Ken Drysdale, P. Eng.
(First NCI Commissioner)
Thank you, Sean, and good morning, everyone. My name is Ken Drysdale. I'm the chairman of the Commissioners, and we want to start off this morning by providing an overview of the inquiry - what was done, how it was done, what the intent was, why the National Citizens Inquiry was required in the first place. Then there will be time for each one of the Commissioners to provide their statement concerning the report.
Having said that, we, the Commissioners of the National Citizens Inquiry, wish to express our heartfelt gratitude for the tremendous honor and privilege of serving on this distinguished commission. As the inquiry draws to a close, we reflect upon the incredible journey we have taken together and the significant impact our collective efforts have had on the pursuit of truth, justice, and accountability.
The Commissioners have had a firsthand opportunity to travel Canada from coast to coast and meet some of the most extraordinary and courageous citizens of Canada. These witnesses, although aware of the potential consequences of their testimony, bravely stepped forward and set an example for the rest of Canadians.
Throughout this arduous but profoundly important process, we have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most dedicated professionals, experts, and stakeholders. Their unwavering commitment to the ideals of transparency, fairness, and the pursuit of truth has been an inspiration to us all.
We are grateful for their valuable contributions for enriching our understanding of the complex issues at hand. We extend our deepest appreciation to the individuals and organizations who courageously came forward to share their experiences, expertise, and perspectives. Their willingness to engage with the inquiry has been vital in uncovering the facts, shedding light on critical matters, and shaping the recommendations that will guide positive change in the future.
We also express our gratitude to the wider public for their unwavering support and unwavering confidence in our work. Their expectations, concerns, and aspirations have served as a constant reminder of the significance of our task and the responsibility entrusted to us.
We have endeavored to honor this trust by conducting a thorough, impartial, and diligent inquiry.
Why was the National Citizens Inquiry required? Canada's federal, provincial, and municipal government responses to COVID-19 were unprecedented. The policy, legal, and health authority interventions into the lives of Canadians, our families, businesses, and communities were significant and, to a great extent, remain so.
In particular, these interventions have impacted the physical and mental health, civil liberties, fundamental freedoms, jobs, livelihoods, and overall social and economic well-being of nearly all Canadians. Given the enormity of these mandates and the resulting consequences, these circumstances demand a comprehensive, transparent, and objective national inquiry into the appropriateness and efficacy of these interventions and to determine what lessons can be learned for the future.
No government has shown an appetite for a fulsome review of the measures implemented. It is also questionable whether municipal, federal, and provincial governments would or could conduct a fair and unbiased review simply because it is their own act and responses to COVID-19 that would be under investigation.
So, a public inquiry can be an important mechanism for investigating and addressing significant issues of public concern, but only if that inquiry can be shown to be fair and without bias. Canadians no longer believe that they can rely on their elected representatives or public institutions to provide an in-depth, fair, and impartial evaluation of how governments handled and reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, media institutions, whose traditional role was to question the actions of government and inform the people in a fair and unbiased manner, failed to question government actions and served instead to simply repeat government and public health messaging without question. At the same time, those media institutions receive significant funding from the federal government, perhaps contributing to their reluctance to hold it or any other government to account.
The only solution in these unprecedented times was to form an independent, citizen-funded, and non-biased commission, such as the National Citizens Inquiry, to undertake this historical task. The National Citizens Inquiry is paid for and operated by the citizens of Canada. The National Citizens Inquiry is not aligned with any political party. The National Citizens Inquiry was deliberately structured so that the Commissioners were free of influence from any person or source. The National Citizens Inquiry has received no funding from the government. The National Citizens Inquiry has received no large corporate funding. We have received no funding from the pharmaceutical industry.
The National Citizens Inquiry is paid for and operated by citizens of Canada. The National Citizens Inquiry is not aligned with any political party nor does it have a political agenda, except to represent the best interests of Canadians. The Commissioners played a crucial role in ensuring fairness and minimizing bias. We Commissioners were specifically selected from different geographic areas across Canada. The background, training, and expertise of the Commissioners are varied and represent different perspectives.
The overall objective of the National Citizens Inquiry into COVID-19 response is to provide a comprehensive, impartial, and evidence-based assessment of the actions, decision-making processes, and results that resulted in the Canadian response to COVID-19. The objective was achieved through the following activities:
Examining the effectiveness of the response.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses.
Assessing decision-making processes.
Examining the impact on public health.
Evaluating communication and transparency.
Holding accountable and restoring trust.
To achieve these objectives, the National Citizens Inquiry created a framework to support the appointment of four independent Commissioners who undertook a dialogue with Canadians from coast to coast. The dialogue took the form of a series of hearings that took place in eight different cities and included 24 days of witness testimony and over 300 sworn testimonies from a broad spectrum of Canadians.
Public hearings were held in the following cities: Truro, Nova Scotia; Toronto, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Red Deer, Alberta; Vancouver, British Columbia; Quebec City, Quebec; and Ottawa, Ontario. All eight hearings were recorded in their entirety. Recordings of each day and individual recordings of each witness will be permanently archived and available for viewing on the NCI website at www.nationalcitizensinquiry.com.
An exhibit ledger was also developed for materials entered as testimony by the witnesses at the hearings. Witness materials included PowerPoints, reports, curriculum vitae, photos, and media reports.
