice from police forces , but Lucki and Acting Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell later said they never asked for the law to be invoked.

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During the hearings, Deputy Minister of Public Safety Stewart told the committee that Alberta’s request for assistance was denied “on the basis that Alberta had not fully utilized its own access to resources and also because the CAF equipment was going to damage the trucks. ”

He added that the military equipment was going to be “inappropriate and insufficient” given that “what we needed at the border at Coutts was dozens of tow trucks for hundreds of trucks”.

Danielle Keenan, spokeswoman for Blair, said in a statement that when “illegal blockades crippled our economy, hurt workers and communities, police, city and provincial leaders told us more tools were needed. to end it”.

She said Alberta “told us that local RCMP were facing significant challenges getting the resources they needed to clear the blockade in Coutts.”

“In order to respond to this national emergency, we invoked the Emergencies Act to ensure law enforcement had the tools necessary to effectively enforce the law and end these blockades for good.” Keenan said the tools help police, among other things, to “ensure the availability of essential tools like tow trucks.”

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