Bill Blair

Bill Blair spoke 467 times across 1 day of testimony.

  1. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    On a Bible, please.


  2. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    My name is William Blair, B-l-a-i-r.


  3. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I have.


  4. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can confirm that, yes.


  5. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  6. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  7. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. As you've noted earlier, I had -- I previously held the position of Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Quite frankly, the government recognized in the most recent past a significant increase in both the severity, complexity, and frequency of national emergencies taking place in this country. And so a decision was made to bifurcate my previous ministry into Public Safety, which is a portfolio held by my colleague and friend, Mr. Mendicino, and Minister of Emergency Preparedness, which is the portfolio that I am responsible for. Under that, I think there's a very clear delineation of responsibilities, but there's a very close alignment between the work that I do and that Minister Mendicino does. Mr. Mendicino is, for example, responsible under the Act for five different, you know, significant agencies in the federal government, including the RCMP, CBSA, CSIS, Corrections Canada, and the Parole Board, and he also has a number of other significant responsibilities within his own mandate. For myself, my responsibilities particularly pertain to ensuring that the Government of Canada is prepared to respond effectively to all hazards and emergencies in this country to improve of the way in which the government prepares and also creates greater resiliency in the country about these events. Among the administrative processes, I am also responsible for is I oversee requests for assistance that I receive from the provinces and territories for assistance in the event of an emergency.


  8. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I'll certainly do my very best.


  9. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I would appreciate the occasional reminder that I think Mr. Cameron's quite prepared to provide.


  10. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There are, within federal legislation, certain federal agencies such as the Transportation Safety Board, that is -- answers directly to the President of now the King's Privy Council, but it also is important to recognize the very -- the close collaboration that exists between my responsibilities as the President of the King's Privy Council and the work of the Privy Council Office within the federal government. It requires, in addition to my responsibilities in chairing, for example, the SSE -- Safety, Security, and Emergency committee, a very close collaboration with the Privy Council Office. I have, for example, within PCO, a deputy secretary, Ms. Bogden, who I believe you've heard from, who I work very closely with on matters of emergency preparedness and with respect to other Cabinet-related issues. I work very closely with the deputy clerk, Ms. Drouin, as well.


  11. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. There is a provision within our government for provinces and territories to make requests of our government for assistance for certain types of emergencies. The criteria is reasonably well established. In the past two years, I've been responsible for -- well, since the beginning of the pandemic, I've actually managed about 200 requests for assistance that the government has received from our provincial and territorial partners. These can take a number of different forms. There were quite a number of them related to the pandemic in particular, but also in the advent of floods and fires, on the hurricanes that recently took place in Atlantic Canada, all can result when -- when events exceed the capacity of the provinces and territories to manage it, the RFA process allows them to reach out for assistance, and whatever we're able to provide is my responsibility to arrange that. Much of that work is done with other federal departments, Public Safety, the Department of National Defence, and others, but to ensure that whatever federal supports can be provided to the provinces and territories, we do that as expeditiously as possible.


  12. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    In my experience, sir, and as I said with Danielle, a couple of hundred of these, senior officials usually begin talking very quickly. Even in anticipation of an emergency, for example, if we know that a hurricane is coming, or at the beginning of the wildfire season, communications begin to take place between senior officials in both either the province or territory and/or federal departments, whichever is implicated. Most of that is managed through the Ministry of Public Safety, and for example, in my experience, most of that work has been done by Deputy Stewart, who I think you've also heard from. There's usually discussions that take place between senior officials. There is also a table of senior officials, sometimes referred to as the Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management, SOREM, who also engages in these types of discussions. That's usually followed up very quickly by a formal letter of request from the province or territory that is directed to the Ministry of Public Safety and then on to me for a determination. But we try to work as quickly as possible in order to see if whatever helps we can provide in response to those requests, and then through, again, Deputy Stewart a response to that request is prepared to which I am able to then hopefully quickly respond.


  13. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, and in fact, in our most recent experience with Hurricane Fiona, it was -- as it was moving to Atlantic Canada, we were receiving very good forecasting from Environment Canada, which gave us a pretty good idea of where that hurricane was going to land. And so there were conversations that began days in advance so that we could be better prepared and mobilise and even stage resources in order to respond to what we knew was going to be a significant impact on those regions of the country and that we would be able to work closely together as quickly as possible. There are a number of other programs as well, and for example, I'm also responsible for what we refer to as the Humanitarian Workforce where we work very closely with an NGO, such as the Canadian Red Cross, and stage those resources and begin to register people well in advance of the hurricane in that case, so that we can respond as quickly as possible in real-time to help people be safe.


  14. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. Those requests are properly documented, but we don't necessarily wait for the paperwork. Sometimes in -- there have been very limited circumstances where the paperwork arrive first, and then we start conforming to that immediately, but in the vast majority of cases there is outreach from the province and territory who identify a situation that exceeds their capacity where they seek our help, and then we undertake immediately to see if we can find that help within the Federal Government.


  15. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes. The National Security Intelligence Advisor is actually a very important source of guidance, advice and information for our preparation in order to respond appropriately to emergencies. I, in a number of different capacities, including that I chair, the Safety, Security and Emergency Committee, but even in our daily and weekly interactions, the National Security Intelligence Advisor is a person who gathers information from the National Security Intelligence establishment, from law enforcement and from other sources and provides it to Government, including to me, to assist us in making sure that we're able to do our duties in a timely way and be well-informed of what Government needs to know in order to keep people safe.


  16. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. When the Government decided, when the Prime Minister decided that -- to place a special emphasis and create a unique ministry dealing with emergency preparedness we recognised that in order to make that work we also had to fundamentally change the way in which the Public Service, through the Privy Council Office, organises itself in response to preparation for emergency. And so there was decisions made within PCO by the Clerk in order to create some additional positions within the Privy Council Office to essentially create an office to more formalise and I think to make more effective the Government's response to emergencies and in our preparation in a wide variety, a very significant spectrum of activities, including increased resilience, investment in critical infrastructure and an all hazards approach, and it was also I think very important to make connections. One of the things I have found in my responsibility, sir, and working with PCO, that emergencies are not uniquely located within any one ministry or department. That is, they very often implicate, like, whole of government. We learned that certainly in floods, for example, in British Columbia, where, you know, initially, when I went to British Columbia with the Prime Minister to meet with the provincial government, you know, we looked at is as an emergency response to a flood, but very quickly learned that Agriculture, Transportation, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources, Environment Canada, all of these different departments of Government were deeply implicated in that emergency. And so one of my responsibilities working with PCO and Ms. Bogden is in a convening role, to bring all of the departments together and bring senior officials to make sure that all of government is responding appropriately as necessary to every emergency. And so a decision was made. Ms. Bogden was brought in as the Deputy Secretary responsible for emergency management, and she also has responsibility for the COVID response of the Government, she's also overseeing that. And Mr. Hutchinson was also brought in and serves in a number of different roles, including he is Secretary to the Cabinet committee that I chair, the Safety, Security and Emergencies Committee. He's also acted as Secretary in other duties that I have been assigned by the Prime Minister. For example, I co-chaired with British Columbia a committee with the British Columbia Government involving all of the ministers and very significant representation from First Nations leadership in coordinating all of Government's response to the floods, and Jeff acted as the Secretary for that committee as well.


  17. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes. Zita is the Chief of Staff for my ministry office. I have within my ministry office people who are responsible for policy development as it pertains to emergencies with communications and media relations, and finally with Operations because we engage with every region of the country. And all of the people that work in that office are overseen by my Chief of Staff, Zita Astravas. She is a very serious and experienced political staffer within the ministry office, and she previously served as my Chief of Staff when I was the Minister of Public Safety.


  18. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, Mr. Cameron. I joined the Toronto Police Service in 1976. I served as a Toronto police officer for 39 years, and from -- for the last 10 years of that -- my 39-year career, from 2005 until 2015, I was the Chief of Police of the City of Toronto. And in that capacity, I served in a number of roles and that were somewhat related to the events that transpired.


  19. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  20. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. I was public order trained and I served as a Public Order Incident Commander for very, very many public order incidents in the City of Toronto over a number of years.


  21. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. That -- the G20, and it occurred in June of 2010, in the City of Toronto, it was a planned event. I was, throughout that entire period of time, the Chief of Police, and therefore, responsible for policing in my city, but the event itself was actually headed up by an Integrated Command Structure with a gold/silver/bronze command structure that was put in place, the leadership of which was with the RCMP, but also, it had representatives from my service but also from some of the regional services surrounding and the OPP. And they were actually responsible for the operational response to the G20, but throughout that period, I was the Chief of Police and therefore, ultimately, responsible for every policing related matter taking place in my city.


  22. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. That took place in May of 2009. It was a period in which there was a great deal of concern within the Tamal community, and there's a very substantial Tamal community in the greater Toronto area, about events that were taking place in Sri Lanka at that particular time. I mean, as a consequence, a number of people came out onto the streets to begin to protest. There were two, frankly, significant and somewhat distinct matters that I had to deal with as the Chief of Police during that event. On Mother's Day of 2009, about 5,000 people from the Tamal community were demonstrating and marching, and unfortunately, went up a ramp of the Gardiner Expressway and ended up on the elevated highway that runs through downtown Toronto. I was called, because, of course, they had blocked the highway. It wasn't a particularly serious traffic issue because it was Mother's Day, a Sunday evening and not too concerning, but I heard from my operational commanders that evening that there were no safe ways to remove those people from the bridge. There was a real concern because the guardrail really is for vehicles, not for pedestrians. There were children and elderly people up on that elevated highway, and there was a very sincere concern among my officers that any action that we might take to remove them from the bridge or even bring them down the ramp could result in a stampede, a crushing of people, and would just be simply too dangerous. And so I directed that we would slow down, that we would engage with the people that were on the bridge. We would find people that we could talk to on the bridge, and that took a couple of hours. And then eventually, I engaged in some conversation, I had a pretty good relationship with that community, and found a way to have them safely come down off that bridge. And it was, in my opinion, an entirely appropriate and safe resolution of what could have potentially been a very dangerous situation. The other element to this is tens of thousands of people initially converged on University Avenue in the area of University and Armoury, which is right near the 361, our Superior Courts in Toronto, but also, right opposite the U.S. Consulate. And initially when they went there, it was considered quite disruptive. It was noisy and it was interfering with traffic. But very quickly, we were able to work with that crowd to allow the TTC, for example, to operate on both Queen and Dundas, so that the transit would continue to move. Those are pretty important transit routes in the city. We also were concerned about access and egress for our hospitals on Hospital Row on University Avenue. We worked out with them a way in which we could do that. And although that protest went on for several days, and there were concerns actually being expressed, by the time I remember hearing from Superior Court judges about the noise outside their courtrooms, but at the same time, you know, there was very little residential in that area. I would also want to acknowledge the people that were protesting did so in a very respectful way. They cleaned up after themselves. You know, they were on the street. They were very seriously concerned, but I think that was a situation that in Toronto, we were able to resolve appropriately and safely. And eventually, I think it actually strengthened our relationship very much with that community.


  23. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. And actually, that was based on some experience that we'd had in that particular area as well. I also remember in the late '90s there were very significant demonstrations among two other communities, Serbia and Croatian, at that same location, and we worked very closely with those protesters to allow them to engage in their lawful, peaceful protests, but do it in a way that minimized the disruption to traffic, to the movement of people, and to the functioning of basically the city's daily life all around them.


  24. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think it's important - - frankly, I actually very sincerely believe in the right to lawful, peaceful protest. It's a protected Charter right in this country. Sometimes, it can be a challenge. It can be very difficult to manage these events. But I think when we -- if the protesters are willing to work with the police and if the police work with them, there are always some individuals who will push the limit and sometimes will break the law, and there are ways to deal with those individuals. But in my experience, it is always preferable, if you're able, to minimize the impact and to facilitate lawful, peaceful protest, while not allowing unlawful protest or risk to public safety.


