Stephen Aylward

Stephen Aylward spoke 113 times across 4 days of testimony.

  1. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Good morning, Insp. Lucas.


  2. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    My name is Stephen Aylward. I’m one of the lawyers for the Government of Canada. In your witness statement, you noted that there was an issue with misinformation and disinformation and its impact on the policing of the Freedom Convoy. Could I just ask you to expand on that?


  3. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Mr. Clerk, could we please turn up OPS00002961? Insp. Lucas, are you aware of an issue with protest organizers claiming that the police supported or backed the Freedom Convoy?


  4. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so if we just look at this document, the third email in the chain is an email from you. And under the fourth bullet that begins, “It’s difficult for everyone to differentiate fact from fiction”?


  5. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Yes. And then at the end of that paragraph, there’s a reference to social media posts and receiving some direct messages from protestors -- sorry, from members of the public and it continues there. So is the issue here that there was social media messaging online that the police were not only supporting the right to protest here but were actually backing the protestors?


  6. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    But the issue here that you’re identifying is that there’s confusion that the police are, in fact, supporting the protestors.


  7. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    So would you characterize that as an instance of misinformation on social media?


  8. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    If we could call up OPS00010498. Inspector Lucas, do you recall there being an issue with protectors drawing up arrest warrants for health care workers?


  9. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And can you tell us a bit more about that?


  10. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you. And Mr. Commission, if I may just have one moment’s indulgence.


  11. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    So in your witness statement, you refer to there being a Farfaada contingent at Rideau and Sussex. Can you just tell us who Farfaada are?


  12. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay. And then if we could turn up OPS00012285. Are you aware of an issue with the convoy organizers offering to compensate truckers who were issued tickets?


  13. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    But it was sufficient -- it was enough of a concern to include in this email, which is providing instructions to officers who are conducting briefings.


  14. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you. No further questions.


  15. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Good afternoon, Mr. MacKenzie. My name is Stephen Aylward. I'm one of the lawyers for the Government of Canada.


  16. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Mr. MacKenzie, you described Diagolon as a grassroots community. Do I have that right?


  17. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And you’ve described yourself as the de facto leader of Diagolon?


  18. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    I see.


  19. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    The letter to the Senate that Commission counsel brought up earlier, you had described yourself as the de facto leader in quotes, so I take it, then, you’re saying that was being used ironically in that context.


  20. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Right. And you have no formal authority over anyone who’s part of the Diagolon community. Is that right?


  21. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay. And you view yourself as somewhat of a calming presence within the Diagolon community?


  22. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Earlier you agreed with Commission counsel that you had put out messages urging people in Ottawa not to use violence or to act unlawfully. You agree with that.


  23. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And you were putting out those messages because you were concerned that some members of the Diagolon community would use violence or would act unlawfully.


  24. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And you explained that there were other members of the Diagolon community with you in Ottawa at the time of the Freedom Convoy?


  25. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    How many, would you say?


  26. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And were there other people that you saw in Ottawa with Diagolon symbols who weren’t part of that group?


  27. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Could we please call up SSM.NSC.CAN.00000079_REL_0001? Mr. MacKenzie, are you aware of reports that members of the Plaid Army put out a YouTube video in which they expressed the hope that the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa would be the Canadian version of the January 6th riot in Capitol Hill?


  28. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you. If we could actually pull up the next document? It a video, PB.CAN.00001820_REL.0001, and if we could start the video at the 55-second mark, please? And just while we're calling that up, you're aware that that there was a deal that was struck between some of the protest organizers in Ottawa and the City of Ottawa?


  29. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Maybe I'll move on to the next topic and then I'll come back to that. In terms of the Coutts incident that Mr. Mather was just discussing with you, were you aware that there were a number of individuals who travelled from Ottawa who were at the Freedom Convoy event in Ottawa who then travelled to Coutts?


  30. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And in particular, to clarify, referring to individuals who were charged as part of that RCMP operation.


