The Emergencies Act – Backgrounder

Illegal Protests 2022

The Emergencies Act (the “Act”) was enacted by Parliament in 1988 and replaced the War Measures Act. The Act’s purpose is to authorize the Governor in Council to take special temporary measures to deal with a national emergency. It is to be used when an urgent and critical situation cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.

Requirements for Invoking the Act

Before measures can be taken under the Act, it must have been determined that the situation of the unlawful protests met the definition of national emergency. The Act defines a national emergency as an urgent, temporary and critical situation that seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and exceeds the capacity of a province or territory to deal with it, or that seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada. The situation must also not be capable of being effectively addressed under any other law of Canada. Once a public order emergency has been declared, the Act allows the Governor in Council to make orders and regulations in a range of listed areas, as necessary for dealing with the emergency.

Timelines and Process

Consultations with provinces and territories were conducted prior to the declaration on February 14, 2022, and continued throughout the duration of the emergency. A report on the consultations was laid in Parliament on February 16, 2022.

The declaration came into effect on the day it was made. In addition, the order and regulations were made and took effect on February 15.

The motion for confirmation of the declaration was tabled before the House of Commons on February 16 and passed on February 21. Prior to the Senate debating the motion, the declaration was revoked on February 23, and all measures and orders made pursuant to it also ceased to be in effect that day.

As required by the Act, a Parliamentary review committee, consisting of a special joint committee of both the House of Commons and the Senate, has been established to review the government’s measures under the Act and report back to both Houses. The declaration of emergency was revoked on February 23, 2022 which means that the inquiry needs to be established no later than April 25, 2022. A report must be tabled before the House of Commons and the Senate within three hundred and sixty days of the revocation of the declaration of emergency. The government is expected to announce more details on the upcoming inquiry in the coming weeks.