• Post published:February 20, 2022
  • Reading time:11 mins read
  • Post category:In Ottawa

Speech delivered on February 20th, 2022:

Madam Speaker, in the clash of words and social media clickbait we are witnessing around this conflict, I feel it necessary to remind the House and Canadians that we are taking part in this critical debate as people, speaking from our individual vantage points. It is the same for all who comment, who analyze, who interpret and who express their opinions. We are all just people.

We are here today to deal in facts and to debate the unprecedented use of a tool of government to deal with a crisis. The Emergencies Act authorizes the taking of special, temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies. With its inception, it created more limited and specific powers for the federal government to deal with security emergencies of five different types: national emergencies, public welfare emergencies, public order emergencies, international emergencies and war emergencies.

To demonstrate my support for deployment of the act, I am going to share facts from my vantage point, which, as I also hope to demonstrate, comes from a place of love and deep respect for this country.

I have formally trained in critical studies and education. I have had the privilege of studying the lenses of oppression in our society from a white gaze. I am going to recommend that all who identify as the same check that privilege when having this discussion. While we are talking about privilege, as a scholar of Canadian and international military history, we must also check our privilege as citizens in a democracy and in an ever-progressing judicial system designed to protect our individual freedoms. We represent less than 0.5% of the total world population and have the second-largest land mass. We are truly among the most privileged people in the world. We must never forget that.

I challenge Canadians and members of the House to question their echo chambers, to check themselves and their privilege and to try to see things from the other side, even if it is only to strengthen their arguments. At least that moves us past assumptions, which are the real scourge of our society. They are what really divide us.

Many Canadians are being misled. These Canadians do not need us to encourage them or keep them blissfully ignorant. Today, far too much of Canadian discourse is hateful, reactionary and dangerous, and the political rhetoric that ramps it up is reprehensible. We are indeed facing extremism in Canada, and it is incumbent on each of us to call it what it is.

As New Brunswick’s commissioner on systemic racism said, continuing to pretend that what we have witnessed over the last three weeks is not a cover for a maturing anti-government, anti-pluralist, far-right extremism does nothing to combat the rising hate in this country. That extremism culminated in the occupation of our nation’s capital and other key locations, in a politically motivated coup attempt, and it requires decisive action with measures that are targeted, temporary and proportionate.

This is what has brought us here today. I have heard many in the House ask this question during this debate: How did we get here? It has been clear from the outset, long before the initial convoy colonizers arrived in Ottawa, Windsor, Surrey or Coutts, that the intent has been to disrupt and indeed overthrow our government. This is not a simple question of public health mandates. This cannot be denied, and there is no integrity in calling these protests peaceful.

A protest cannot be deemed peaceful unless every citizen feels safe and protected while being exposed to it. That was certainly not the experience of hundreds of people across this country and the residents in Ottawa. People were being harassed and intimidated by illegal occupiers simply because they were wearing masks. Women were targeted, noise levels were unbearable, hotel lobbies and retail spaces were taken over, staff were terrorized and ultimately businesses were forced to close. The narrative that this was peaceful was false from the beginning.

It feels as though the Conservatives are celebrating these occupations, purposely inflaming the debate, intentionally escalating tensions while claiming the opposite. Sowing mistrust in government institutions and public health advice is causing further harm. I have had many conversations about vaccines specifically in my community. I encourage people to listen to their health care providers, not politicians and certainly not the loudest voices in an angry mob.

In Ottawa, over the last three weeks, residents lost their sense of safety. Countless testimonials describe vitriol and harassment. Our 2SLGBTQ+ community members, racialized community members and women had to limit their movement, shelter at home or, as a last resort, leave the city because they were not feeling safe. Terrorizing people for weeks is an act of violence, regardless of the perceived merits of the original intent.

Minimizing what is happening here and how we got here is unacceptable, as is minimizing other large-scale demonstrations and incidents of civil disobedience because of what they too were trying to say and how they felt the need to express it. There is a lot to be learned from what has transpired.

I have committed to the people of Fredericton that with each new issue, I ask for input. I ask constituents to engage to help me take the temperature, to listen, to learn and to then act after thoughtful, informed, evidence-based consideration.

I know I am not alone in the House in saying that I received thousands of emails, letters and calls and had many conversations on what has been playing out. Many are asking to be heard, and I am listening. While there are many who have legitimate questions and concerns that I do my best to address, what I am also hearing are strings of false narratives and scapegoating. I see fear based on misinformation.