  31. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    When -- just a moment ago, when you were describing the -- we were looking at a photo of a -- some sort of body armour that had the Diagolon symbol on it, and you were expressing some concerns about the authenticity of the Diagolon symbol there. Just to be clear, were you suggesting that the Diagolon symbol had been planted there by law enforcement?


  32. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    I take it there's still some issue in pulling up that video?


  33. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Yes, that’s fine. I did have one other video clip that I wanted to play. Is it possible to pull up the -- a different video clip?


  34. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Yes. Okay. It's COM00000911, the video that was played earlier. And if we could just start that around the 30-second mark? (VIDEO PLAYBACK)


  35. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so earlier you mentioned that there were some videos in which you had urged people in Ottawa not to use violence, not to act unlawfully. Do you view your comments, "You want to dance? Let's dance," or I believe it was, "Hold the fuck down," do you view those comments as in line with your earlier messaging?


  36. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay, thank you. So if I might ask for just two minutes later to address that issue with the video?


  37. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Oh, it is?


  38. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Yes, that’s right. If we could start it at 55-second mark, please? (VIDEO PLAYBACK)


  39. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    That’s good, yeah. So does -- I mentioned a deal earlier between protest organizers and the City. Does that video -- does that refresh your memory about that issue?


  40. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Safe to say you were urging your followers not to go along with that deal?


  41. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you.


  42. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Good afternoon. It's Stephen Aylward. I'm one of the lawyers for the Government of Canada. Mr. Sabia, earlier this morning, you mentioned a concern around the electric vehicle credits in the context of discussions with or issues with the United States. I just wonder for those who may be unfamiliar with that issue if you could just explain a bit more about why it was and why it was a concern for you.


  43. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Was that issue around the proposal to have the electric vehicle credits subsidies apply only in the United States, was that a live issue in the United States ---


  44. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    --- at the time?


  45. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Mr. Mendes, you mentioned that there had been issues with semi-conductor supplies in the supply chains in the auto sector that had arisen prior to the blockades. Did those -- did the impact of the semi-conductor shortages apply equally in Canada and the United States on the auto manufacturing sectors?


  46. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    So as we know, the Ambassador Bridge was -- the blockade was cleared by the time the Emergencies Act was invoked, but we've also heard evidence that there were plans from protesters to try and re-establish a blockade on the bridge. I'm just wondering for your perspective in terms of impacts, economic impacts or impacts with the U.S. trading relationship and what would've been the impact of a blockade re-emerging at the bridge?


  47. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    In week two compared to week one.


  48. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Can I ask -- you testified earlier that this was an urgent situation, we had to act quickly because there was -- the longer it went on, the worse the economic impacts could have been. But just when you say quickly, what's the timescale that you had in mind? Was this an issue of days, or weeks, or what was the timeframe?


  49. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Changing gears here slightly. Ms. Jacques, you mentioned to my friend from the Government of Saskatchewan that the Department of Finance hadn't consulted with RCMP on the EMO until after the measures were adopted. Did the Department of Finance consult with Public Safety on those measures before they were adopted?


  50. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Now my friend for Commission Counsel put it to you that the Department of Finance took no responsibility for whose accounts were frozen, and the exercise of identifying whose accounts were to be frozen. Does the Department of Finance have any information about the individuals who were involved in the blockades, or did it have such information at the time?


  51. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Did it have any way of obtaining that information?


  52. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Why do you say that?


  53. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so who would be the appropriate body through which such information ---


  54. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Pardon me?


  55. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And, in fact, Commission Counsel showed you the evidence of Officer Beaudoin, the disclosures that were -- the form of disclosure that was made to financial institutions. If a financial institution was uncertain upon reviewing the disclosure it received from the RCMP about whether the person who was the subject of the disclosure was in fact involved in illegal activity, was there anything that would have prevented the financial institution from requesting that the RCMP provide further information?


  56. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    That's Section 6 of the ---


  57. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And in terms of the -- oh, are you aware of any instances in which there was a case of mistaken identity in which a person had their bank account frozen despite not being someone who's involved in the protests?


