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Alberta to argue it was able to deal with Coutts blockade before Ottawa invoked Emergencies Act at inquiry starting today

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The public inquiry of the federal government's use of Canada's Emergencies Act during the convoy protests earlier this year began in Ottawa Thursday morning.

The commission's mandate is to examine the circumstances that led to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoking the legislation on Feb. 14 and investigate the measures the Canadian government took under the act. 

After six weeks, the commission will make a decision about the "appropriateness and effectiveness" of the federal government's use of the power. 

Alberta is one of two provinces that has full standing to participate in all aspects of the hearings. 

It will argue it had the legislative tools necessary to deal with the blockades. 

"Alberta will demonstrate that the Coutts border blockade was effectively dealt with prior to the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act," Alberta's minister of justice and solicitor general, Tyler Shandro, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“The decision to invoke the act violated the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Albertans and gave the federal government the ability to seize property without due process of law."

The Coutts, Alta., border crossing was one of three Canada-U.S. crossings blocked by protesters. 

More than a dozen people were arrested, including four who were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. 

When the act was invoked, then-premier Jason Kenney coloured it as counterproductive and an overreach by the federal government. 

"There’s been a lot of discontent publicly and around political parties around the use of such strong legislation for what in essence was a protest. It wasn’t a pretty protest – it affected a lot of communities – but it was very strong measures taken just days after federal government ministers said Ottawa police could handle it," public safety analyst Chris Lewis commented in an interview Thursday morning. 

He called Canada's invocation of the Emergencies Act "helpful" but wouldn't say it was necessary. 

"There was [sic] actually firearms seized in Coutts. I don’t believe there was [sic] any firearms seized in any other place. So Coutts was really one of the more dangerous locations and they handled it without any additional legislation."

The legislation allowed police to freeze protesters' bank accounts, impose fines, and arrest anyone who refused to leave the protest zones, including in downtown Ottawa. 

Sixty-five people are expected to testify to the commission: protest leaders and organizers like Albertans Patrick King and Tamara Lich, government officials, including Trudeau, local residents and law enforcement. 

As well, Coutts mayor Jim Willett and Alberta's assistant deputy minister for the public security division in the Ministry of Justice, Marlin Degrand, are on the list. 

The inquiry's final report is to be submitted to the government by Feb. 6, 2023. 

The hearings will begin each weekday at 9:30 a.m. ET in a room inside Library and Archives Canada. Members of the public are able to attend in person or watch live online

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nicole Lampa, CTV News Calgary, CTVNews.ca and The Canadian Press

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