A lot of people need help right now. That is unequivocally clear based on the number of threats I have received, that my staff has had to endure and that anyone involved has been subjected to. I have been told that my family is also at risk, and that if I exercise my vote in a way some do not agree with, I should watch my back. There have been threats to our Prime Minister and all government members with bullets and nooses. It is enough.

That is how I know these are not peaceful protesters. It is how I know we have a very real and serious problem in Canada.
I have been mad, disrespected and wronged, and I have stood up. I have protested for justice for many causes, with the law on my side, within my rights and with a firm understanding of the charter. I also took things further when I felt it was not enough and felt the system had failed and had to be changed. I organized and ran for office, again with great privilege. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, it takes sacrifices and it takes a toll, but it is the greatest honour. Thanks to political financing laws, we are a collection of everyday Canadians who have the trust and respect of our electors.

Here in Canada, to vote is a sacred right and a duty, and I serve to protect that right every day in the House. Those who disagree with me, based on the laws of this land and under our flag that has been so disrespected, do not get to shut down critical infrastructure, illegally disrupt the lives of Canadians and endanger public safety. We are not living in a dictatorship; we are not living in tyranny. The misleading, the agitating, the grifting, the harassment and the threats must all come to an end. It has become clear, after three weeks of coordinated, foreign-funded and right-wing white supremacy infiltration, that we have reached the threshold of emergency requiring the implementation of this act.

I have heard Conservative members of the House suggest that this is not necessary, that we have not met the threshold, that there are more options available and that our focus must be on de-escalation. On that last point alone, I agree. We absolutely must de-escalate, which is what we see unfolding before us in a renewed law enforcement operation, initiated only after engaging the Emergencies Act.

In the words of the interim Ottawa Police chief, without the additional legislation, we could not have done what we did. De-escalation was stopping the weekend protest tourism from ramping up again in Ottawa. De-escalation was stopping the never-ending stream of supplies and funds from siege supporters laughing in the wings. Compromise has been on the table since the beginning, and the comparisons with how demonstrators of different stripes have been treated within mere hours of assembly suggest to me, as far as law enforcement and government go, that we have been more than tolerant, perhaps unjustifiably so. I would support a national inquiry into the original police response.

I was born and raised in a military town, with military roots and a deep respect for our Canadian Armed Forces. I was also raised to respect the men and women in police uniforms serving and protecting our communities. Having said this, after watching video of uniformed police saying it feels like war, with a service weapon on their hip, or high-fiving, smiling for selfies, using squad cars as carnival rides and turning a blind eye to bylaw and Criminal Code infractions, or when neighbours from my local military community threaten me directly, I know we have a very serious problem.
I am white. I can only imagine how some Canadians who have demonstrated in their lives against oppression must be feeling as they watched how white protesters were comfortably dealt with over the last weeks. We have been watching the entitlement of those who party in hot tubs, with their barbecues and fireworks, having street fires or stockpiling diesel and propane near the parliamentary precinct. They claim oppression, claim that we do not live in a free society and claim that there was no other recourse for their grievances to be heard. It is enough. This needs to stop, and that is what the government is committed to doing.

Madam Speaker, there was a very clearly stated outcome in a widely circulated memorandum of understand that specifically set out the terms and demands of this occupation. It was indeed to overthrow the government by having a special committee selected by Canada Unity, with the Governor General and the Senate. Yes, I do believe that was the stated intent.

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
It should come as no surprise, but I often disagree with my premier on many, many issues. Based on some of the things he has said over the last year in particular, it does not surprise me that he is putting forth some resistance to this measure. I am not shocked at all, and I disagree.
Madam Speaker, my background is in education. Education is the key. Anti-racism education is the key. We have to keep confronting these realities.
Based on the progressive nature of Canada over the last couple of years, it really should not shock any of us that such resistance has been met with this progression. We have to keep moving forward, having these conversations, calling out the hate when we see it and making sure it is unacceptable in our society.
We just have to believe in better. I still have hope, despite what we have seen over the past couple of weeks. I know that Canadians can do better and members of the House can do better as well.
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague said it. How do we keep this going? We cannot forget. I mentioned in my speech the lessons that are to be learned from this and the whole pandemic experience. It really has exposed the deep crevices in our society, the inequality.

I know the member for Winnipeg Centre talked a lot about wealth inequality, particularly poverty. There are so many things we need to tackle, but the key is do it together. That is the unity I want to see in the House.