The Public Order Emergency Commission has begun public hearings into the declaration of emergency powers last winter. Subsequent events and revelations have strengthened the argument raised by the Communist Party of Canada at the time: that the dangerous growth of fascist forces called for immediate action to protect and strengthen democratic and civil rights, using existing laws, to protect the public and disperse illegal occupations, but not to eliminate these rights altogether.
During February and March, the well-organized seizure of downtown Ottawa by a so-called “trucker’s convoy”, attempts to blockade border crossings, and the open support for such actions expressed by Conservative and People’s Party leaders, were ample proof that far-right and fascist forces are consciously seeking to impose their anti-democratic, anti-working class, white nationalist, racist, transphobic agenda.
We called the Emergencies Act “a sledgehammer that will suspend the civil and democratic rights of everyone in Canada, effectively imposing martial law across the country”, effectively suspending the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While the Emergencies Act was invoked on a temporary and limited basis, this set a dangerous new precedent for using the full powers of the capitalist state against large-scale strikes, actions in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, or environmental or anti-war protests. Considering the realities of history – the armed suppression of the Metis popular resistance struggles in 1870 and 1885, the use of Section 98 and the War Measures Act against Communists, socialists and other radicals, the use of the same legislation to arrest hundreds of people in Quebec during the “October Crisis” – our concern is far from abstract.
The police inaction in Ottawa last winter stood in stark contrast to harsh repression against Indigenous peoples who resist capitalist theft of their land and resources, or the mass arrests of thousands during the G20 protests in 2010 or the Quebec Student Strike in 2012. The expansion of surveillance and repression powers will ultimately be used against the labour and people’s movements, not the far-right.
Some people argued that the Emergencies Act and military deployments were necessary because local police forces and municipalities had failed to end the convoy occupations. The suspicion that far-right groups had support within police forces has since been proved correct. But the Canadian Armed Forces is not a bastion of democracy; in fact, the CAF harbours significant fascist elements, including some who seek military training and access to weapons for future assaults on labour and democratic rights. In several cities, the most effective responses against the “convoys” came at the grassroots community level, proving the need and capacity for broad, united people’s movements to defend human rights and democratic freedoms.
Over the next several weeks, the Public Order Emergency Commission will hear testimony from dozens of politicians, police and military officers, many “convoy” organizers, and a few businesses and organizations directly impacted by the occupation in Ottawa. The head of the Commission promises that “the hearings will provide a fair and thorough process for the presentation of the evidence required for the commission to be able to give the public the answers to which it is entitled.”
But very few if any voices will be heard from community defenders, trade unions, organizations of racialized and Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ movements, anti-racists, environmentalists and others on the front lines against the growing fascist threats. The people who were arrested, threatened and shoved aside by cops protecting the convoys have not been invited to address the Commission.
This Commission has no mandate or intention to urge the use of existing criminal laws against those who advocate hate and threaten violence against women, transgender people, Muslims, Jews, racialized people, immigrants, and all those who oppose hate.
The Communist Party stands with anti-fascist, anti-racist protestors, and renews our call on the labour, democratic and civil rights groups to build a powerful movement to defend democratic, labour, social and equality rights in Canada today.
Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada
October 16, 2022