In Ontario (Premier) v. Canada (Commissioner of the Public Order Emergency Commission), 2022 FC 1513, the Federal Court ruled that Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier Sylvia Jones did not need to testify at the Emergencies Act inquiry because of parliamentary privilege.
The Public Order Emergency Commission (the “Commission”) was established on April 25, 2022 pursuant to s. 63(1) of the Emergencies Act, RSC, 1985, c 22 (4th Supp) and Part I of the Inquiries Act, RSC, 1985 c I-11, to inquire into the circumstances that led to the declaration of a public order emergency between February 14 and 23, 2022 with respect to the convoy, blockades, and protests in Ottawa, and the measures taken to deal with the emergency.
On October 24, 2022, the Commission issued summonses to Premier Ford and Deputy Premier Jones (the “Applicants”) requiring them to testify before the Commission on November 10, 2022.
The Applicants brought an application for judicial review to the Federal Court challenging the summonses on the ground that the Ontario Legislative Assembly was in session and, as elected officials, they benefited from the parliamentary privilege of testimonial immunity. The Applicants alleged that the summonses were issued without jurisdiction and should be quashed. They also requested an urgent hearing of a motion for an order staying the summonses until the underlying application could be determined on its merits.
The Federal Court's Decision
The sole issue before the Court was whether the summonses should be stayed pending the Court’s determination of the application to quash the summonses for lack of jurisdiction. To answer this question, the Court applied the well-established test for interlocutory injunctive relief from the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in RJR-MacDonald Inc v. Canada (Attorney General), 1994 CanLII 117. First, a preliminary assessment must be made of the merits of the case to ensure there is a serious question to be tried. Second, it must be determined whether the Applicants will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is refused. Third, an assessment must be made as to which of the parties will suffer greater harm from the granting or refusal of the stay.