  58. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    In terms of the decision to use a -- what my friend called a hybrid approach, not providing financial institutions with a list of designated persons, but also depending on their own systems, Ms. Jacques, you testified earlier that that was in part to take advantage of the internal systems and algorithms that those institutions have in place themselves. What sort of data would financial institutions have access to, that the RCMP or law enforcement wouldn't, that would allow them to make determinations about whether someone was engaged in illegal activities under the Emergency Measures Regulations?


  59. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    They'd be looking at the transaction data that was ---


  60. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    --- available to them?


  61. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so if a person donated a million dollars to support an illegal blockade at a border or in Ottawa, that's information that a financial institution might have that law enforcement would have no way of knowing.


  62. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so if the list approach had been used and financial institutions were required to freeze the accounts of anyone who was on a list provided by the RCMP, is it fair to say that the financial institutions wouldn't have been able to unfreeze those accounts until they were delisted by the RCMP?


  63. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so under these measures that you had in place using the hybrid approach and the duty to determine on a continuous basis that you referenced earlier, financial institutions were actually able to unfreeze accounts without waiting for such a delisting; is that right?


  64. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    In terms of the national scope of the Emergency Economic Measures Order, it applied across the country to financial institutions and designated persons not just in provinces where border blockades or other unlawful protests were occurring. Why was it important that the measure apply across the country?


  65. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    In terms of notice of the pending freezing measures, Mr. Sabia, you mentioned earlier that the Deputy Prime Minister had been very clear that the individuals could have their accounts frozen if they continued to participate in unlawful activity. How was that message communicated?


  66. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And Ms. Jacques, you mentioned notice that had been given to protesters. Are you aware of efforts taken by police officers to give notice to protesters of these potential consequences?


  67. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Ms. Jacques, when the measures were conceived, how -- what was the idea for how someone would have their account unfrozen?


  68. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    The definition of a designated person under the EMO is a person who is engaged in activity contrary to sections 2 to 5 of the EMR. Am I right that a person would cease to be a designated person as soon as they ceased participating in such activities?


  69. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    My friend for the CCF suggested to you that the intention here wasn’t to freeze people’s grocery money. Was there any way that the Department of Finance, in conceiving these measures, would have been able to distinguish between money that was being used to buy groceries and money that was being used to fund illegal activity?


  70. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And why is that?


  71. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Mr. Commissioner, I’m just about out of time. If I might have another few minutes?


  72. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you. In terms of the alternative measures, or the alternatives to these measures, it was suggested to you earlier that some of the crowdfunding campaigns were already subject to a Court Order from Ontario at the time that the EMO came into effect, and Mr. Sabia, you noticed -- noted a concern around the -- whether that Order would fly outside of Ontario. I’m wondering, Ms. Jacques, from your perspective, were you aware of any other reason why it was needed to take these steps -- why the Ontario Order was insufficient?


  73. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    You refer to wallets; you’re referring to cryptocurrency?


  74. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    --- fundraising?


  75. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Can you say more about that?


  76. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    I’m just about out of time. You’re aware that there were -- that there was significant media reporting around the GoFundMe decision to cease its crowdfunding campaign on that platform?


  77. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay. And I don’t have time to play it but I’ll just, for the record, one example of such a media report would be PB.CAN.00001797_REL.0001, beginning at five minutes and five seconds. Thank you, Mr. Commissioner, for the indulgence. Those are my questions.


  78. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)



  79. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    (Off mic) ...referring to something the Deputy Prime Minister said in the House.


  80. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    There's an object in there for Parliamentary privilege.


  81. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Well, I'd ask my friend for the document that he's referring to so that we know what he's talking about so we can understand the Parliamentary privilege - --


  82. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)



  83. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    I’m going to object as phrased. That’s a legal question.


  84. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Again, Commissioner, this is a legal interpretation question that will be addressed in closing submissions.


  85. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    I’d renew my objection and would ask for a ruling on it.


