Government communication on COVID-19 contributed to 'Freedom Convoy' origin: report

OTTAWA — Justice Paul Rouleau says the Canada Border Services Agency made a bad situation worse when it mishandled the announcement of a vaccine mandate for truckers early last year, amid rampant anger and false information around the pandemic.

Rouleau pointed out the agency's mistake in his more than 2,000-page report released last Friday, which concluded that the federal Liberal government was justified in invoking the Emergencies Act last winter to respond to "Freedom Convoy" protests in downtown Ottawa.

Rouleau's task included exploring what contributed to the fervour that saw thousands of demonstrators take over the streets around Parliament Hill and block several border crossings with the United States.

He based his findings on hundreds of hours of testimony and thousands of documents submitted as evidence during the Public Order Emergency Commission's hearings last fall.

Rouleau's final report says that although the inquiry was not focused on the government response to COVID-19, Canadians felt confused by some of the messaging from officials.

It singles out an error by the border services agency last January, when it released a statement saying unvaccinated Canadian truckers would not need to quarantine after crossing the border, only to issue a correction reversing that position the next day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2023.

The Canadian Press