The National Citizens Inquiry established an online application process that openly invited Canadians to offer to testify at one of the hearings. Over 900 members of the public applied to testify. 147 expert Witnesses applied or were nominated to provide testimony. Witnesses were advised that they would only be able to testify under oath, they may be subject to vigorous questioning and cross-examination, and their testimony would be subject to strict time limits.
Witness testimony was heard from both public lay Witnesses and public expert Witnesses. Examples of public lay Witnesses included those who had disruptions in their lives or education of their children, impaired mental health due to isolation, business loss due to restrictions, job loss due to vaccination mandates, delayed or denied health care, adverse reactions to the COVID-19 genetic vaccines, reputation damage or professional discipline, or censorship restricting liberties such as speech, association, or travel.
Examples of public expert Witnesses include doctors and scientists, lawyers and public servants, economic professors, teachers, risk management professionals, representatives of faith, public policy experts, emergency management professionals, morticians, aviation safety experts, occupational health and safety experts, pharmacists, public health experts, policing experts, journalists, and psychologists.
It must be clearly understood that although it has always been the intent of the Commissioners to include testimony from all sides of the debate, no public authorities responsible for planning, design, or implementation of the pandemic measures elected to take part in the hearings. Testimony was invited from representatives of various levels of governments across Canada, and in order to facilitate schedules, subpoenas were issued, and government Witnesses were given the option of testifying either in person or on video conference at any of the eight hearing locations or at any other agreeable time.
63 members of government regulators and authorities were subpoenaed to attend and testify. Not a single member of the government appeared at the public hearings to testify. The majority of these representatives did not even take the time to respond to the commission.
The report has been prepared and written in plain conversational language so that all Canadians can clearly understand the meaning of the report as it is written. The report is direct and provides meaningful and practical recommendations based on testimony received from the witnesses. Given the enormity and depth of the pandemic measures imposed on Canadians, the Commissioners recognize that even a report of this magnitude cannot address every aspect of every Canadian's experience during the pandemic.
This report is the Commissioner's best attempt to start the country on a path of further investigation, implementation of safeguards, and healing that might take more than a generation to achieve. Several steps were involved in the process of preparing the final report. They included a review of the evidence, analysis and findings, assessing legal and ethical standards, drafting the report. We had a great deal of peer review, and we've included supporting documentation.
The Commissioners all reviewed the report, and that brings us to where we are now at the public release.
We point out to the listeners that the breadth and scope of the inquiry were massive and touched on many aspects of the Canadian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to time constraints presented by this type of public hearing, it is impossible to provide a detailed presentation of every aspect of the report that is over 600 pages in length, but including transcripts of witness testimonies is somewhere in the range of 6,000 pages in length.
For this hearing, the Commissioners have decided to present a short overview of their conclusions and recommendations in the report that they felt were the most urgent. This is not to undermine the importance of all the conclusions and recommendations; they are all important, and each may profoundly affect some segment of the Canadian population.
That completes my summary of the commission and itself, and now I'm going to go on to my own personal commentary as a Commissioner.
The impact of the recent hearings, along with the extent of witness testimonies, has been profound. For those who participated or even observed a portion of the over 300 recorded testimonies, the experience has left an indelible mark on their lives.
Many of these testimonies were not only heartbreaking but also deeply shocking and, at times, horrifying. Over the course of 24 days, these witness accounts collectively shed light on the transformation Canada has undergone in response to the pandemic. The widespread acceptance of stringent government lockdowns, which would have previously been deemed inconceivable, represents a remarkable shift within a mere three years.
The testimonies provided irrefutable evidence that an unprecedented assault had been waged against the citizens of Canada. Not since World War II has a nation experienced such a devastating attack on its people. Our investigation into the pandemic measures unveiled a troubling mix of ignorance, arrogance, fear, and a shocking disregard for fundamental principles of human rights, medical ethics, and our long-standing democratic and legal foundations.
This atmosphere persists to this day, as demonstrated by the refusal of the government to undertake any kind of real investigation of what happened and the refusal of government representatives to participate in the National Citizens Inquiry's investigation.
Numerous public and private institutions faltered, allowing government intervention to infiltrate the very core of our nation. Institutions that have historically safeguarded the rights of Canadians were compromised, often becoming indistinguishable from the government itself. The impact of these pandemic measures implemented by various governmental and non-governmental agencies has inflicted deep wounds upon Canadians and Canadian society. These agencies wielded unprecedented powers over individual rights during the pandemic, resulting in profound damage to the fabric of our society and our nation.
As we gather here today, some government agencies continue to propagate misinformation, pushing for more vaccine boosters and renewed masking mandates despite clear evidence of their ineffectiveness and potential harm.
The government and other entities involved in these pandemic measures may wish for Canadians to move on and forget, but we must not allow these draconian measures to become the new normal in the future.
Our nation is in dire need of healing. Before embarking on the essential journey of personal and collective healing, we must confront the root causes of this damage and take preventative and punitive measures against those who have imposed these tyrannical measures upon our nation. Failing to do so risks condemning future generations to unimaginable tyranny.
We acknowledge that public apathy towards the erosion of fundamental institutions and beliefs had been a factor that enabled the ...