  25. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, if I may, just let me cite as an example. During the G20, we designated certain places where we wanted to facilitate lawful, peaceful protests. And, for example, over at Queens Park, we said, you know, if you gather there, you'll be able to protest. And some people were quite willing to do that, but unfortunately, not everybody is. And then some people, you know, preferred to be -- you know, to disrupt traffic, or in the case of the G20, unfortunately, it also resulted in the set of circumstances where there was significant property damage, fires were set, and windows were smashed. And but I think it's important to distinguish there are always people who seek only to engage in lawful, peaceful protest, and who think it’s our responsibility -- and I say “Our,” forgive me; it was the police responsibility to facilitate that to every extent possible. And, unfortunately, there are also, in some circumstances, people who choose to engage in unlawful behaviour and don’t engage as lawful, but rather unlawful protest, and then there has to be whatever action is required in order to curtail that.


  26. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe almost all of them, yes.


  27. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  28. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe we all have a responsibility to do what is necessary to keep the peace. And I was concerned that inflammatory language could in -- incite a more violent response, potentially, or incite others to continue to come to the protest. And so I think one needs to maintain, and I’ve had some experience in this, in your language around an event, to speak of it in such a way as to not aggravate it.


  29. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don’t normally engage in name-calling, sir.


  30. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe -- in my experience, sometimes people live down to your expectations, and so one should be careful in ---


  31. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- how you speak of these events. I also, quite frankly, am always concerned about fear. I think fear is one of the greatest enemies of public safety, and I think if our language is intemperate, we can make people quite fearful. And if people are fearful, then they don’t use public space, they don’t engage with their neighbours; it can actually create a more dangerous situation. And so my advice to colleagues was that we would remain temperate in our language.


  32. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. It was my intention to convene all three orders of government, to bring them to a table. Because I believed that all three orders of government had a role and responsibility here. I believe that good communication between all three orders of government could have been facilitated by convening, you know, a meeting among -- initially it was attempted to do so with, at the political level, and as you said it wasn’t entirely successful. But what we -- I believe what we were able to achieve is convening officials to come to that table. Because I believe that the events that were transpiring in Ottawa did -- really did require good communication, you know, clear and -- clear expectations and communications in how we could assist each other. All of us had a responsibility, all of us had a role to play. And I was attempting to convene that. And, by the way, not inconsistent with the role that I also play, as I mentioned earlier, in convening other orders of Ministries within my own government, I’ve learned the value of bringing people together from many different disciplines and authorities to be at the table, to share perspectives and to help each other.


  33. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, first of all, I reached out to Minister Jones, who was the Solicitor General in the Province of Ontario at that time. I’ve had -- I’ve enjoyed a very longstanding and very positive professional working relationship with Minister Jones. I reached out to extend an invitation for her to join that table. Minister Jones indicated to me during the one call I had with her that, you know, she would consider the invitation, but she did express some concern. And I understood that concern and I acknowledged that to her. She expressed some concerned that she did not want to be seen to be directing the police. And, actually, I had a very brief exchange because I’m also very familiar, as she was, with the Linden Commission report on the Ipperwash event. And I think there is an actual sensitivity and concern among Ontario officials about any appearance of being seen to direct the police. I would also acknowledge Minister Mendicino, who has a direct working -- reporting relationship, he is the -- he is essentially Minister Jones’ counterpart. He also had a number of conversations with her and with the Premier at the time. I -- in my -- but in my one conversation with the Solicitor General, I sought to offer -- to make the invitation, and to provide her with assurances about what my intent was in convening that table.


  34. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  35. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe that’s what I’m referencing to. I don’t have a memory of that statement at this moment but I think clearly my statement -- my comment here is that there was a statement suggesting the table would accomplish nothing.


  36. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes sir, myself, the mayor, I believe as well -- I believe the City Manager, and Minister Mendicino, of course, were on that call.


  37. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Frankly, I had hoped that we would be able to convene the tripartite table as I had originally planned it, but I was -- you know, this was on the 10th. By that date, I was receiving assurances that, you know, for example, Deputy Minister Stewart was in regular contact with his counterpart in Ontario, Deputy Minister Di Tomasso, and that there was ongoing discussions between my Government Operations Centre, between the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, and between, as -- frankly, the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Mr. Stewart, was acting as an interlocutor between both municipality and the province in these circumstances. And so yes, a little disappointed that the minister wasn’t able to attend but quite gratified, frankly, in that there was now, I think, and my goal had been, good communication between the three orders of government. I believed that that was being achieved.


  38. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Minster Mendicino is the minister with direct lines of communication to the Commission of the RCMP and that organization. That’s his responsibility. He was on this call and made a number of comments in response to the mayor’s, as I recall from those discussions. One of the things I tried to contribute to this discussion is that it wasn’t just a numbers plan; it wasn’t just about how many people. And in fact, I pointed out that it’s actually difficult to start talking about specific numbers because, you know, the number of police officers to be deployed is a matter, frankly, of police confidentiality and it can actually compromise police operations, in my experience, and so I cautioned about that. And so my recommendation is that we should be talking about resources. We should be talking about providing the support that the city needs without being specific about numbers. There had also been discussion, Mr. Cameron, throughout these tripartite meetings and in other fora about the need for an integrated action plan, not just how many people were required but how those people would then be utilized in order to affect the purpose of bringing the protest to a peaceful resolution.


  39. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, to be very clear, sir, I was never briefed on any aspect -- operational aspect of the plan. That would have been inappropriate. I never sought to be briefed on it and I was not. But what we were seeking was assurances from those who did have operational responsibilities that they were satisfied an integrated operational plan, an action plan, and that they were prepared to action it. That, I think, was a consideration because it’s also useful to remember, I think, Mr. Cameron, there were a number of things happening right across the country at the time. You know, the OPP, in particular, were dealing with a difficult situation in Windsor. They had also had to respond to other events across Southern Ontario. Their resources were being quite significantly challenged because they had to continue to respond to a very dynamic and mobile threat across the country. And so my understanding was that, you know, they needed the clarity of an integrated command action plan that they’d all agreed to in order to facilitate the movement of people to go and deal with the situation in Ottawa.


  40. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, to be very clear, there’s a number of different ways in which this has been approached, particularly if there’s a planned event. A planned event -- as I’ve already mentioned, the G20 in 2010, there was another planned event that I was involved in involving the visit of a US President to the City of Ottawa. This happened in the early 2000’s. That was a planned event where there was an integrated command structure put in place. At the time, I actually brought about 400 Toronto Police Service officers up here to Ottawa to work under that integrated command structure and to assist in public order for that event. I’m also aware because, frankly, I’ve been around a long time, that there was always a very close working relationship between all of the police services working in the National Capital Region. They convened a table that they refer to as INTERSECT. I’ve had no dealings with it in the recent period but I was familiar with it when I was a police chief, where the RCMP work very closely with the Ottawa Police Service. I believe the OPP were at the table, and the Gatineau Police. And so there’s always been good cooperation among the police services in the National Capital Region. I’m also very familiar -- I’ve been involved in very many incidents when I was a police officer where we would - - in the Toronto Police Service, we had, frankly, a lot of people. We had a lot of people trained in public order and we would bring our public order resources to assist in Kingston, for example, for their homecoming event, in other towns around Ontario that didn’t have those resources available so we would go and assist. But there’s also, and I’m aware, that within the Ontario Police Services Act, which is, frankly, the legislation that governs policing in the City of Ottawa and in the Province of Ontario, there is a provision in that Act that -- in circumstances that exceed the capacity of the police of jurisdiction, a municipal police service, to deal with an emergency, there is a provision within that Act for the chief to make a request to the Commissioner of the OPP, and the Commissioner is required under that act to respond. You may also make a request to another municipal police service and that municipal police service has the ability to decline. But there is a provision whereby a police service dealing with an emergency, exceeding their capacity to manage, can also, within the Act, make an appeal and a request to the OPP. I believe that was done, in fact, in Windsor, in response to the event at the Ambassador Bridge. It’s not -- it’s a rarely used provision of the Act, but it is a tool that was available.


  41. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Not if the police services, the OPP, the RCMP, and other police services were willing and able to send their people, keeping in mind it’s a difficult thing to pull people from various jurisdictions, bring them to Ottawa for this type of a planned event. And that had - - that’s an approach that had been used successfully in the past. If that could be facilitated, that could be used, and if it wasn’t available to the Chief, there was the tool within the Ontario Police Services Act.


  42. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. I believe good communication, and to the extent that it is possible to plan for an unplanned event, those types of arrangements can be very useful. I’ve actually had the experience as a police chief making arrangements with other police services in the event of emergency, how many people I would send them and how quickly I’d be able to get them there, because we all know that certain types of events can exceed any of our capacity to respond to an emergency. Planned events are actually pretty straightforward. And I believe that we’ve got a long history and an element of success in dealing with, I’ll stop saying “we”, sir. In my previous capacity. The police services have a long history of working very collaboratively together for planned events. And a number of different things are worked out well in advance, including the integrated command structure, who is going to be in charge, a -- what they call -- what they often refer to as gold, silver command structure that is put in place, who is paying for what, and et cetera, what resources and obligations each of them will undertake to provide, is usually worked out well in advance. It is, quite frankly, more challenging in the event of an emergency, and maybe even more challenging when that emergency might be taking place in multiple jurisdictions.


  43. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Thank you, sir. If I may, first of all, just a point of clarification. Justice Morden’s report, although a very important report, was not a public inquiry. It was a report commissioned by the Toronto Police Services Board. In the aftermath of that report, there was also another public report done by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, Mr. Gerry McNeilly, also on that report, but also not a public inquiry.


  44. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    One of the things -- and I can share with you, sir, I was the Police Chief for 10 years. I was appointed by the Police Services Board. The Police Services Board is constituted under the Police Services Act. It’s defined on its duties and responsibilities and how it’s comprised. I very firmly believe, very sincerely believe, that good policing requires good governance. And governance is not to suggest, sir, that a police services board or the governance authority will direct the police in their investigations, in their operations, will even direct them in the administration of their police service. That’s not the function of good governance. The function of good governance, in my experience, is oversight and accountability. And I think it’s fairly well articulated in a number of provincial statutes across the country, including the Ontario Police Services Act. In my own personal experience, I used to meet with my Board every month for several hours over the course of a day. It was done in public. They would -- some of it was in- camera, much of it was in public. They would ask me questions about use of force. They would ask me about training. They would ask me about HR issues, the discipline and maintaining of conduct within my organization. I reported to them in a very public way about our engagement with diverse communities, about a number of efforts that we were making to prevent crime. All those things that were the responsibility of the police service to deliver adequate and effective police service, and that’s actually directive with the Board and then designated to me by the Board. The police have extraordinary authorities in our society, but those are not unfettered authorities. There’s an expectation that we will be held to accountable -- held to account for the way that we use those authorities, and that there will be independent civilian oversight for policing activities. And I believe that’s absolutely key. There is no good policing without good governance.


  45. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There is no good policing without good governance.


  46. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. I’m talking about independent civilian oversight of policing. The police chief answers to someone. I answer to my Board. I work for my Board. And I was accountable to my Board and I understood that was my responsibility to be accountable, to answer their questions. They were always very careful, by the way, and I can’t remember -- recall one incident in 10 years where they ever directed me in an investigation, in an operation, but they asked me a lot of questions about what we were doing and why we were doing it. I believe it was my responsibility to provide them with that information so that they could fulfil their function of providing oversight to me and to hold me accountable for the job that I was doing. And so I know there’s been -- because I’ve watched. There’s been a lot of discussion about, you know, having a civilian or a politician directing the police. And that’s never acceptable. But at the same time, the police must be accountable to an independent civilian authority. Now that - - and that can be achieved through a government minister who is assigned responsibility, it can be done through a police services board, but in my experience, public -- policing is all predicated on public trust and the consent of the people who are policed. That trust is really warranted by that oversight, and accountability, and transparency, and the way those extraordinary authorities given to the police are exercised.


  47. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There are a number of different models of governance that are often employed by police service boards. One of them is through policies and priorities. I believe it's called the Carver model.


