1. Shawn Buckley
(NCI Lead Counsel)
Welcome to the reconvening of the National Citizens Inquiry, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Buckley, initial 'S'. I'm attending this morning as an agent for the Inquiry Administrator, the Honorable Chess Crosby. Mr. Crosby is also in attendance this morning. Commissioners, as the lead counsel for the National Citizens Inquiry, I would like to make some opening remarks before you release your report today. Excuse me, today is November 28th, 2023.
This is a historic day; we are making history. Never before have citizens banded together in such a formal, comprehensive, and fair way to inquire into the actions of their governments.
Commissioners, you know that you are completely independent of the NCI Administration. The inquiry rules permitted any interested party to intervene and participate in the process. We issued summons after summons to government officials, inviting them to attend and participate, but not a single government official chose to attend. This is now part of our historical record, and their absence speaks loudly.
The National Citizens Inquiry is also unique in its scope. We traveled across the country, giving a voice to Canadians across the nation. We heard the sworn testimony of 305 witnesses, all questioned by lawyers and commissioners. We have created the largest and most robust record of the COVID experience in the world, and we did this in a climate of fear.
Our proceedings began on March 16th, 2023, in Truro, Nova Scotia. That is eight and a half months ago, and this leg has led us to forget how much fear the nation was in when we began our proceedings. It's been long enough without being muzzled with masks, long enough without being locked in our homes, that we're starting to feel a little bit normal. But we would do ourselves a disservice as this report is released if we do not recall what came before and the context and the climate of fear in which the National Citizens Inquiry hearings took place.
Beginning in the spring of 2020, we were plunged into a culture of fear that threw the entire nation into a panic. Many believed that there was a dangerous virus that posed a mortal threat to them and their loved ones. Others saw the country become a police state. There was public discourse about putting unvaccinated Canadians into camps; there was public discourse about criminalizing the refusal to take a medical treatment. We were put under house arrest; we were muzzled like animals with masks. We were viciously divided into camps—the vaxxed and the unvaxxed. We were censored, we had our bank accounts frozen.
I recently gave two lectures in which I asked the audience to put up their hands if, at the height of the COVID madness, they honestly believed that the army would be going door to door, dragging unvaccinated people out of their homes and forcibly jabbing them. I was asking roughly 850 people, and these audiences would be mixed, both vaxxed and unvaxxed. Commissioners, almost every hand went up.
The country was under such a cloud of evil and darkness that a large number of Canadians believed that the army would be used to forcefully vaccinate us. We watched in horror as masked police officers, and it is not okay for police officers to be masked against the citizens they are to protect and serve. So for those officers who chose to follow orders and wear a mask, I say shame on you. But we watched masked police officers dressed in black to be intimidating, forcibly dismantle the peaceful trucker protest. I watched a live stream on February 18th, 2022, as a police horse trampled Roberta Pulson. We all watched as our fellow Canadians locked arms to resist and chanted to each other, "Hold the line," as one by one, the police picked them off and arrested them. And as we saw during some video at the National Citizens Inquiry, at times, put the boots to those on the ground.
We watched, and we saw, and we remember. But for all those watching this, I want you to remember that beautiful event because something beautiful happened there. There was an example set for all of us to follow because we watched our fellow Canadians hold the line as long as they could, and they've set for us a beautiful example to follow. And we owe them and the truckers a debt of gratitude because they bought us a period of peace. It was no accident that the following month, in March of 2022, the provincial restrictions started to fall, and most of the federal restrictions, but for the travel advisory or travel restriction, fell. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and it was that period of peace that they brought us that allowed the NCI to happen.
It was during this lull that we appeared on the screen. Now, when we started, there was an absolute climate of fear in the nation. We had witness after witness after witness drop out because they were afraid to testify. Some were afraid of economic consequences; some were afraid of social consequences, some were afraid of other consequences. I was afraid to go in front of the camera. We were in such a climate of fear, and Commissioners, you will remember when you went through the commissioner selection process and when we were preparing you to be independent and run the hearings, that there were discussions about the fact that there may be repercussions for being a commissioner, and there may yet be repercussions for being a commissioner. It's like we've been in the eye of the hurricane; we were in this storm of this COVID madness, and then the trucker appeared, and we've got this respite. It's like the hurricane moved over us, and we were now in the eye, but we're starting to feel the winds again. We're starting to feel other winds blowing; we know that the hurricane, the storm is coming, and that we'll be in uncertain times. But this time, this time it will be different for most of us because some things are certain, Commissioners. It is certain that we will hold the line as long as we can. It is certain that a large number of Canadians will stand with us and hold the line.
Something totally unexpected happened as we toured the land giving a voice to each other. We learned that we are not alone; we had felt isolated; we felt afraid. We learned that we are not alone; we learned that we can overcome our fear. We are going to feel fear going forward, but we have been there; we have done that, and we understand that we can master and overcome our fear. And we learn that we can no longer sit still; we can no longer sit on our couches and allow Canada to lose its freedoms. We've already lost our freedoms; we now have to work. We need to participate; we need to hold the line to get our freedoms back. And we have come to understand that so things are now very different, and most importantly, we came to understand that our God is with us. We saw God use the National Citizens Inquiry to bring healing and to bring strength, and we heard His voice calling us to return to Him so that He can heal our land.
So this time will be very different, and this entire exercise, this entire inquiry should never have happened; it was totally impossible, and time and time and time again, we were on the brink of disaster and collapse, and God stepped in by bringing people forward to make this happen. And we all understand, everyone who even just watched the hearings understand that we have been allowed to participate in something much greater than ourselves. And to all of you who participated and to you Commissioners, I can honestly say that standing with you through this experience has been one of the most precious and honorable moments of my life, and I am deeply grateful for being able to participate.
Now, Commissioners, you are going to release your historic report. You have made findings; you've made positive recommendations. The nation is going to be shocked by reading an independent report without a political agenda, a report designed to help us get our freedoms back and become the nation that we want to be. And we don't know what will happen next; we had the truckers write the first chapter of this story, and they bought us a period of peace, a period of respite. We had the National Citizens Inquiry write the second chapter where we came together and understood that we're not alone and that we need to stand together. The next chapter is up for those watching to write. It's for those Canadians who understand now that they must hold the line with us; it's up to them to write this next chapter. And that's the exciting part because together, we will see how we move forward and make Canada a loving, peaceful, and free nation once again. So Commissioners, on behalf of all Canadians, it is my honor to invite you to release your report.