Justice Paul Rouleau’s final report for the Public Order Emergency Commission was released on February 17. Rouleau decided that the federal government’s employment of the Emergencies Act to address the February 2022 Convoy Crisis was reasonable in a cool and collected manner.

The Commission’s constitutionally authorized task was to gather information and present it to the public in order to assess whether the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act was justifiable. Such commissions support the rule of law within the larger framework of the act by facilitating public accountability.

It ensures accountability for the exercise of emergency powers by the government. Every constitutional system has emergency laws that provide the state temporary concentrated power and the capacity to restrict rights in a crisis, although the majority of emergency laws are not very effective.

The act lays out a maze of convoluted and extraordinarily demanding requirements up front for declaring emergencies and providing emergency measures. Parliamentary oversight is a requirement for making these decisions.

The demand for an investigation is at the very end of the procedure: every use of executive power must be justified in front of the public. Elections in a democracy ensure that the people have the last say, even in cases of emergency.

Rouleau chronicles the development of the convoy in his five-volume study. Although it has deeper origins, this movement became energized by opposition to government pandemic measures, which led to border blockades and the effectively taking over of the national capital.

Reluctantly, Rouleau gave his qualified approval to the government’s decision to use the Emergencies Act to end the crisis. More cautiously, he approved only certain elements of the special temporary measures — restrictions on movement and property rights — the government undertook under the act’s authority to safely end the crisis.

But beneath Rouleau’s unruffled tone roils a current of chastisement, complicating headlines vindicating the federal government. The rule of law in an emergency is everybody’s job and Rouleau found that, in February 2022, nearly everyone fell short.