February 17th, 2022
Jagmeet Singh Speech on Emergencies Act
Canada's NDP Leader, Jagmeet Singh, made the following statement in the House of Commons:
“Thank-you, Mr. Speaker. This is a critical moment in our history. In a few weeks, we will enter the third year of this pandemic.
Canadians are tired. Tired of a pandemic that has created such loss and sacrifice for so many.
Canadians are frustrated. Frustrated that so many have found themselves worse off, while those at the very top have only increased their wealth and power.
And many are afraid. Afraid of the next wave – the next variant. But also afraid of the other crises we face. Of fires and floods caused by climate change destroying their homes. Of losing those they love to a toxic drug supply. Of not being able to get the care they need when they need it
But neither fear, frustration nor fatigue has won out over Canadians’ fundamental desire to take care of each other.
We are here today because of a failure of leadership.
People were abandoned while governments argued over jurisdiction. People were abandoned because governments did not take the threat of this convoy seriously. And they were abandoned by the police – some of whom have stood with the occupation.
It should never have come to this.
Many people are rightfully concerned that using the Emergencies Act now, will mean a crackdown on protests in the future. This is not a protest. It is not peaceful. The organisers of this illegal occupation have been clear from the beginning. They came here to overthrow a democratically elected government.
It is funded by foreign influence. It is fed on disinformation. Its goal is to disrupt our democracy.
We share the concerns of many Canadians that the government may misuse the powers in the Emergencies Act. So I want to be very clear: we will be watching. And we will withdraw our support if these powers are misused.
I have been at many protests and strikes. I have witnessed the full and brutal power of the police used against peaceful protesters. Indigenous land defenders, climate change activists, workers fighting for fairness. And any Canadian using their voice to peacefully demand justice – should never be subject to the Emergencies Act – New Democrats will never support that.
What has become very clear in this crisis is that there needs to be a serious examination of policing in Canada. Occupiers get hugs from police, while Indigenous and racialized people are met with the barrel of a gun. There are several accounts of current and former law enforcement and military members involved in these occupations.
One of the requirements of the Emergencies’ Act is that there be a public inquiry into its use. This must include a full public inquiry into the role of law enforcement in these occupations – both by their support for the occupiers and their refusal to enforce the law.
The use of the Emergencies Act is a clear admission of failure for the government, we should have never gotten here. But the crisis situation in Ottawa requires additional action to prevent something serious from happening. We take the use of the Emergencies Act very seriously. No one wants to see a situation like the one in 1970 happen again.
Many people are still scarred by the use of the 1970 war measures, the random arrests, the use of the army in the streets of Montreal. Many people are worried that such a situation will happen again and I understand them. That is why the use of emergency measures must be taken with great seriousness and caution. We are reassured that the use of the military is not being considered and the rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will still be upheld, which means that arbitrary arrests and seizures will not be justified by law.
But the NDP believes that there is no justification at this time for using emergency measures in Quebec. We are asking for guarantees from the Prime Minister that emergency measures will only be used where they are really needed. At any time, the NDP is ready to use the mechanisms at its disposal to revoke the government's powers, there is no question of giving a blank cheque and we will keep an eye on the government to avoid any abuse.
In the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about the divisions in our country. That division has been fed and amplified by members in this House. That has to end.
Using a pandemic as a political wedge to score points off your opponents – to try to win a Leadership race – or an Election – is wrong. And dangerous. This virus doesn’t care who you voted for. Wearing a mask isn’t a partisan activity. Vaccines save lives. And the vast majority of Canadians – and Members of Parliament – know this and have supported vaccination efforts.
We cannot let Canadians’ trust in science and public health be eroded by political opportunism.
The pandemic is changing. And our response has to change. Restrictions are being lifted. We need a plan to get to the end of the pandemic. A plan based on science and our responsibility to care for each other. Canadians who have done everything asked of them want to know what to do now. Canadians have followed the rules – but they need to believe that restrictions are fair and make sense. We know things can change quickly, new variants may appear, the evidence may change.
But without a clear plan – confusion, disinformation and resentment grow.
We believe that a plan to get to the end of the pandemic has to include the urgent repair of our healthcare system – so people can get the care they need. It has to include finishing the job on vaccination – especially of children. We have to make sure that there is global access to vaccines so that we avoid future variants and waves of infection. And we need to move forward on solving the problems that this pandemic has only made worse.
Working people have paid the price of this pandemic. While big companies took government money and gave out shareholder dividends and CEO bonuses – front line workers got sick. Because they worked without sick leave. Parents struggled to keep their kids at home while schools closed, and big box stores stayed open.
You are right to be angry that life has only gotten harder these last two years. That it is almost impossible to buy a house or rent a decent place to live. Because wealthy speculators are driving up the cost of housing.
You are right to be angry that the costs of groceries are going up to feed the profits of grocery store owners. You are right to be angry that you work hard and pay your taxes, but the wealthy and big businesses don’t pay their share. You are right to be angry that while your life has become harder, the wealthy and the powerful have only added to their wealth and power.
I’m angry too. And when I get angry, I fight. But I learned long ago – that my anger – my fight – is not with the powerless. Your anger – your fight – is not with other Canadians. It’s with those at the very top, the powerful who have built a system rigged against working people. We can change this – but only if we come together to fight for a Canada that doesn’t leave people behind while others profit.
The story of this pandemic is not one of division – it is one of solidarity. Of front-line health care workers showing up day after day – in impossible situations. It is the story of grocery store workers and farmers – and truckers – keeping us fed. Of teachers doing their best to connect with children through screens. Our story is one of neighbours helping each other get vaccinated.
We will not let the last few weeks define this pandemic for us.
Canadians have sacrificed too much – Lost too many loved ones – Missed too many moments – To allow our country to become divided by hate and violence.
Don’t let anyone turn your anger into hatred. Hatred is like a fire – when it is allowed to grow, it will consume everything.
As I hold my daughter, I think a lot about the world I want for her. I want her to walk through this world without fear. I want her to always feel like she belongs. I don’t want her to face the same struggles that I have.
I believe this is what we all want for our children.
This is my hope – That our decisions in the coming days are guided by this desire – to build a better, safer, more just world, where all of our children believe they belong.”