In praise of civility

Honourable Paul Rouleau

I admit to a recent binge-watching addiction – I was glued to the Public Order Emergency Commission headed by The Honourable Paul Rouleau. During days and days of testimony, I cherry-picked the most interesting. In the end, I watched several of the police witnesses – Ottawa Police, OPP and RCMP – as well as a couple of Ottawa residents, including the young woman Zexi Li who brought forward the injunction that stopped the blaring horns, and some of the convoy leaders. Finally, some impressive senior federal bureaucrats and ministers including Janice Charette, Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau.

Pundits and analysts have been hard at work interpreting the work of this public commission, trying to make sense of it all. I leave them to it. I just have my small, sidebar take-away.

I think the marked civility of the commissioner had a great deal to do with the success of the process. Rouleau took pains to allow the witnesses as much time and consideration as they needed to fully express their thoughts. While he kept the lawyers to a strict timetable, frequently reminding them when their allotted time was up, he bent over backwards to be generous to the witnesses – all witnesses, no matter what side of the issue they were on.

At the same time, he was no pushover – he had one or two disruptors removed from the room. He didn’t tolerate outbursts or inappropriate speech.

The generosity and civility of the commissioner created a much kinder atmosphere than one might have expected for such a fraught enterprise, and I think that generated similar consideration from the others in the room. It was an important setter of tone.

It was a balm on the soul to watch it in action. It felt old-school Canadian.

—Liz McKeen

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