John Ossowski, formerly with the Canadian Border Services Agency, appears as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission, Wednesday, Nov.16, 2022 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Ex-CBSA head says officers couldn’t stop ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters entering Canada

The former head of the Canada Border Services Agency says he was surprised to learn last winter that officers did not have the authority to stop would-be protesters from entering the country.

John Ossowski is testifying at the inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, which was invoked in February after blockades of vehicles stopped traffic at a number of border crossings and gridlocked downtown Ottawa.

He says border agents did stop a number of foreign nationals from coming into Canada during the time of the “Freedom Convoy” blockades, based on regular screening for eligibility and vaccination status.

But the law does not allow CBSA to prevent people from entering the country to take part in a lawful protest if they meet all the other requirements, he says.

Ossowski says he told the federal government about this gap, but he did not advise them on whether they should invoke the Emergencies Act.

Hearings in the public inquiry began in mid-October and are expected to conclude at the end of next week, with a final report due to Parliament in February.

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