  48. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    The Carver model. I've actually spent a lot of time --I also felt it was my responsibility to help my Board be a good Board because they would help me be a good chief. And so we spent a lot of time talking about how they could do their job and it would help me do my job as a Board, and I think it was a very effective relationship. They did set priorities for the service. They also set my budget. I would collaborate with them and work very closely with them, and they would consult with the public on what those priorities should be, because there is a bridge that a governance body can serve or a police service to be that connection on behalf of community. And so they would bring -- there was lots of community deputations made at our Board meetings where people would outline their expectations and their concerns, and the Board would set priorities, but my Board was also very careful not to cross a line into operational matters, to suggest where we should deploy people or you know, what investigations or what laws would be in force. They never went there, and neither would, frankly, I'd allow them. I'd have pushed back on that. But they often talked about, you know, placing a greater emphasis on community policing, on community outreach, on building greater diversity within the police service, and you know, how we interact with the incredible diverse population of our city and in issues of crime prevention and how communities were to be policed. And frankly, I never considered those infringements on police operations. I just thought it was -- we were working together to do good policing.


  49. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I would have considered it entirely appropriate. Frankly, I recall getting these questions from the Board, "What are you doing? Why are you doing it?" There was a fair bit of criticism, as you can imagine. As a matter of fact, some of the national papers were accusing me of being overly tolerant. My Board was very supportive of what we were doing, but they did ask questions about what and why, which I considered entirely appropriate. But at no time did they tell me how to police that community, and I think that’s -- for me, there is a bright line there, and they didn’t cross that line, but they held me to account to the decisions I was making on how I was going to deliver policing services in those circumstances. And I didn’t consider their questions infringements on any aspect of my authority of responsibility. It was my job to answer their questions and to allow them to perform that oversight role and to hold me accountable for the decisions I made.


  50. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. And in fact, it actually appeared in my mandate letter when I was the Minister of Public Safety that we were looking at the issue of governance. It's also -- I also had some responsibility -- I have a keen interest in the delivery of First Nations policing program across the city, and we're working towards the development of a new legislative framework for a First Nations policing in Canada. In order to make sure that that’s as effective as it can be, I believe we have to resolve the issue of governance in those communities, give people a say in how they're going to be policed. That doesn’t mean they get to direct the police operations, but they can talk -- they can make decisions about how the police will function within their communities. And I would also make the observation in a number of jurisdictions across the country, you know, we sometimes see the tension that exists for the contract policing across this country, but very often it's an issue of governance. And I'll just cite, if I may, I also recall vividly in Ontario, there were a number of police -- or communities that had their own little small police services who made a decision to go and contract with the Ontario Provincial Police to deliver policing services in their community. And I witnessed the OPP make a very strong effort to give those communities governance authority over their detachment and to meet regularly with the local officials and to actually give them a say in how they were going to be policed. I thought it was very thoughtful and I also believe that model, which I'm familiar with Ontario, could assist us in improving the quality of policing right across the country, particularly in contract areas, and in particular in First Nations.


  51. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think there's a number of models to be considered. I also want to be respectful. This is the responsibility now of my friend and colleague, Mr. Mendicino.


  52. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    He is the Minister of -- -


  53. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And but at the same time, I'm -- you know, I have obviously some thoughts on the matter, and I'm more than happy to share that with Minister Mendicino. I think ultimately, it's going to lead to better policing, which is our collective goal.


  54. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think initially their response was incorrect.


  55. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Was incorrect. I think -- and based on the intelligence that they had, I think allowing those trucks into the downtown core to establish themselves and become essentially very large barricades, in hindsight -- and I appreciate this is the clarity of my hindsight -- but I believe that was a mistake. And I think they would acknowledge that it would be better had that not happened. But once that actually happened, they were dealing with what, in my experience would be unique circumstances, a uniquely challenging set of circumstances, which was extremely challenging. And in fairness to them, my concern and the statements I have made, frankly, it was not my intention to criticize the police. It was to encourage them to utilize the tools that were available to them, because again, I spent most of my life telling police officers to do their job, and I have every confidence in them. I'm very proud of my profession and I'm very proud of the men and women who do that work, and I was just trying to encourage them. We as a society needed the police because they're the only ones empowered to deal with these Public Order events and we needed them to do their -- to do what was required to bring it to a peaceful resolution. And I was simply commenting that we needed them to do that job.


  56. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, not something I would have ever said to the police because I don't believe that would have been appropriate, but personally I believe that the impact of the blockades at the Ambassador Bridge were being hugely impactful, not just economically, but, you know, auto plants were being shut down right across the province. It was a huge impact that was taking place. People were being laid off, they were being sent home, factory floors were being idled. And I believed there was a sense of urgency to resolve that. I respect, you know, the operational commanders. I wasn't second-guessing them, certainly to them, but I was, frankly, relieved that they were, in my opinion, finally resolving that. I also had every expectation, as I indicated in that note, that they would do everything to avoid violence, that they would be measured and proportional and professional because I know those guys, and I have every confidence in their work. But I was very much seized with a strong sense of urgency about the blockades at that particular location because I believe that they had been so impactful.


  57. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don't really recall, except, again, I was feeling a sense of relief that they were now clearing that bridge because it did strike me as a matter of urgency, and previous tactics had not been effective in clearing.


  58. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Let us change topics, sir, I'm fine.


  59. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. And I don't recall precisely whether the letter arrived first or I heard from Deputy Minister Stewart, but I became aware that there was a request from the Province of Alberta, and I believe it was from Minister Rick McIver, stating a number of things about what was transpiring in Alberta with respect to the Coutts blockade. The Coutts blockade had been going on for some time. And among the things that Minister McIver was asking for, he made a number of comments, but his primary ask was for access, and he was very specific to Canadian Armed Forces tow trucks, I believe, in order to assist in the movement of trucks that were blockading the highway in southern Alberta at Coutts. And so immediately, because he was asking for Canadian Armed Forces resources and personnel in order to respond to this, that request I forwarded to the Department of National Defence and to Minister Annand because it didn't fall under any of our existing agreements. So it would have been something that, first of all, we'd have to hear from the Canadian Armed Forces whether or not they had equipment fit for purpose, and would also require the approval of the Minister of National Defence. And so that information went on over to them. I also recall a number of days later being advised by Deputy Minister Stewart that the Canadian Armed Forces advised that they did not have equipment fit for purpose and didn't believe that they would be able to respond to that request. The advice I received from the Deputy Minister at that time is that we should simply advise Alberta that we weren't able to respond positively for their request for assistance. We always endeavour to try to do our best, but there have been a few occasions where we've had to say no, we just don't have that equipment. But I did ask the Deputy Minister and some of my own staff to explore, again, from a whole Government standpoint, did we have any other resources that we can draw upon, I was very reluctant to just say no. And so we looked at other departments and agencies, Parks Canada, Transport Canada, I even had people checking to see if we could access trucks from the United States that could have been brought across the border to assist, and ultimately, I was advised no, and that they weren't able to do that. I then asked, because Minister McIver had called me and wanted an answer to the question, and I said to my people, "we have to have a formal response to Minister McIver." A letter was produced, I approved it. I was concerned that, again, we were saying no, but I approved it. Also making an offer because he had indicated that they were going to purchase some of their own vehicles at that point in time, that we, the Federal Government, would assist in paying for those vehicles. And eventually a letter was approved and I signed off on it thereafter, it goes back to officials to be sent. I understand in my subsequent messaging with Minister McIver that he never received that letter. I have no explanation for that.


  60. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  61. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Because I wanted to help Alberta, and we had examined all of our options and we weren't able to provide them with the equipment that they sought, and so a letter was prepared. I believe it indicated our willingness to provide them with financial assistance for what they're requiring, but at this point in time, we weren't able to provide them with the trucks that they sought. I had hoped we would be able to. And so I thought it a weak response, but I also thought it was equally important that we respond and that we advise Alberta of the position that we were in, and that, in particular, that CAF had advised, excuse me, the Canadian Armed Forces ---


  62. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- had advised that their equipment wasn't appropriate and they did -- it requires their approval and they didn't give that approval.


  63. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, no.


  64. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Not at all, sir.


  65. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And frankly, we didn't have the equipment. It's -- the rationale was pretty straightforward, "we don't have the equipment that you've asked us for." The Canadian Armed Forces said it's not fit for purpose and they aren't able to provide it, and you know, that's -- that is exactly what it is, sir.


  66. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    My strong preference would have been to help Alberta.


  67. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was present at all of them, sir.


  68. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    First of all, in the Safety, Security and Emergency Committee that I chair, it's a smaller group of Cabinet Ministers that regularly convene, although each of these meetings was what I referred to as ad hoc. It was beyond our regular schedule of meetings, but we -- I brought them together in order to receive briefings from, depending on the officials, Deputy Minister Stewart, Commissioner Lucki, the NSIA Advisor, to provide information to my Cabinet colleagues, also, to discuss the appropriate government response. I also took the opportunity during these meetings, and I think what I was able to contribute was to provide them with an understanding because of my policing background with the policing environment that governed this event. And as the event unfolded over the course of a number of days about, you know, what -- again, the policing environment, not just in Ottawa, but in various locales, in Alberta, British Columbia, in Manitoba and a number of points of entry in Ontario.


  69. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don't believe I was aware of that on the 13th.


  70. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Or before.


  71. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I've obviously subsequently become aware of it, and we've talked about -- you've asked me about ---


  72. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- it, but I don't recall being aware of it ---


  73. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- prior to that.


  74. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  75. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, if I may, the situation in Ottawa had been enormously challenging for the people of Ottawa. And I think people were living in a state of fearfulness and intimidation and, frankly, I think it was a very difficult set of circumstances for them there. And I was aware of that, and, you know, obviously, anxious to resolve that, but I remained hopeful throughout, and I'd like to also sort of be clear to characterize I believe very much the Emergency Act was a measure of last resort, and that it was incumbent upon us to, first of all, either exhaust all existing authorities, or acknowledge that they would not be successful and could not be used for a number of different reasons. And we were hearing that type of feedback from law enforcement about the enormous challenges they were facing. We were also hearing about how stretched their resources were being pulled because of events that were taking place in different parts of the country that required them to respond to one place but then be required in other places. And that was a challenge that we were hearing quite frequently as well. But I will also tell you I became very concerned, because one of my responsibilities as the Minister for Emergency Preparedness is the resiliency and safety and security of critical infrastructure. And we define critical infrastructure as 10 different sectors of critical infrastructure. And in particular as it relates to this event, it includes such things as manufacturing, our transportation routes, essential supply lines, the movement of essential workers. And what I was witnessing at the Ambassador Bridge, at Coutts, at Emerson, and then in a number of different venues that I would -- where we would see similar activity being threatened to be done at Point Edwards, at the Peace Bridge, on the Pacific Highway in British Columbia that that escalation, and I viewed it as a significant escalation, because it did result in significant disruption of critical supply lines, the cutting off of essential goods and services, of the impact it was having not just economically but on people, on families and, you know, the people who were being laid off their jobs and factories were being idle. I was also concerned because I'm aware, being a person from Ontario, that the integrated manufacturing processes in Ontario, particularly in the auto sector, but in many other manufacturing sectors as well, you know, prior to being Public Safety Minister, I was also the Minister of Border Security. And so it really did give me an understanding and appreciation of how important the integrity and functioning of that border is to our prosperity, to our economy, and to the wellbeing and health and safety of Canadians. And so when those borders were essentially closed, and that, you know, the movement of goods and services, some of the parts that go into our factories was being essentially stopped, it was hugely impactful. And I believe that it had risen to the level of an actual emergency. We were also seeing -- frankly, the information that we received from the RCMP on or around February 10th that they believed that there were firearms present at Coutts, and then subsequently I believe on the 13th and 14th when they completed their criminal investigation and arrested people and seized a number of firearms, it also, for me, elevated concern about public safety, and the risk that, not everyone involved in these protests represented, but embedded within these protests the possibility, certainly in Alberta, of violence and even serious violence taking place. And so for me, that -- the impact that it was having not just in the City of Ottawa but I don't want to minimize what was going on in Ottawa by any stretch of the imagination, but right across the country, particularly as it pertains to critical infrastructure, for me, elevated the situation to a national emergency. I would also observe as well, I believed that, you know, there was strong evidence that what was -- the fact that this protest was so well entrenched in blockades in Ottawa really anchored what was taking place right across the country. There was, in my mind, a clear correlation between the activities of border blockades and what was taking place in Ottawa. And it also, for me, highlighted the need, we had to resolve the whole situation, and failure to do so would have -- and failure to resolve in Ottawa would have resulted, just continued to, like, whack-a-mole, chasing border blockades at one port of entry to another. There are 119 border points of entry, land border points of entry in this country, plus our airports. And all of them are vulnerable to this type of unlawful action, and in my opinion, that represented a serious threat to our national security and became a national emergency.