  86. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Good afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister. As you know, my name is Stephen Aylward; I’m one of the lawyers for the Government of Canada. My friend for the Government of Saskatchewan just now took you to a news article that referred to the blacklisting of account holders, or the -- of borrowers under a federal program. Is there anything in the Emergency Economic Measures Order that authorized or required financial institutions to blacklist an individual?


  87. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Was there anything that prescribed any lasting impacts, beyond the expiry of the designation of a person as a designated -- determination that a person was a designated person, or the expiry of the Emergencies Act?


  88. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Earlier my friend for Commission Counsel put it to you that -- on the issue of foreign funding, that there was no information that the government had in relation to foreign funding at the time the declaration of the emergency. In your response, you mentioned open-source information. I take it that would’ve included news articles?


  89. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay. And I won’t take you to them, but I’m just going to read into the record the names of two such articles; PB.CAN.00001755 and PB.CAN.00001756. My friend for the Democracy Fund mentioned to you certain letters from the Canadian Truckers Association in which they expressed concern in December of 2021 over the removal of the exemption for cross-border trucker -- trucking; do you recall that?


  90. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And if we could pull up, Mr. Clerk, SSM.CAN.00000335? And this document that’s pulling up is a statement from the same organization that was made in January of 2022. And if you see there, the statement says: “The...(CTA) does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways and bridges. CTA believes such actions - especially those that interfere with public safety - are not how disagreement[s] with government...should be expressed.” Were you aware of that being the position of the Canadian Truckers Association at the time?


  91. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And, indeed, if we could go to SSM.CAN.00000987, this is a letter dated February 10th, 2022, again from the Canadian Truckers Association. And in this letter, the Canadian Truckers Association is asking the federal government to take action to address the issue with the border blockades. Are you -- were you aware -- it’s a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and Minister Alghabra, but I’ll just ask; were you aware of the Canadian Truckers Association making such a request at the time?


  92. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay. So if we talk about economic impacts for a moment, you had discussed with Commission Counsel earlier the -- a Bloomberg briefing and, as well, a Bloomberg article. If we could just pull up the news article at COM00000839, please? And if we could go to the third page of that document, when it’s ready. This is the news article. And apart from the reference to the .1 percent that you were discussing earlier, there’s some -- there’s some reporting in here about other individuals that were commenting on the situation of the border blockades at the time. And if you look under the heading there, “‘We Don’t Need This’”. There’s a quote attributed to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, that was made on the Wednesday, so that would have been the day before this article, so on Wednesday, February 9th, in which the Governor of the Bank of Canada noted that we were having -- “We’ve already got a strained global supply chain. We don’t need this.” (As read) In reference to the border blockade. Do you remember being aware of the comments of the Governor of the Bank of Canada at the time?


  93. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Okay. So you spoke earlier about some of your concerns around comments by public officials in the United States. I’d just like to go through the timeline of some of those statements, because I think we’ve heard a bit about them, but I think it’s helpful to look at ---


  94. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    No, indeed. That was just one instance of a document that’s in the record that ---


  95. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    --- recorded that statement. So February 7th we know is the day that the blockade begins at the Ambassador Bridge. And so on February 9th, this is day three, that’s the date of those comments by the Governor of the Bank of Canada, it’s also the date of several statements by U.S. public officials. If we could pull up PB.CAN.00000023? and go to page three? This is a Tweet by Representative Elisa Slotkin. And I believe you may have indirectly made reference to this earlier this morning. But I’d just like to put the Tweet up. And ---


  96. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    If you can see there, we have Representative Slotkin saying: “If we needed another example of why supply chains matter, look no further [than the Ambassador Bridge --] the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge…” Then it continues. And if you look at the second installation of the thread, or the second part of the thread, it says: “It doesn’t matter if it’s an adversary or an ally -- we can’t be this reliant on parts coming from foreign countries.” Was that the comment that you were referencing earlier in your testimony?


