How MPs can keep the spotlight on COVID protests

It’s hard to imagine a more fitting way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to end what had become an increasingly visible COVID-enforced absence from the precinct than with a surprise in-person appearance in the House of Commons. Commons in the first round of last night’s emergency debate on the ongoing protests against the anti-vaccine mandate currently underway in Ottawa and across Canada.

While the evening debate – which, to give credit where it belongs, was requested by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh – gave MPs on all sides the opportunity to publicly share their thoughts on the situation, it wasn’t the first time the House of Commons has shone the spotlight on the impasse currently unfolding in the streets surrounding Parliament Hill, of course.

Even as Trudeau isolated himself at an undisclosed location somewhere in the National Capital Region, his crusading opponents were able to cross-examine him via video, and MPs unanimously passed no less than six motions related to the demonstration.

Outside the chamber, NDP Public Safety Critic Alistair MacGregor successfully garnered all-party support for the House Public Safety Committee to call representatives from GoFundMe – the crowdfunding platform that convoy supporters used to raise more than $10 million in less than a week, but ultimately ended the campaign for legal reasons – and the Center for Transaction Analysis and Reporting “will appear as soon as possible” to be questioned about the company’s policies on promoting hate, anonymity and foreign funding, as well as how it prevents money from being “(piped) towards extremist groups, as well as “those who have expressed their intention to set up their own undemocratic government”.

So what else can MPs do to dig deeper into some of the issues raised by the protests?

In addition to emergency debates and unanimous motions, an opposition party could dedicate one of its designated reserve days to the topic, although depending on the timing, protesters may be long gone before they get the chance. to do. (It should be noted, however, that there is currently an opposition day on the schedule for Thursday.)

MPs could also follow the lead of New Democrat Peter Julian, who introduced a private member’s bill last week that would “ban hate symbols”, although he won’t get a chance to present him to the House until his number comes. on MPs’ list of priorities, which will probably not happen until much later this year at the earliest.

All things considered, there is much more leeway to put protests on the agenda in the committee circuit, although as is always the case in the current minority setup, this would require the support of all three parties. opposition, or the government and an opposition party. , to succeed.

For starters, at the risk of putting too much on the public safety committee’s to-do list, it would also appear to be the appropriate parliamentary venue to examine the police response to the protests – not just at the federal level via the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but within the Ottawa Police Service and possibly the Ontario Provincial Police as well. (This would of course require careful wording to ensure that the committee does not stray from its mandate.)

Public Safety members could also turn their soon-to-be-launched GoFundMe investigation to their colleagues on the House Finance Committee, though that would likely have to wait until after pre-budget consultations. Yet it could dive even deeper into the challenges of tracking millions of dollars of anonymous origin via conventional and digital currency.

On a similar theme, the Foreign Affairs Committee could launch a study into the broader issue of non-state-sponsored foreign interference in domestic affairs, although it should be careful not to fall into the same trap. that the investigation into the “Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns”, which not only ran late and over budget, but ultimately concluded that the assumption upon which they were created was simply not not exact.

Meanwhile, the House Justice Committee could revisit the need to protect the right to protest while ensuring public safety, particularly when a protest turns into a de facto occupation of an urban center, while the procedure and House affairs committee could hone in on the role of the Parliamentary Protective Service in patrolling the precinct itself, as well as the ongoing debate over the safety and security of MPs.

Finally, it is arguably high time for the House Health Committee to launch a full-scale investigation into the spread of misinformation — and dis — about the COVID-19 virus, vaccines and other public health protocols. aimed at stopping it, and to offer recommendations on how to counter these messages.

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