  76. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    When an artery, a point of entry into the country, in Manitoba, in Alberta, in Ontario is essentially rendered dysfunctional, when it's closed and nothing is moving through there, the movement of those goods and services, in my opinion, is part of our critical infrastructure. It supports manufacturing; it’s part of the transportation. And you don’t have to blow everything up to render it unusable.


  77. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    You know, that can be done through a cyberattack, for example. But rendering it unusable is an attack on critical infrastructure, in my opinion, and that’s -- excuse me; that’s precisely what happened in these circumstances, and it was -- for me, we’d seen bridges and highways and rail lines go down in the floods and storms in British Columbia, and we knew we had to work hard to get those reopened. But the situation in -- across this country, it was exacerbated by the very significant challenges the police were obviously having to clear these in a timely manner.


  78. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. One of the things that -- I can go through a bit of a list. One of the things we heard in Alberta, in Manitoba, in British Columbia, and certainly in Ottawa and at the Ambassador Bridge, was the very significant challenges that police were having in gaining access to vehicles that they could tow the large trucks that were being used basically to blockade. You know, they ceased to be trucks; they were fortresses, and very, very difficult to move. There were a number of reasons why, that I think have been articulated for this Commission as to why they couldn’t gain access to those, but it was a reality that they could not. I looked very carefully, by the way, on Friday when Ontario brought in their measures, they did attempt to address making those tow trucks available, at least in Ontario, but you know, it only authorized the use of the truck, it did not compel it. And so I was concerned that given the circumstances and what I believe to be the reasons why those trucks weren’t available to the police to clear the blockades, either at Ambassador Bridge or in Ottawa, that we needed to do something else. I’m also aware -- in a previous part of my police career, I was very much involved in organized crime and money laundering investigations, and so I am familiar with the authorities and the activities of FINTRAC, and one of the questions that, you know, we had as a government was, you know, where is this money coming from and how is it being used? I became aware that FINTRAC did not have existing authorities to provide us with that information. And so that was, in my opinion, a deficiency in existing authorities and something that we needed to consider how we might be able to address it. There were also a number of areas -- like one of the things, Ambassador Bridge, as an example, was blockaded. One of the first things I did is a dug out the International Bridges and Tunnels Act to see what authorities we had, but the authorities within that Act were limited only to the bridge. And as you’ll recall, the blockade’s in Windsor; it didn’t set up on the bridge or even in their primary points of access, it was further down the road. It was very effective in closing down that bridge, but it happened to be on a municipal roadway, which is governed by municipal bylaw and the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, but not really effectively by any federal statute. And so the ability to designate certain spaces, that also became relevant in the City of Ottawa, I think, for Wellington Street and the Sir John A. Parkway in order to -- it became necessary to designate certain spaces where those activities would not be prohibited. And so there were a number of circumstances where the normal tools that police would rely on, either in municipal statute, in provincial statute -- municipal bylaw, provincial statute, or in federal statute were not being able -- they could not use them effectively to resolve this in a peaceful way. And, you know, we listened very carefully to the challenges that we were facing, and I came to believe that we needed to find a remedy to provide them with the tools that they required in order to effect the purpose of bringing these protests to an end.


  79. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. And I can tell you; it restored my pride in my profession. I have great respect and admiration for the men and women who do that very difficult job of policing, and what I witnessed, certainly in the City of Ottawa, but in other jurisdictions as well, but particularly in the City of Ottawa, an entirely professional proportional, measured response. They moved slowly, methodically, respectfully. You know, it was very clear that they were well-trained; very clear they were well-read. I believe that their exercise of the authorities that they had, both in existing law and in the new regulations, was done in a very measured and careful way. And I’ve seen some video of how they’ve done it; it’s textbook. And I’ve been trained as a Public Order Commander and I’ve seen it done well and I’ve never seen it done better than what I witnessed here in the City of Ottawa as they, I think, to the extent possible, as peacefully as possible, brought this to a resolution. They allowed people, for example, points of egress. It’s always important to let people have a space to go. They did that work. They moved slowly. I actually found myself trying to explain to some of my friends that -- why they’re going slowly, because that’s the right way to do it. And in my opinion, they did it the right way.


  80. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir, I don’t recall.


  81. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s my understanding, yes, sir.


  82. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Sir, I don’t know the context of this email or, frankly, where it comes from.


  83. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir, I disagree.


  84. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There is no agreement here. It’s recommendation from someone on staff.


  85. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I know of her. I don’t believe we’ve met face to face.


  86. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  87. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  88. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have no idea, sir.


  89. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I see it.


  90. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir, that’s incorrect.


  91. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have no idea, sir. I can tell you I recall the meeting, in which I talked about the need for the police of jurisdiction to exhaust their existing authorities and that we needed to support them. I also made very clear to colleagues that the Emergencies Act was a measure of last resort and not appropriate at this time. That was ---


  92. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- the conversation I had on the 4th.


  93. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Again, sir, there was no strategy to invoke the Act. There was a discussion among colleagues about the various options that were available and I was very explicit to my colleagues that the Emergencies Act was not under consideration at this time ---


  94. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- and that would have been on February 4th.


  95. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  96. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    To be really clear, I believe what I said is -- and you can read whatever you like, by the way, but what I believe I said is, “Everything was on the table and we were considering every option throughout.” That is the responsibility of those of us in ---


  97. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That might be useful.


  98. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have no knowledge of that. I don’t agree with that.


  99. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  100. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  101. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I know the prime minister spoke. I have no recollection of what he said. I was busy doing other things.


  102. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Actually, now that you’ve read it to me, sir, I not only remember it, but I agree with him.


  103. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, I don’t believe that was the distinction the prime minister made. He was actually telling people who don’t agree with those measures not to stand with those who do.


  104. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again I think -- I think there might have been isolated incidents. And frankly, I also believe the carrying of hateful symbols like a Nazi flag is, in many ways, causing fear, and it is a form of violence and intimidation against people who would be caused to be very fearful about symbols in their community.


  105. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Again, I don’t know the person who is bearing the flag and I wouldn’t comment on that, but I know how hurtful a Nazi flag can be to very many Canadians who, in their life, experienced -- that’s a symbol of antisemitism, hatred, ---


  106. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- and fear.


  107. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I do -- I’m not, sir.


  108. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m not, sir.


  109. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  110. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Only from you, sir.


  111. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. That’s not correct.


  112. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    With respect, sir, I believe what the email says is that some of our communications people were examining and being prepared for the event coming, but no decision had been made, none of that was presented to me, and it did not form any of my messaging.


  113. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Absolutely not, sir. I wanted the protest to end and them to be removed, but I’ve always been committed to doing that as peaceably and proportionally as possible.


  114. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well I would actually disagree with your characterization. In various points of my life, sir, I’ve engaged with people who are engaged in protests. And so frankly I disagree with your characterization.


  115. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. Perhaps you could share it with me.


  116. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  117. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s an email from myself to my Chief of Staff.


  118. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was concerned about the intention of the mediation and what was being negotiated. In my experience, the intent of engaging with protestors is to bring a peaceful resolution to the protest.


  119. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    You’ll have to share it with me, sir, to help me recall.


  120. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s correct.


  121. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don’t recall.


  122. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don’t know, because I don’t know -- I don’t recall the response.


  123. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. I don’t agree with anything you’ve just said.


  124. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    We were -- Deputy Stewart had advised that he was involved in a process of engagement with the protestors, but frankly, I was not in favour of having the senior administrative government go out and engage with the protestors. In my experience, that’s done at an official’s level and not involving Cabinet Ministers, or certainly not the Prime Minister.


  125. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    First of all, I disagree with the characterization you’ve just provided, but I’m not -- I don’t have any experience in the many years I’ve dealt with public order events of engaging with political figures to engage with protestors.


  126. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Could I see the whole thing?


  127. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Great. And again, I did not express a problem with this. The Deputy Minister was engaging with city and provincial officials in this and then came with his proposal to ---


  128. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  129. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Actually, I appreciate you bringing that up, sir. I also recall that in the discussion, almost immediately after Deputy Minister Stewart advised us of the discussions that had been taking place, there was very public disagreement among a number of people in the protest who disavowed ---


  130. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Who disavowed this process. And so quite frankly, I think that ---


  131. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Again, I have no knowledge of that, sir.


  132. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    To be very clear, sir, I do not agree with you.


  133. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don't agree with what you've said.


  134. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, sir, the question you put to me I do not agree with.


  135. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Frankly, it was never a question I put to law enforcement. I don't think that would have been appropriate.


  136. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  137. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Very often the case, yes, sir.


  138. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Not at all, sir, that's a very common practice.


  139. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  140. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  141. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  142. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Respectfully, sir, I don't believe I needed to know all of the operational details of the plan. I needed simply to be satisfied that the police services that would be contributing to its execution would be involved in the plan and be satisfied with its sufficiency. But I did not ask for details of the Operational Plan.


  143. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    When we were asking them to bring significant resources to bear, my understanding from them is that they also wanted to be satisfied to the sufficiency of the plan.


  144. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I think that's fair. We had heard it from a number of police officials, there was some general discussion about the Plan.


  145. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That's correct.


  146. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, I'm reluctant to comment on Chief Sloly's involvement in this thing. This is the information we were receiving back from the RCMP and to me through my Chief of Staff about concerns that they had, but again, not being part of this discussion I'm -- I am reluctant to characterise anybody's particular behaviour on this. But clearly it's very clear that the RCMP had concerns.


  147. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, I do. I -- in my conversations with a number of police officials outside of the City, there was concern. They wanted to see an Integrated Operational Plan that involves an action to end the blockades, or end the protest.


  148. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There was a concern we were hearing from both the RCMP and the OPP that they wanted to see an action plan for the resolution of the problem -- the protests.


  149. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  150. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  151. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don't think that language is appropriate.


  152. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I would expect that they would have an expectation to be aware of how their people would be used.


  153. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well again, I have no direct knowledge of that communication, but my expectation is that everyone was -- had a strong interest in resolving this quickly and peaceably.


  154. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  155. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  156. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was hopeful that they would be able to resolve it.


  157. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, as I commented in my earlier testimony.


  158. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And sir, I'm -- I don't have a line of sight into the internal meetings and discussions that were taking place, that was not shared with me. I was aware that they were -- all three organizations were working together, but the timing and the steps that were taken, I don’t have a sense.


  159. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  160. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    It might be useful to see the document. I don’t have a precise recollection of that comment.


  161. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  162. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, I recall this now, knowing that there was a breakthrough in Ottawa, we were also made aware that enforcement -- significant enforcement action was now taking place in Coutts, Alberta, and the Cabinet was informed about that. I don’t have a recollection of the exact nature of the potential breakthrough to which the NSA refers.


  163. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir, I don’t recall.


  164. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, I think what was being spoken of here was that unfortunately, some people were talking -- making assumptions and speaking about some of the concerns that I was expressing about the police response to the Ottawa event, and I was concerned that, frankly, some people had been speaking in my stead. I'm perfectly capable of speaking for myself and was concerned that others were doing that.


