Judge rules Doug Ford immune from testifying at Emergencies Act inquiry

Ontario Premier Doug Ford can invoke parliamentary privilege to avoid testifying at the public inquiry into the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act, a Federal Court judge ruled Monday. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford can invoke parliamentary privilege to avoid testifying at the public inquiry into the federal government's use of the Emergencies Act, a Federal Court judge ruled Monday. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Federal Court judge ruled Monday that Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier Sylvia Jones will not have to testify at the Emergencies Act inquiry in Ottawa because of immunity provided to them by parliamentary privilege.

The commission issued summonses for Ford and Jones on Oct. 24, and they were scheduled to testify before the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) on Thursday.

Ford and Jones challenged the inquiry's summons by arguing that parliamentary privilege protects them from testifying, since the Ontario legislature is in session.

In his decision, Justice Simon Fothergill agreed.

"The privilege provides the premier and minister with a lawful excuse not to comply with the summonses issued by the commissioner on Oc. 24, 2022," Fothergill wrote in a decision Monday.

But Fothergill disagreed with Ford and Jones's argument that the inquiry's summons were not issued legitimately.

"I am satisfied that the commissioner had jurisdiction to issue the summonses. The matters in respect of which the premier and minister have been called to testify are within the scope of the commissioner's mandate, and it appears that both witnesses may have valuable evidence to offer," Forthergill wrote.

The POEC inquiry is holding hearings in Ottawa to investigate the federal government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to end an anti-vaccine mandate protest that gridlocked downtown Ottawa for weeks last winter.

Earlier Monday at a news conference, Ford said he felt it isn't necessary for him to testify before the inquiry.

"This is a federal ... inquiry, based on the federal government calling for the Emergencies Act. This is a federal issue," Ford said.

Bijon Roy, a lawyer at the Ottawa-based firm Champ Law, who argued against Ford and Jones in the case, called on Ford and Jones to testify in spite of the decision.

"The Premier has never properly explained to Ottawa why he could not act sooner, or what steps he was considering to help," Roy said in an email statement.

"The Court's decision places it squarely in the hands of Premier Ford and Minister Jones as to whether or not they will show the Commission — and the people of Ottawa — the courtesy and respect of coming to our city and explaining their role in the troubling events of February 2022."