  97. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And on the White House point, if we look just further down this page, the last line on this page of the document, it’s a headline from an article from the Detroit News: “White House worried about Ambassador Bridge blockade…” And that article, we don’t need to go through the text, but it references a statement by then Press Secretary Jen Psaki commenting on White House concern. And I take it you were aware of those comments at the time as well?


  98. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so then if we go to February 10th, that’s day four of the blockades, Commission Counsel mentioned earlier that the Department of Finance prepared an economic analysis on February 10th, that day. We looked at it the other day with the Department of Finance officials. That background noted that by the -- at that time, as of the fourth day, there were auto plant shut downs at Ford, Stellantis, and Toyota plants that were caused by the Ambassador Bridge blockade. Were you aware of that? Were you surprised at how quickly those shut downs occurred?


  99. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so you mentioned you spoke to Brian Deese and part of that was setting up a call with the President -- between the President and the Prime Minister, which then took place the following day. What was your reaction when you heard that the call -- that that call had taken place the next day after you’d begun the process to set it up?


  100. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    We've heard earlier in this proceeding about a statement that was released by Governor Whitmer on February 10th, but there was a second statement that Governor Whitmer released on February 11th. And if we could just pull that one up. It's PB.CAN.00001840. And as part of that statement, Governor Whitmer said: "We cannot let another minute to go by unnecessarily..." Calling on the Canadian Government to act. Was it unusual for Governor Whitmer to be issuing two statements on the same topic one day after the next?


  101. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And if we fast-forward, then, to after the events of January and February, have you heard anything from business leaders since that time about the impacts of the blockades?


  102. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you. Shifting gears, if we talk about the economic measures or... My friend from the Government of Alberta put it to you that the -- there was no need to adopt the economic measures, that police had adequate tools to clear the blockades without them. I take it that you did not direct the Commissioner of the RCMP to use any of the tools made available in the Emergency Economic Measures Order?


  103. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And -- so to the extent that police made use of those tools that was because they believed in their judgement that it would be a useful thing to do in carrying out their duties?


  104. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And have you heard anything from police officers about whether they in fact found those tools to be effective in dealing with the situation?


  105. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    I'd like to ask you a couple more questions about the readout of the February 13 banks call that we -- that Commission Counsel went through with you earlier this morning. First, Commission Counsel took you to the email setting up that call from Tyler Meredith, in which he alluded to previous communications with the Canadian Bankers Association, in which he relayed that the message from the industry, mainly speaking for their legal counsels, is that "we have this under control and we're generally feeling comfortable with the existing -- with the current regime." Do you remember that exchange?


  106. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    So my question is just in light of your call on February 13th with the bank CEOs, you believed that statement, as expressed in the email, that the banks believe they have the situation under control and were comfortable with the current regime, you believed that was an accurate statement based on the reaction of the bank CEOs on that call?


  107. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so the banks were effectively asking for more government regulation?


  108. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Just on the Fox News point that you just mentioned, in the Commission’s overview report on fundraising, they traced the flow of funds through the crowdfunding platforms and showed that there was a million dollars raised through the GoFundMe campaign that was paid into a TD bank account and that TD froze that account on Thursday, February 10th, so before the phone call, and we -- there’s -- so the Fox News coverage, when it says on the readout of there having been Fox News coverage that Friday of an incident, you’re aware that was in reference to TD freezing that -- the million dollars from the GoFundMe campaign?


  109. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And Bharat Masrani, that would be the CEO of TD Bank?


  110. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so the concern was putting on any individual bank the potential for backlash of public opinion of taking that step?


  111. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    And so just briefly, to conclude, earlier, you mentioned that you had relied on certain legal advice related to matters connected with this inquiry. I just want to confirm you, as Deputy Prime Minister, you don’t have the authority to waive solicitor-client privilege on behalf of the Government of Canada and you weren’t intending to do so?


  112. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Thank you. Those are my questions. Thank you, Commissioner.


  113. Stephen Aylward, Counsel (GC)

    Anything to add on that point, Ms. Telford or Mr. Brodhead?