  165. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  166. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  167. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I didn’t take a position one way or the other. And if I may, sir, I think -- I've known Chief Sloly for a very long time. We worked together for 25 years and he used to be my field deputy when I was the chief in the Toronto Police Service. He was facing a very difficult situation and a very challenging environment. I have respect for the man and for the very difficult job he had.


  168. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And to be very clear ---


  169. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- when I said that I was asked specifically about the police response and I said it was somewhat inexplicable and to be really clear, what that means is I could neither explain nor account for the police response. It really isn't my place to explain or account for it, and so I characterized it as inexplicable.


  170. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, and the work, and as I've already characterized in my earlier testimony, I think they did an excellent job in utilizing the tools that were available to them in clearing the convoy in the week following the invocation of the Act.


  171. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Thank you, sir.


  172. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I have, and I would agree with it.


  173. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  174. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I would.


  175. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And if I may, sir, I'm not familiar with Hendon Report. It wasn’t intelligence that I had access to or the internal activities within the Police Service, but my general overall impression was that the OPP were very helpful.


  176. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And to be clear, I wasn’t referring to Commissioner Carrique or the Ontario Provincial Police in that message. I was referring to his relationship with some of the other police services in Ontario.


  177. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  178. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  179. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    It was in part my own observation, but also feedback I was receiving from former colleagues.


  180. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  181. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  182. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  183. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  184. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  185. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  186. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I'm not sure what the OPP might have provided, but there was also an issue of the decision had not yet been made. At the time of this email, it was under consideration, but the decision had not been made, and it was, you know, a matter of there was still a very important consultation that the Prime Minister had to undertake with the First Ministers from across the country. And so the decision to invoke had not yet been made. There was some consultation internally about useful tools, but it wasn't completely -- it wasn't fulsomely pursued because of the need to maintain the process that is required under the legislation.


  187. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, I have no knowledge -- direct knowledge of that, but we were also, over the course of the entire event, witnessing some of the challenges, the very real challenges that law enforcement, the OPP, the RCMP and many others were experiencing in this event, and it very much informed our deliberations and consideration of various tools that might be useful to the police response.


  188. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, and I agree, but it's also -- I think one has to be circumspect about it's not the police that determine what tools would be provided under the Emergencies Act. We consult with them on some of the challenges that they were facing, but it is the responsibility of government to determine what measures would be appropriate under the Act.


  189. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, to understand the challenges that they were facing but not specifically to ask them what additional tools, I don't believe that would have been appropriate. I've never been in a circumstances where, you know, that was a question put to a police leader, what additional legislative tools do you require.


  190. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think there is an appropriate process. I'm mindful that -- of Deputy -- or, excuse me, Commissioner Carrique's reporting responsibility to Deputy Minister Di Tommaso. I'm also well aware of Commissioner Lucki's reporting relationship to Minister Mendocino. I'm not part of either of those.


  191. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think consultation on the challenges that the police were facing. I'm -- I would not personally have asked what additional legislative authorities they might require, but it was very helpful to understand the difficulties that they were having with existing authorities.


  192. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I'm close to 40, I'm afraid.


  193. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    But in fairness, I don't have that role anymore and I'm mindful of the responsibilities of my current position and that I no longer hold that position.


  194. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. I have been regularly briefed by, for example, the National Security Intelligence Advisor, the RCMP Commissioner and the Director of CSIS, but I don't have any line of sight into the raw intelligence or many of the reports.


  195. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  196. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was not familiar with that. Subsequently, after, you know, other information came out, particularly through testimony, I've heard the phrase, but at the time, I was not familiar with that portfolio intelligence.


  197. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  198. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I've heard that subsequently.


  199. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There was conflicting information in intelligence that was being made available to me prior to the arrival of the protest in Ottawa, but, you know, quite frankly, there was also open source reporting that some intended to remain.


  200. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    It's always our hope.


  201. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Of course.


  202. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, there's a decision as to what information's appropriate to share ---


  203. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- with Cabinet. But of course, we want that information to be as clear as possible, not only so that we can assess its -- on its merits, but also its credibility, and so that information could ---


  204. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- be very important to us.


  205. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. Just went through Hurricane Fiona and we were tracking really carefully where it was going to make land for.


  206. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, I believe that's correct.


  207. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Again, sir, I didn't have any information about that. I'll take your word for it, of course, but I did receive my first briefing, I believe, on January 27th.


  208. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  209. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Sir, I think we first became -- like, he was actually subordinate to me a division I ran beginning around 1997 or '98.


  210. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  211. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. I have great respect for Chief Sloly, Peter Sloly.


  212. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There were a number of my commanders, but Peter also held that role in the service at that time.


  213. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, I did not have direct observation of Peter dealing with large public order events. Of course, his actual involvement in the G20, as I recall, was somewhat more limited, but certainly I recall quite vividly the Tamal protests. Frankly, I think we took a very careful measured approach to that, and, frankly, I've always been proud of my services, keeping everybody safe in those circumstances.


  214. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Including all of the men and women who were involved in that effort. It was very much a team effort.


  215. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  216. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Just to be clear, if I may, I deployed him as my field commander, which put him in charge of close to 4,000 of my officers, responsible for all of our divisional response, which was one of the largest and most significant jobs in the police service.


  217. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  218. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  219. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  220. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  221. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have had considerable experience, Toronto being a very diverse city, in bringing about a stronger relationship between the police and the minority communities we serve.


  222. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Very much so.


  223. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  224. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Actually, Peter reached out to me upon his appointment and we met, and at his -- he requested. We went and we had breakfast, and we talked about the challenges of taking over a new organisation and the change agenda he was hoping to implement.


  225. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There were certain aspects of it that were unique and uniquely challenging.


  226. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I'm not aware of that activity, sir. I had no line of sight to it.


  227. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Again, I have not seen any documents with respect to that. I have no knowledge of it.


  228. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. And quite frankly, I have no insight into the plan. I don't enquire about the plan, I only needed some assurance that one was in place.


  229. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That had been made clear to me, yes.


  230. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  231. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And if I may, just to be very fair here, I have no information, I had no insight into, you know, what was going on within the Ottawa Police Headquarters. I don't know, I don't know the men and women under his command, or anything that may have -- I know we've heard some evidence since, but I had no sense of that. But I was concerned because in the conversation that Peter and I had upon his appointment, that he was coming in with a strong change mandate and I know how challenging that it can be.


  232. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, and again to be fair, I was speculating here. And I don't want it to characterise this as based on any factual information that was available to me, but I was concerned that in a very challenging set of circumstances it's really -- cohesion within the Command structure is really, really important, and I was concerned that that cohesion may not have been as strong as it needed to be.


  233. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I know a little bit about the challenge of leading a large police organisation, and I think leadership is very important, but I would also say leadership doesn't exist just in the Chief's office. There's leadership throughout the entire organisation, and that leadership has to be mobilised to get the job done.


  234. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  235. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, and I also recall being able to give a positive answer to that request.


  236. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And just to be very clear, I was taking advice and guidance from my Operational Commanders on the ground who told me that this situation couldn't be resolved utilising our normal Public Order tactics without putting people at significant risk; and therefore, it was on their advice that I made the decision that we would engage with these people and find another way to resolve.


  237. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. And in fact, as the Chief of Police there were literally dozens of protests taking place in Toronto every single week, and I, for the larger events, would have those Operational Plans presented to me.


  238. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    For my awareness. The Command structure for those events was not -- the Chief doesn't command those events. We actually maintained a very robust Command structure for those types of events.


  239. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  240. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, we did in fact receive that letter. It wasn't something that I -- frankly, I'm not authorised to deal with a request for assistance coming from a municipal police chief, but it was referred back to other officials to deal with.


  241. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think, in fairness, it was the OPP that responded to the Windsor situation. And again, I stand to be corrected, but I understand -- stood that the Windsor Police Chief utilized the authorities under the existing Police Services Act in order to seek out the assistance and support of the OPP.


  242. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  243. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m not sure, sir. My understanding is with the OPP involvement there, they essentially led that response; that was my understanding.


  244. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Generally for planned events, yes. With the -- when I made reference in my early remarks to the Police Services Act and the provision within the Act for Chief of Police to deal with an emergency that exceeds their capacity, there is that provision in the Act. But I am in agreement, sir, that quite routinely for a lot of these events we -- they reach out to neighbouring police services, and people come to help each as best they can.


  245. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    He was certainly advocating for what he believed to be the necessary resources.


  246. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I did not detect any element of bad faith.


  247. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. As I’ve previously testified, I made no inquiry and received no information of the operational plans that were either being developed or in place.


  248. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Primarily through Commissioner Lucki, yes.


  249. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m not familiar with the -- Deputy Duheme’s testimony. I wasn’t following it.


  250. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m not.


  251. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  252. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  253. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  254. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m not aware of that.


  255. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, of course. Chief Sloly gave me an explanation, and I accepted that; he was the Chief of Police, and that was his belief.


  256. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe with the clarity of hindsight, sir, that there were a number of steps that, upon reflection, I think everyone involved would have liked to have seen a quicker outcome. I’m very mindful of the enormous impact this was having on people of Ottawa in particular. And because of some of the other then-related protest activities across the country, this huge -- hugely impactful upon all Canadians. And so the timeliness of resolving that, I think was important to all of us, and in hindsight, I think that’s -- it’s also our responsibility to learn from what -- that experience, and make sure that we can do it better next time.


  257. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, again, you -- that’s a judgment that I don’t have enough information to make, respectfully, but at the same time, I think we all need to reflect on how we could have resolved this quicker and more peace -- more effectively.


  258. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  259. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I -- again, I’m not entirely clear on the context of this, because there’s clearly conversation that was taking place before. But I believe that it was going to be necessary for the OPP to have a much greater operational role in this -- in the resolution of this event, for public order.


  260. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No. No, ma’am. My only knowledge of this information was what Mr. Fife was tweeting, and that’s why I shared it with my Chief of Staff.


  261. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  262. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m aware that it is a position that they get ex officio, but they can delegate it to others, and I’m also aware of many municipalities where the Mayor chooses not to sit on the Board.


  263. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Not while I was the Chief, sir. I don’t -- and -- well, perhaps, maybe for a few months but only a few months.


  264. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was kind of on my way out the door.


  265. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And prior to that, it was Chief -- actually Mayor Miller had served on the Board ---


  266. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- for a period of time, not his entire term.


  267. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir.


  268. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    It had been my hope, yes.


  269. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  270. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don’t think I was making that assumption. I’m not aware of that.


  271. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No. And I apologize but I’m not that familiar with Ottawa Council or its board.


  272. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, if I may, I don’t think that’s an appropriate discussion for a minister of the federal government to engage with the chair of a municipal police services board. My intention in establishing the tripartite table was to bring the three orders of government.


  273. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I use that word advisedly, by the way, because I don’t believe in levels. There are orders of government. The federal, provincial, and the municipal governments all had a responsibility to work together to collaborate and it was my intention to convene that discussion.


  274. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I -- again, I make no assumptions about those discussions. My intention was to bring the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to the table.


  275. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir, it’s about managing the protest that was taking place in Ottawa. It was hugely impactful. There is a police -- obviously a police responsibility there but, respectfully, I don’t believe it is my place, and I’ve always been meticulously careful not to in any way interfere with police operations. I believe, you know, the City clearly has a role with that with their Police Services Board, but not directly from me.


  276. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There are a number of reasons, as I’ve come to learn, as to some of the challenges of deploying those resources. Some of them were also deployed in a number of functions, as I understood it, that were dispersed from the downtown core.


  277. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And that’s true, Mr. Champ. There was a concern that we were hearing from not just the RCMP but other police services that they wanted confidence that an operational action plan was in place before they were able to deploy their resources.


  278. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can speak for myself, sir; I would not engage in that behavior. If my advice was asked on a matter, I might provide the advice but, as you characterize it, on trying to influence or interfere with that decision, I don’t believe that would be appropriate.


  279. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Of course.


  280. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, ma’am.


