Conservative MPs free to attend 'freedom' protests this summer: Bergen

With the nation's capital bracing for anticipated anti-mandate "freedom" movement protests during Canada Day weekend, interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen says her MPs are free to attend.

"I support peaceful and legal demonstrations, and if my MPs want to be there, they're free to do whatever they want, and they'll answer to their constituents," Bergen said in an interview on CTV's Question Period airing on Sunday.

Events are set to take place in Ottawa around the national holiday, in protest of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Participants from this winter's "Freedom Convoy," occupation of Wellington Street and the parliamentary precinct are expected to return. One group, Veterans for Freedom, has indicated they plan to set up camp all summer on the outskirts of the city—to continue protesting the remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

Ottawa police have said they plan to call in support from the RCMP and will be setting up a motor vehicle control zone in the core for the national holiday, vowing they won't allow a repeat of the anti-vaccine mandate and largely anti-government protests that gridlocked downtown streets and tormented residents in January and February.

Last week, a few top convoy figures returned to Parliament Hill and met with more than 20 Conservative MPs, during which the organizers made anti-vaccine and anti-mandate presentations.

One of the presenters was James Topp, a soldier who has been marching across Canada against vaccine mandates and is set to return to the capital to complete his march by reaching the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on June 30. His arrival there is expected to coincide with the anticipated Canada Day protests.

Bergen did not attend the recent event, and isn’t planning to be in Ottawa for Canada Day, but she did meet with convoy participants this winter. At the time, newly in her leadership role, Bergen advised senior Conservative MPs not to tell members of the trucker convoy to leave Ottawa and instead make the protests the prime minister’s problem, according to an internal email obtained by CTV News.

Asked what message she thinks it sends that her caucus members are considering themselves allies of the convoy participants, Bergen said it shows they are willing to listen to those who wanted to be heard, and that the Conservatives "very much support Canadians who were, and still are against the mandatory vaccines."

After voicing support for the truckers and those involved in the convoy protests that blockaded Ottawa streets and border crossings this winter, the federal Conservative caucus has been highly critical of the government's invocation of the Emergencies Act.

Bergen is continuing to call for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to resign over what she views as his misleading of Parliament as it pertains to whether police asked for, or required the unprecedented emergency powers granted by the emergency declaration.

"There's a very high threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act on Canadians. We've always said that we did not believe that the government would meet that threshold, and what you're seeing now by the fact that they misled Canadians, that they probably have not met the threshold," said Bergen, suggesting that the Liberals have "discredited" the ongoing committee examination and national inquiry.

In a separate interview for Sunday's show, when asked whether he thinks the minister misled Parliament, Government House Leader Mark Holland said that he thinks his colleague has been clear.

“The question here is, were the police consulted? Yes. Did the police use these tools? Yes. Afterwards have the police made it clear that these tools were critical in lifting just a terrible situation with a city under siege, that had no end in sight? Yes.”

BERGEN 'SHOCKED' BY REMPEL GARNER COMMENTS

In a recent blog post detailing why she decided against running for leadership of Alberta's United Conservative Party (UCP), Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner wrote about her concerns and observations of both the provincial and federal parties.

"In both parties there have also been squabbles that have erupted in the pages of national media, public meltdowns, nearly missed physical fights, coups, smear jobs, leaked recordings and confidential emails, lack of consensus on critical issues, caucus turfings, people harassed to the point where they resign roles, and hours long meetings where members have been subjected to hours of public castigation,” reads her post.

Shortly after this was published, the Toronto Star reported that some of her fellow Conservative MPs have threatened to get her removed from the federal caucus.

Asked about the comments from her colleague, Bergen said she was "absolutely shocked," and that while it may be Rempel Garner’s experience, it was "not an accurate description."

"I've not experienced that,” Bergen said. "We have had an amazing last six months. And you know, even when we do disagree… yeah, there's been there's been squabbles, but my message to caucus is we can disagree and still be united.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa and CTV National News producers Mackenzie Gray and Rachel Hanes