What we need to learn from Emergencies Act inquiry
Today, we are considering a particular piece of legislation before the Canadian Parliament.
When we last looked at the Emergencies Act in 2015, we looked at the way in which it might be used to address an emerging humanitarian crisis on the ground in Syria.
Today, we are considering a particular piece of legislation before the Canadian Parliament. It is the proposed amendment to the Emergencies Act to give the Canadian Forces the authority to use military force in an emergency situation to protect Canadian citizens.
The question before the House today is whether or not, in an emergency situation, the Canadian Forces would be authorized to take action to protect our citizens from imminent danger.
As I am sure that some members of this House are aware, Canada has been on a course of great difficulty over the past few weeks. The so-called “crisis in Syria” has been an ongoing reality for many Canadians during the past few weeks. In the wake of this reality, a series of events have raised questions regarding the protection under the Canadian constitution of our citizens when they are on Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) military bases.
In this context, it is important to understand that the Emergencies Act provides a number of important tools to ensure that security forces are acting in the interest of the national government, in the best interests of Canadians, and in accordance with the laws that govern our society.
The Emergencies Act provides an important mechanism to ensure that security forces are acting in the best interests of Canadians, both in law enforcement operations and in situations of civil unrest. But it also provides a mechanism that allows the government to use military forces in an extraordinary situation as a last resort when no other avenue of protecting Canadians has been exhausted.
The first point to consider is why an emergency is a particular type of emergency. As we know from our recent experience with the Emergencies Act, these are extraordinary, but not novel, types of emergencies that require the use of military forces by the government in order to ensure the safety of Canadians. In addition, these emergencies are rare in Canada – as recently as 2008, for example, we are not aware of any emergency requiring the use of military force to protect our citizens.
At the core of this emergency is the rise of the Assad regime to power in Syria, as reported by Reuters and others. The Syrian state has no legal basis on which to exercise control over the people of Syria