  281. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  282. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I -- yes, I would certainly characterize that police operation as proportional, measured, Charter-compliant, and appropriate.


  283. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don’t -- that’s probably inappropriate to characterize it as I “needed to explain to colleagues”, but I have some familiarity with those operations and what I was witnessing here in Ottawa was, in my opinion, textbook and entirely appropriate, and I certainly shared that with colleagues.


  284. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, I think the response is, it depends on the urgent nature. If someone was being injured, for example, I think, under those circumstances, one might want to go a little quicker, and it would be necessary. But I think a methodical, measured, and proportional response -- every public order response is, in part, determined by the actions of the other side, the protesters, and if their behaviour is, you know, less aggressive, then that type of approach is entirely appropriate.


  285. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Oh, yes.


  286. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe, certainly, in public safety, and that includes officer safety, as a priority in every operation.


  287. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was very concerned about the blockade of that roadway and that there was a need for urgency but, at the same time, you know, the operational decisions made by the police commanders on the ground, knowing the challenges they faced, the resources available to them, and their legal authorities, my -- I respect the decisions that they make.


  288. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  289. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    To the best of my recollection. It is not part of the process that I’m responsible for, the request for assistance, to receive requests directly from a municipal police chief. Those requests come through provincial and territorial ministers, and it was referred, to the best of my knowledge, to the appropriate minister in the Ontario government.


  290. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe it would be the Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones.


  291. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    But if I may be clear -- -


  292. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- that was likely done through officials. I don’t want to suggest that it was done directly to Minister Jones, but it would have been done, in all likelihood, from federal officials to provincial officials to make sure that that information was properly shared.


  293. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  294. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    We tried to respond to every bit of correspondence and not leave it simply unanswered.


  295. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, I’m afraid I don’t.


  296. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think certainly the local communities are -- were in fact being significantly impacted by these actions and by these blockades and demonstrations that were taking place.


  297. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe keeping people safe is the first responsibility of every order of government, and to provide whatever resources are available to assist law enforcement in their -- in effecting their purpose.


  298. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  299. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I would have anticipated, yes.


  300. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  301. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  302. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, I watched it very carefully. I was very concerned about the blockades at the Ambassador Bridge.


  303. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was aware that they had been able to move that protest. I was also aware of concerns that they were expressing to us that those blockades could either go to some other place, or could return to Windsor. And what we had heard very clearly from the police is although they had been effective in clearing it, there was real concern as to whether they could hold it open.


  304. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  305. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, ma’am.


  306. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Good evening.


  307. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, I believe that that was unlawful. I believe there are relevant statutes, municipal, although I don’t have a deep knowledge of your municipal bylaws, but certainly within the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, and even Criminal Code offences that were relevant to the situation.


  308. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I did several of them that week and the next, but I don’t have specific recollection of this, unless you bring me to a specific one.


  309. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’ve actually not seen this transcript, but if you could scroll down -- and by the way, I think I likely used the word the “thuggery” not “thuddery”.


  310. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  311. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  312. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  313. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. No ma’am.


  314. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  315. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  316. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I didn’t have the opportunity to read the American press, but I’m not surprised.


  317. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  318. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I would agree that local communities are often the very first impacted. I tried to make the point though the blockade at Ambassador Bridge went well beyond that intersection in Windsor. It was affecting auto plants, for example, right across the province and in Michigan, that, you know, a lot of people were being deeply impacted. But certainly I would acknowledge how difficult that was in Ottawa and in Windsor.


  319. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I did not have a direct conversation with Mayor Dilkens, but I believe my colleague did.


  320. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    If you share it with me, it’ll refresh my memory. I have no direct recollection of that letter from Mayor Dilkens, although we’ve communicated quite extensively over the course of the pandemic and other related matters.


  321. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have no direct recollection of it, but it strikes me as a reasonable request from the Mayor.


  322. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There’s a great deal of work ongoing about creating a more resilient critical infrastructure for this country from all hazards, including what we have seen over the course of last year.


  323. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can tell you in every community that I go to, I try to go and visit the mayor. I believe very much in all three orders of government have a role here. And as I said, I’ve engaged with Mayor Dilkens on numerous occasions, and many of the mayors, particularly the border mayors.


  324. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Throughout the pandemic, I met, on a very regular basis, with all of the mayors of Ontario border communities. They had some important things to say and they needed to be heard.


  325. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  326. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe I do. I was very concerned when I heard back from the Deputy Minister and the Canadian Armed Forces that they did not have the equipment that Minister McIver had requested in his request for assistance. And so I asked my staff and Public Safety to explore other areas of government to see if there was any way that we could provide assistance to Alberta. We looked, for example, in other federal departments. We looked outside the country in Montana. We were looking for any way that we -- if the CAF equipment was not appropriate or available, we were looking to see if there was any alternative that we could help Alberta.


  327. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, if you could read down through the entire liner because I want to see how this is dealt with. And I think it's also -- it's relevant that in the last paragraph where the letter also refers to, "...the lack of commercial resources, the Canadian Armed Forces [being] the only Federal asset [...] and discussions [that] made clear that [...] CAF have neither the type of assets required, nor the expertise to do this without significant possible risk." So it was in answer to Minister McIver's specific request for tow trucks belonging to CAF, and I think it was an important context for this letter as well.


  328. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There is some reference to that in this letter, yes.


  329. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, again, we were also examining across all of government, we were also talking about the possibility of providing funding to assist them in acquiring through private and commercial means ---


  330. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- the vehicles that they required.


  331. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, and again, not just exhausted or unlikely to succeed. I think that's a reasonable consideration as well. I think we were trying to communicate -- my concern, quite frankly, is I felt a necessity to reply to Minister McIver, who had made a request to give him the information. He very specifically asked for something, and we were saying no, and I think as you saw in the email about this, I was concerned that we weren't able to say yes, but I was also concerned that we needed to reply to his letter.


  332. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  333. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That's the usual -- that acronym represents the Prime Minister's Office.


  334. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, not normally, but clearly, there was communication between the offices about -- because there's also an issue of inter-government affairs between ourselves and the provinces. I think there was complexity to this request because it involved a number of different ministries, and it was an unusual outcome because we always try to find a way to say yes.


  335. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have no knowledge of that.


  336. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I'm not involved in those communications.


  337. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  338. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  339. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  340. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    My intention was that it would be published because we were putting documentary evidence before Parliament. There was an ongoing Parliamentary debate and there was a vote scheduled for the following week, and my recommendation, because specifically Minister McIver had talked about the RCMP exhausting -- and the language isn't in front of me, but I believe this letter said all of their resources and options. And I thought that was particularly relevant to the discussion around the invocation of the Act.


  341. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was aware that they purchased tow equipment. I also was aware that it had become somewhat moot because the -- after the investigation by the RCMP, the seizure of weapons and the arrest of a number of individuals, the blockade that existed at Coutts, most of those people skedaddled.


  342. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    It's not on the bottom of my screen ---


  343. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Actually, my responsibility as the Minister of Emergency Preparedness is to examine every federal authority and resource of -- that can be brought to bear. As I earlier testified, we had -- I'd actually examined the use of this particular Act during the pandemic and determined that the threshold was not met. And throughout this event, I was aware of this and many other legislative options available to us. And so it was something that we were, you know, prepared to examine, but as you can see in my answer, the more fulsome answer below that, I was very clear that our work with the provinces was important, that -- and I talked about the Ontario steps that they had taken with their own Emergency Act. And as I believe we said we will see if their effectiveness is sufficient to bring the situation in Ontario under control and, as I've said, we -- I don't believe that we had, at the time of this discussion on the Sunday morning, reached that decision and I was indicating that we were prepared to look at every option.


  344. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    What I was attempting to convey is that every option was on the table and we were prepared to examine every option and then to do what was required to bring about a peaceful resolution of these blockades.


  345. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I anticipated that the public was expecting their government to consider every option to bring about a peaceful resolution to these protests because it was hugely impactful, not just to the people of Ottawa and the communities impacted, but to the entire country.


  346. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Thank you very much.


  347. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Just to be clear, sir, because if I'm going to agree with you, I want to be precise ---


  348. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- the matter had been discussed at Cabinet. It was left to what we call ad referendum to the prime minister, but it was very clear to everybody that the prime minister's decision was contingent upon the consultation that he would undertake the following day with First Ministers.


  349. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  350. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I believe, sir, that we had the Cabinet meeting, as you've indicated, the night before. There was a Cabinet discussion, but the final decision was left ad referendum to the prime minister following his consultations with the First Ministers.


  351. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, I am.


  352. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think if I read this correctly, the deputy clerk's concern is that after, a very important step in any process of invocation involves consultation with the First Ministers, and Deputy Drouin's concern appears to be that after that call, some of that information was being made public, which I think -- and I do understand the concern because it does -- although it's not the final decision, it does -- many might take an inference that this was likely to happen. That, in my opinion, is different than suggesting we were considering all options, which it was a conversation that we had -- I had had a number of times prior to that. But if the deputy's concern, quite frankly, I have great respect for the deputy, and if this was a concern she had -- and it aligns somewhat with CSIS's advice that the invocation of the Act could result in a violent reaction from some.


  353. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  354. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I'd actually have to see that to understand the precise language. I was trying to be -- and it was always my intent to be very precise, that we were considering all of our options including the Emergencies Act, but that no decision had yet been made.


  355. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, I do, and I was referring to the new authorities as those that had come from the Province of Ontario with the invocation of their Emergencies Measures and as well the regulations that they had brought in on the Saturday.


  356. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was asked if I could explain the law enforcement's response, and I said it was somewhat inexplicable, and my meaning there, I hope was clear, that I could neither explain nor account for law enforcement's response. I think that’s up to them.


  357. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don’t believe that that would have influenced either the prime minister or the first ministers in their deliberations.


  358. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, that’s correct.


  359. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    You're asking me to speculate on something, frankly, I have no knowledge of and I was not part of that meeting.


  360. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s quite a hypothetical, sir, and I've never thought about being a premier.


  361. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Respectfully, sir, I don’t believe I'm in a position to assess that risk.


  362. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I had -- I believe I expanded upon that evidence in my examination in-Chief earlier today, sir, that I am familiar, of course, with a number of circumstances where various police services may seek and obtain assistance from others. I was also just simply pointing out to counsel that there is a provision within the Police Services Act that allows for a police chief dealing with an emergency that exceeds the capacity of his Police Service to manage, there is a section in the Act that allows him to request assistance from the OPP.


  363. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, and in fact, they -- well, again, depending on the circumstances, they often go to neighbouring police services. I can tell you from experience in Toronto Police Service we very frequently assisted other municipalities because we had a fairly robust and well- established Public Order Unit that we would assist those other Police Services.


  364. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  365. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I did not discuss the Ontario Police Services Act with the Mayor.


  366. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    My primary interaction was with the Mayor, and on the first tripartite meeting, Chief Sloly joined that call right at the end and we did not discuss.


  367. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, and in fact, they do, but there is -- actually, the Ontario Police Services Act is silent to the RCMP, and the RCMP has some capacity to respond, but under normal circumstances it's somewhat limited.


  368. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, I think as I've said, it was uniquely challenging for the City of Ottawa and in the multiple other jurisdictions that were being impacted by the blockades.


  369. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can tell you from long experience that the RCMP are actually a very important and valued partner in providing public safety services here in the National Capital Region and -- because they have a presence here, probably stronger than anywhere else in Ontario.


  370. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Of course.


  371. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  372. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  373. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    But I think context is really important, sir.


  374. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    The advice that I understood from CSIS is that it did not meet the CSIS threshold for them to enable them to initiate an investigation, and they were very clear about that. But for the purposes of the Emergencies Act that definition I believe has a broader application that is contained within that definition. And it -- really, violence and the threat of violence, I believe very clearly the threat of violence, I believe that, excuse me, the threat of violence existed, and I also believe that the threshold for -- in that definition is different for the Emergencies Act than it was in the very narrow application of that definition to enable the -- CSIS to undertake an investigation.


