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QUESTION PERIOD — Ministry of Justice

Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency

October 5, 2022

Minister, on April 26, you testified before the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency, at which time you were asked for several documents that were used to support the decision-making process, and you invoked cabinet confidence privilege multiple times.

On June 28, the Public Order Emergency Commission issued a press release that read as follows:

The Government of Canada has responded to a request from Commissioner Paul Rouleau and agreed not to claim Cabinet privilege over the documents that Cabinet considered in making the decision to declare a public order emergency . . . .

I will also quote the statement by the commission’s counsel that was reported in the press release:

This exceptional step recognizes the fundamental importance of the Commission’s work and how critical these documents are in inquiring into why the Government declared a public order emergency . . . .

How do you explain this double standard? Cabinet privilege was waived for the Rouleau commission, but not for the joint committee.

Is that not disrespectful to the institution of Parliament?

Hon. David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada [ - ]

Not at all, senator. Obviously, the inquiry and the parliamentary review committee are part of the Emergencies Act process. They are required under the act itself. Clearly, we want to provide both with enough information to ensure that they can make their decisions and be in a position to review the decision made by cabinet.

Thanks to Justice Rouleau’s commission, other measures will be put in place to protect sensitive documents. The government was therefore comfortable with the decision to partially waive cabinet confidence privilege.

In both cases, solicitor-client privilege was not asserted because it’s a situation where a government can’t be bound at a future time, and that’s a quasi-constitutional right declared fundamental by the Supreme Court.

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