  375. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I worked -- I was previously the minister responsible for CSIS. I'm not unfamiliar with the extensive jurisprudence and very high standard that exists for CSIS to take that action.


  376. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, I -- there was some concern, not the activities of a foreign state actor, but that there was some concern about foreign influenced activities detrimental to the interests of Canada, and as well, just to be very clear, I believe there was more than ample evidence to support the threat or the use of acts of serious violence, and that "or" is rather important ---


  377. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- I think very many people felt threatened ---


  378. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- and intimidated.


  379. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, but I think there is underlying threat of serious violence. Just if I may very quickly give you an example: In our conversations with the police, both the RCMP in Alberta, and the Ottawa Police Service here in Ottawa, they were very concerned, and CSIS actually reaffirmed this concern, that any enforcement on their part could result in a violent and provoke a very violent response. I think as well, in all the people that we dealt with in Windsor and in Ottawa certainly the disruption of critical infrastructure was a very serious issue of national ---


  380. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  381. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, but ---


  382. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can ---


  383. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    If I may finish, sir.


  384. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I'm pleased to have the opportunity ---


  385. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- to do so now, sir.


  386. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe that many Canadians experienced threats of violence, intimidation and fear as a result of the activities taking place in this protest.


  387. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, in -- threats of violence, and I think very many people felt very threatened by what was taking place. Quite frankly, intimidation and a very real apprehension of risk and danger as a result of these activities I think we heard from very many Canadians who were very sincerely fearful about these things. And we heard from the police who told us that just in the normal -- even writing - --


  388. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- municipal bylaw tickets could precipitate a violent response ---


  389. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- and so the police were very fearful of a violent reaction.


  390. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, again, we were talking about a threat of violence, just merely the act.


  391. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    You know, you if somebody gets punched or if ---


  392. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- something blows up that's crystal clear, but acts of -- threats, intimidation, obstruction, all of those things can also be quite violent ---


  393. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- if they're experienced by Canadians.


  394. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well sir, you've characterised my response as noise, but I was trying to answer your question.


  395. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can tell you we heard from very many Canadians who were very fearful about the activities of these blockades and protests. You know, they were afraid to walk down their street, they were intimidated and fearful, all those reactions. Some of the, you know, the symbols and other things that were on display were very threatening to very many Canadians. And frankly the threat of violence is every bit as impactful on a community and on individuals.


  396. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- and therefore it became -- it was a very serious matter from my perspective.


  397. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m not sure what you mean. I think this definition is fairly comprehensive and includes the types of behaviours that I’ve referred to.


  398. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think this defines what, in my opinion, would be a public order threat to the security of Canada. There can be other types of threats that were not necessarily evident here, a cyber attack, for example, that’s targeted at critical infrastructure that shuts off a pipeline, or a power grid, or a water treatment plant. Those can also manifest themselves as threats. There is a significant threat there that doesn’t necessarily involve physical violence in the first instance.


  399. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I’m aware in the way in which this definition applies to CSIS’ authority, as determined by the courts, to initiate an investigation, but I also believe that its reference in the Emergencies Act, that this a -- it needs to be looked at in a broader context than simply whether or not CSIS could go get a wiretap, for example. And there are -- there is, I think, very useful guidance here ---


  400. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- to determine ---


  401. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, I think that this definition, as provided within the Act, in my opinion, is appropriate and does, in fact, identify the events and the circumstance that we have described as a concern within the Act as in fact a threat to the security of Canada.


  402. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Thank you.


  403. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  404. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Respectfully, I would characterize it that the government was feeling significant concern. We were concerned about the impact these protests were having on the people of Ottawa and the other communities impacted, on critical infrastructure, and in very many aspects of the country.


  405. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    If I may, parliament continued to function throughout this, notwithstanding it was a challenge and noisy. I think the impacts, from my perspective, were far more significant on the people living in Ottawa, trying to do business in Ottawa, and, as well, in Windsor. And, you know, I’m also very mindful of the impact that these events were having on people’s ability to make a living, to go about their business. It was very impactful on a lot of people in a lot of different places.


  406. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)



  407. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s my recollection, yes.


  408. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can tell you I had asked my staff for a full list of the Ontario measures that were enacted the day before. I also looked their utility and whether they would address the concerns that had been raised to us about -- and I’ll just give you some quick examples, if I may. One of the things that we had heard from a number of jurisdictions is the difficulty in compelling tow trucks to come to provide assistance. I looked at the Ontario regulations and, although it allowed for those tow trucks, it didn’t compel. And we were a little bit concerned about its limitations. There was also nothing in there, as I recall, that dealt with some of the real challenges we had in tracing the financial elements of this in the crowdfunding, who was donating that money, where it was going, and so we believed that there was a need to address that. How we eventually got there, there was still considerable deliberations going on but, again, the limitations of the federal statute -- and they also did not have the ability to designate certain spaces where -- which was a concern as well because, you know, we were concerned they were concentrating, for example, on Wellington. I was very concerned about their ability to go back to a municipal intersection just off the Ambassador Bridge. And so we looked at whether or not the Ontario regulations provided us with adequate assurance that those matters could be dealt with. And although they were very welcome -- I want to be very clear that I was very appreciative of the work that Ontario had done and the measures that they brought forward -- in my opinion, after examination of them, they didn’t address all of the deficiencies and the lack of tools that we had identified.


  409. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, respectfully, I’ve never indulged myself in, you know, feelings of embarrassment. I’ve got a job to do. We have a responsibility to protect Canadians, to protect critical infrastructure in this country, and to respond appropriately to unlawful activity. I, personally, and I believe all of my colleagues, were deeply motivated by our responsibility to Canadians to do what was required to restore the rule of law and peace.


  410. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I recall this.


  411. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, my remarks obviously are intemperate, and I regret that. But let me be very clear, I was very concerned by a number of things. First of all, there was an expansion in some of the protest activity that was taking place in Ottawa. I was hearing very clearly how concerned the people of Ottawa were about that -- not just the activity that was taking place but that it appeared to become even more entrenched. There was also a lot of public discourse and particularly in Ottawa but in other places as well about people losing confidence in the police, and trust and confidence in the police is absolutely essential for them to do their job. And so I was very concerned about the impact that the apparent ineffectiveness of the police to deal with this was causing in the public’s confidence in their competence and their ability to resolve this. And finally, one of the things that we were also hearing, a lot of people were very confused about who is responsible for policing in the City of Ottawa. And, you know, for most people, they don’t differentiate between the responsibilities of different orders of government. And what I was also hearing is that many people assumed that the federal government was responsible for this, and my comment is -- was that I knew it was primarily the provincial responsibility, the province’s responsibility under their Police Services Act to take certain steps, and I was hoping that they would take those steps. And, by the way, subsequently, on, I believe, December 11th, they did in fact pass their own Emergencies Act and introduce regulations on the 12th.


  412. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, think of the question. I want to be very clear, we approach, and certainly my approach to this, but I believe an approach shared by my colleagues and the Prime Minister, we approached the invocation of the Emergency Act with great caution, with real reluctance. We saw it as a last resort. And we were prepared to do what was required but only if required and only for as long as was required. And so throughout all of our deliberations, there was that concern. You asked what circumstances might have enabled us to say we're done. If we'd been able to receive some assurances, but, you know, the blockade at Coutts had gone on for almost I think 13 days. Its resolution was not as a result of the, you know, the towing away of those trucks with people deciding to leave. It was as a direct result of an RCMP investigation where several people were arrested, charged with very serious criminal offences and seizure of quite a number of weapons, and then they moved very quickly. We still had significant blockades at Emerson. We were seeing them at the Pacific Highway. Although the Ambassador Bridge had been reopened, there was lots of intelligence suggesting that they would return. Police were telling us they had the ability to clear it but not the ability to hold it. And we were hearing of an intention to go to Point Edwards Bridge at Sarnia, to go to the Peace Bridge, to go to other bridges, all of which would have had a similar effect of significantly impacting Canadians and Canadian interest. And so we were still dealing with a set of circumstances where, although, yes, some very positive things had happened at Coutts and at Windsor, the threat that existed had not yet abated, and we were still dealing with that.


  413. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And, first of all, let me agree vigorously that good communications within police services and between police services is very important in them doing the important job that we task them with in our society to keep the public safe. What we were also dealing with however in government was the reality that that communication perhaps had not been as effective and, as a result of, you know -- and again, it's not my job here to assess responsibility, but the reality was, this had persisted for a very long time. In many respects, it had gotten more difficult and dangerous, and we were concerned that it had to be resolved. And so, you know, I'm in complete agreement that good communications within police services and between police services, and I would also add between those governance bodies responsible for policing and the public, those communication's really critically important on all aspects of this. But in the event that that had not been as effective as perhaps we would have preferred or wanted it to be, we were dealing with a situation that was uniquely challenging and required, unfortunately, and my opinion, an extraordinary response.


  414. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Well, my responsibility is to look at all federal authorities and existing legislation. And because of, frankly, my background, I also look at municipal by-laws and their application and, like, Ontario statutes such as the Highway Traffic Act, which can also be applicable and useful in these circumstances. And so one of my responsibilities is to look at every legal authority. I've already mentioned, for example, at Windsor, we looked at the International Bridges and Tunnels Act to see if there was any application that that would assist us with. And what we found in the unique and challenging circumstances that police and communities were confronted with as a result of these blockades, there were, I think, a need to additional tools and authorities to enable them to affect the important lawful purpose of restoring the peace.


  415. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, I believe that is a requirement that -- and as well, the law also requires that it be Charter compliant, that it be time-limited, and that -- and, you know, it also provides a number of Parliamentary processes and an inquiry. All of those are very high standards that the law puts in place, and in my opinion, appropriately high standards.


  416. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was present at that meeting, and although I don’t have a specific memory of every point that’s listed here, I believe this was part of the discussion.


  417. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I don’t have any information on, like, whether the Deputy Minister was -- I have no recollection of what you’ve just said, ---


  418. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    --- and so I’m unable to agree with you.


  419. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I have no knowledge of that.


  420. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    The invocation of the Emergencies Act was not contingent upon an approved plan; it was contingent upon what was necessary to bring about a peaceful resolution.


  421. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And again, I wasn’t getting advice from law enforcement. We were getting information from law enforcement. I don’t have any insight at all into whatever plan may have been devised by them. I had every expectation that they were working together and would develop a plan, but I don't know its particulars. And frankly, our decision was based on the threat assessment, the determination of the circumstances that existed across the country, and yes, I think it's a positive development that the police are working together in a plan, but the execution of that plan had not yet been realized and the threat had not yet ---


  422. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I don't know that’s what they're referring to in the document you put in front of me today.


  423. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    No, sir. I make an assumption that it was the police operational plan, but I've never been given the details of their planning. I've never asked for it and did not require it.


  424. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And I don't know and wouldn't -- I don't think it's appropriate to try to venture a guess. You know, it's clear that there was discussion that they had come to an agreement with respect to a plan, but I don't know its particulars.


  425. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  426. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  427. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  428. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s correct, sir.


  429. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    On the Saturday, sir?


  430. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. There was a very difficult situation. What had been a relatively peaceful protest, although involving a very significant number of protesters, then there had been some incidents leading up to that, but on Saturday, unfortunately, a very significant portion of the protest began to riot tumultuously, is I think the appropriate term. They were marching down towards the summit site. They turned and began running rapidly north, up Yonge Street, smashing windows as they went. There was a number of police cars that were set on fire and a number of my officers were injured as well.


  431. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    He was injured and rescued from the vehicle which was subsequently set on fire.


  432. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I recall that vividly.


  433. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. That was the intelligence we'd received.


  434. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, that’s correct.


  435. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That’s correct, sir.


  436. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe many of them were not previously identified as subjects of interest. We also -- I also believe, sir, that a number of people, frankly, get caught up in the moment and it's part of the mob mentality sometimes when people begin to riot that others who may not have come with that intention join in and it becomes very challenging for the police to restore.


  437. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir. I recall watching that actually on video from police headquarters, and again, there was an element of that protest on Queen West which was directly related to a number of identified anarchist groups including the Black Bloc, but there were also very many other people that had not previously been identified who joined in.


  438. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    That -- it is very difficult to say, if I may. I would also remind you, sir, that at that time, I was the chief of police in Toronto, but there was an integrated command team that was put in place, the leadership of that response, planned well in advance and agreed to by all parties, was led by the RCMP. There was also integrated intelligence gathering units related to that. Certainly, you know, we had a fair bit of intelligence available to us, but it was clearly not entirely complete. I think, in hindsight, we could always have hopefully have done more.


  439. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes. Unfortunately, the law enforcement did not have the capacity to monitor all social media, and neither do we now, by the way, or neither do they now have that capacity. But again, the extent of which more information is available, you know, better intelligence, can enable a more effective response.


  440. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, and not -- I think to be very clear, not just simply characterized by you know, some of the activities which were bouncy castles and hot tubs, but there was a number of activities that were -- which were concerning, as I viewed them. And for example, there was a very real concern being expressed by citizens about people bringing jerry cans full of gasoline into the demonstration site. It is rather unusual. I will tell you for, you know, inflammable liquids, potentially explosive liquids being brought into a demonstration site, it can create a manifestly dangerous situation. And so the police had said they were not going to allow it, but what we then witnessed is all sorts of people were coming into the site carrying jerry cans, some of which had water, some of which may have had a fluid, but it had the effect of thwarting the ability of the police to effect the purpose that they had stated that was their intention to keep those gas cans out of the area. And we saw -- you know, there was a clear anticipation of police tactics that was, I think, a very thoughtful effort to thwart those tactics and render them ineffective, which to me is also characterised, you know, a commitment to continue and persist with the unlawful activity.


  441. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, I was obviously being briefed by our officials, but I was in the City of Ottawa at the time. I reside in the downtown area. I was in that area and saw some of this behaviour firsthand.


  442. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think it can. I -- you know, we also recognise that in areas where there is significant disorder, and that can manifest itself in many ways, but certainly during this protest, I think we could characterise a lot of the behaviour as significant disorder in the downtown core, it has the effect -- first of all, it has the effect on everyone else in the neighbourhood. The law-abiding citizens, they stop using public space, they stop shopping on their main streets, you know, they stay in their houses, lock their doors, put bars on the windows, and they're fearful of going outside and engaging with each other. And where that lawlessness becomes really entrenched, in my experience, that can actually create a very unsafe situation. And even behaviours that people might otherwise not be inclined to engage in more serious criminal behaviours, I think when you create a situation of significant disorder they're more likely to occur.


  443. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was witnessing very clearly the challenges that the OPP was having, not just for their activities in Windsor and Ottawa, but also having to cover off, you know, the Peace Bridge, assisting the Niagara Regional Police, the Sarnia Police over at Point Edward. There was also other activities on other highways, 402, for example, all of which had the effect of really pulling and stretching the capacity to respond of the OPP and their policing partners in Ontario. We also saw, for example, as a result of the Coutts blockade there was an Article 9 request from the Province of Alberta to move additional RCMP officers into Alberta to assist with managing that particular event. They were drawn primarily from British Columbia, but then we saw almost immediately there was protest and blockade activity taking place at Pacific Highway. So the place from which those resources had been drawn was then being challenged, and it appeared to be an effort to stretch even thinner limited police resources. And you know, I think one of the things we heard very clearly from the Commissioner is that he had to make some very difficult choices about what he could do first and what he would then have to do subsequently because he just didn't have unlimited resources to bring to bear.


  444. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think it's very important to have enough resources to effect the lawful purpose. And I again, I leave that decision to the operational commanders on the ground, but in my experience, having insufficient people to deal with a substantial protest, and I've been involved in protests where we were in our dozens up against thousands, and it becomes extremely difficult to bring that situation to a peaceful conclusion.


  445. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    It can be. And I want to be very clear that I know that there was a high level of frustration in Windsor and in Ottawa and in other places with the blockades that were taking place, and I did not see evidence of a violent response, but when there has been counter demonstrations, the police are also very challenged to sort of stand between the two protesting groups to maintain the peace between them, and that can be a very challenging environment. And it's because people who become quite upset and emotional and feel that they're being treated unfairly may, and I say may very carefully because we did not see evidence of this in Ottawa, certainly, but they can become quite agitated and upset and that could lead to confrontation.


  446. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Actually, I had been advised earlier in the week, I believe around the 10th, by the RCMP Commissioner speaking at a -- an IRG that I had convened, that there was concern about the presence of firearms at Coutts. That immediately alerted -- like for me was a very significant potential escalation of violence and risk at that site, you know, it's -- where the police advised that they had that information and that they were dealing with it. And when the investigation was complete, I believe on the morning of or the - - on the 13th going over into the 14th, and they began making arrests, the weapons that were seized, the charges that were laid were deeply concerning. And I won't and I can't comment on any aspect of that matter now before the courts, but I can tell you it was deeply concerning that -- and that's not to suggest, I want to be very clear, that's not to suggest that I came to believe that everyone involved in these protests was potentially armed, but it was deeply concerning that embedded within that protest in Alberta was a number of people who did appear to be armed and that there clearly was some evidence that they intended to cause harm.


  447. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yeah, that was concerning, and we were getting information from the police. I'm aware as well that subsequently it was determined that that was not related to the protest activities, but in the moment of their theft, and not knowing where they were, it was concerning that there was that many guns out there in unknown hands.


  448. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I've spent my whole life upholding the rule of law, sir, so yes, I do.


  449. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think overwhelmingly in our country the vast majority of Canadians embrace the rule of law, it's practically part of our social contract that we all agree that these are the laws and that we will obey them.


  450. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I can advise that it can be very difficult when -- if a large number of people choose not to obey the law on the capacity of the police. And frankly I don't think it's necessary or appropriate for the police to charge everybody, it would overwhelm our criminal justice system, you couldn't bring all those people before the court. It -- I think the law works best when it's done with the consent of the people, and we all agree to abide by those rules in how we treat each other and how we live together.


  451. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I remain optimistic, and I would hope that the vast majority of Canadians would understand the importance of the rule of law, and it's foundational to our society. And you know, we live in a -- we talk about peace, order, good government, and Canada is one of the safest largest cities, or excuse me, large countries in the world, and so I think that one of the reasons that it is such a livable country is because we all agree that the rule of law is important and should prevail.


  452. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think when people lose confidence in the rule of law, when they lose confidence in their police services to uphold and maintain the rule of law, when they lose confidence in the criminal justice system to provide justice for everyone, like, when that confidence is lost, then I think it's far more likely that people will ignore the law and would engage in criminal behaviour.


  453. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think as we saw, the persistence of clearly unlawful and disorderly behaviours around these convoys, I think the situation, in my opinion, was escalating towards a greater likelihood of a violent outcome.


  454. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I did.


  455. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir.


  456. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I've been involved in many, sir. That -- again, I describe this, sir, that type of behaviour is textbook. I believe that the officers were responding in a very proportional and measured way. One of the things that happens in any public order event, if you line the police officers up, there will be some people that will come and push against them. And, you know, clearly, the police were -- had adequate resources and a clear plan and were moving people out. I was particularly impressed as I watched that, that the protesters were given passive egress, so that they could leave, and that's really important when you're trying to clear a street that you give people a reasonable point of exit from that street. The other thing that I would observe is the presence of those vehicles. I think even as I watch this, the police were dealing with a unique challenge because those vehicles were, in many cases, still present in that event. And but I thought the way in which they managed the movement of those people was entirely proportionate -- and I looked very carefully. I personally did not see anything that I would characterize as excessive force. There is a minimal amount of force that is necessary to affect that purpose, and that's what I believe I witnessed.


  457. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I'm not aware of that. I've seen absolutely no evidence or indication of that.


  458. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Can I say, sir, I personally believe it would have been wrong.


  459. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I know Tom Carrique. We're friends. I would not have called Commissioner Carrique or any other police chief to seek their support for essentially a political move. I did have conversations -- there are a number of organizations, police chief organizations who are advocacy organizations. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, I'm quite familiar with those organizations. I was previously the president of both. Those organizations are advocates for policing and public safety. And, yes, there was -- we did receive support from the OACP and the CACP, but I did not, I'm not -- I have no idea what Commissioner Lucki was referring to there, but I would have considered it entirely inappropriate to call Commissioner Carrique. I didn't call the Chief of my old service. I did reach out to the Associations through their executive directors, not chiefs of police, to allow those Associations to comment, and they said whatever they said. I also had all communication with the President of the Canadian Police Association, which represents all the unions in -- police unions in Canada. And all three organizations, the CPA, the OACP and the CACP all sent very strong letters of support for the Emergencies Act and the measures that were provided.


  460. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    My understanding of the act, sir, is that the OPP is -- if a chief believes an emergency exceeds their capacity and they ask the OPP for help, that the OPP Commissioner is required, they can also ask another municipal police service or First Nations police service, who do have in the legislation, as I understand it -- and this legislation’s been amended a few times so I stand to be corrected, but I believe this is still correct. Those municipal police services could decline. And interestingly enough, the Ontario Police Services Act is completely silent to the RCMP.


  461. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, I believe that’s true. And certainly, the policing jurisdiction in seven of our provinces, for example, are the RCMP serving under contract to the provincial authority. But in Ontario -- the RCMP have a very important policing role in Ontario and in Quebec. They provide federal policing services. They do tier 1 investigations; they do money laundering; they head up the Integrated National Security Enforcement teams. Like, those are very important RCMP responsibilities. But they also, quite routinely, will come and help other police services with the deployment of their uniformed officers.


  462. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    And, sir, I believe that is an operational decision. The decision you just described, in the deployment of their people, I believe that’s the responsibility of the commissioner in this case and would be inappropriate to receive direction. Direction -- and if I may, I’ll just give you a quick example. When I was the Public Safety Minister, I only issued one direct to the Commissioner of the RCMP, and it was a ministerial directive in writing, which I made public, and it was to require that they respond to ATIP requests in a timely way, and that was it. And I was very careful not to sort of wade into this issue of operations.


  463. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I think, ultimately -- in my opinion, the decision as to where he can safely deploy his people and do his job is an operational decision that I would -- I, personally, would have deferred to the commissioner.


  464. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I was not made aware, and I’ve subsequently through this inquiry, that that information was available, but I was not aware of it on -- at that cabinet meeting.


  465. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    I believe that -- I always believe, quite frankly, that the police have to utilize all the tools that are available to them. And where they have an existing authority, then that authority is the one that should stand. But I had also come to believe, sir, that there were a number of circumstances and challenges that the police were facing where they did not have the appropriate tools to deal with it. They had not asked specifically, and had not certainly asked me specifically, for those tools, but they had indicated, you know, the insufficiency of their existing authorities and tool, and had indicated that -- that I believed it was necessary for us to remedy and address.


  466. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    Yes, sir, and I’ve actually given some consideration to that. I was a little bit concerned with the agreement that the City had attempted to enter into -- frankly, it kind of quickly fell apart -- because they had suggested that, you know, the trucks would park on Wellington and Sir John A. and -- out of the residential area. I understand their motivation but I was concerned it had the effect of potentially giving permission for those trucks to remain on Wellington and Sir John A., which I think could have been problematic. I was also very mindful of the challenge that Windsor had experienced because this had taken place in a municipal intersection and our ability to designate that space, because of its, I think, significant impact and vulnerability for critical infrastructure, that we needed to go beyond simply the tools of a municipal bylaw and potentially take a more proactive stance with respect to that. I am, of course, familiar with the common law authorities. Part of the challenges in common law authorities is they’re not always clearly understood or articulated. And they’re always subject to challenge. And I think some particularity with respect to defining those spaces could prove useful to the police to effect their purpose.


  467. Bill Blair, Minister (GC-PS)

    There was indeed, sir. And there -- it needs to be very carefully defined and very carefully communicated.