Ford was ‘shitting away from responsibility’ for Freedom Convoy, for Trudeau and Jim Watson

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The State of Emergency Commission learned Tuesday that Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at one point accused Ontario Premier Doug Ford of evading his responsibilities during the demonstrations of the Freedom Convoy.

Mayor Watson gave much-anticipated testimony on Tuesday before the public inquiry into the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act last February. The commission is also examining the measures adopted to deal with the occupation of downtown Ottawa, which lasted nearly three weeks.

Jim Watson said that from the first days of the protest, which began on January 28, it became clear to him that the Ottawa police were « completely outnumbered ». He added that he was frustrated at the time with the time it took to get reinforcements.

On Feb. 7, about two weeks after the protests began, police said their resources were “exhausted,” according to documents filed with the commission. The Ottawa Police Service told the City that 250 officers from partner police forces were not yet available.

Outdated font and points of failure

« I think even a layman like me realized the Ottawa Police Service was overstretched in terms of resources, » Watson said on Tuesday, noting that police officers also had to keep the rest of the city safe.

Mayor Watson believes that all levels of government must take responsibility for not acting quickly enough in the circumstances. “When you look back on what happened, there is no doubt that there were several points of failure along the way, whether it was the City, the provincial or federal governments. »

According to him, Premier Ford “felt it was a waste of time” to attend meetings between the three levels of government.

In a February 8 phone call with Prime Minister Trudeau, Mayor Watson expressed his frustration that Doug Ford was not cooperating with joint efforts. According to the transcript and summary of that appeal, filed with the commission, the mayor alleged that Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones was « not honest » about the number of OPP officers in the work in the field.

Mr. Trudeau then replied: « Ford has shied away from responsibility for political reasons, as you have pointed out, and it is important that we do not let them do it, and we intend to support you there. above. »

Ford Solidarity of Ottawa

Mr. Ford is not on the list of witnesses who will be called before the commission. Asked by reporters on Monday, he said the use of the Emergencies Act was necessary to put an end to an « unacceptable » situation and that he had sided with Prime Minister Trudeau throughout. from the Ottawa headquarters.

Zachary Zarnett-Klein, spokesperson for the Solicitor General of Ontario, said in a statement that « politicians do not and should not direct specific police operations. »

“During the occupation, our government remained focused on providing the tools our law enforcement partners needed to end the situation. »

Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino backed Ford’s version that the federal and provincial governments were walking hand in hand — despite the transcript of the phone conversation.

After Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Minister Mendicino said the two prime ministers both said they were « side by side » on this issue. The minister believes that the testimonies and documents produced for the commission of inquiry so far show the extent to which the three levels of government were communicating with each other and that the police were doing all they could.

Lack of foresight

During his testimony on Tuesday, Mayor Watson also questioned why intelligence gathered by all levels of government lacked accurate information on how many people were converging on Ottawa and how long they planned to stay there.

Thousands of protesters arrived in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 28, and City Manager Steve Kanellakos testified Monday that the city administration believed the majority of those people would have left after the weekend.

On the other hand, the commission learned Monday that the City had been warned that the demonstrators of the convoy intended to embed themselves in Ottawa.

An email from the “Canada United Truckers Convoy”, relayed to the city authorities and to Mayor Watson on January 25, before the first weekend of demonstration, was notably submitted to the commission. It already indicated that the demonstrators were trying to book hotel rooms for « at least 30 days ».

Police also had information from a regional association of hoteliers that suggested the protesters planned to stay in Ottawa for a long time. The association wrote in a January 26 report, relayed to the City, that « all open source information and our interactions with the organizers indicate that this will be a large and extremely fluid event that could last a long time ».

Wellington Street

Mayor Watson also said on Tuesday that the police should have put up « jersey » style barriers to prevent protesters from reaching the city center, in particular Wellington Street, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

« We allowed this main thoroughfare — and it spilled over into residential streets — to be besieged by a group of people who had no respect for the law and no respect for the residents of our city, » he said. -he declares.

The demonstrators were able to set up a stage on Wellington Street, he added, and display « those vulgar flags […] against the backdrop of Parliament Hill, as if they had conquered the country ».

In the days leading up to the use of the Emergencies Act, city officials and convoy organizers negotiated a deal to move the tractor-trailers out of residential areas, onto Wellington Street, in front of Parliament Hill.

Thanks to this agreement, some vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, left residential streets and ended up either in front of Parliament Hill or outside the city. “I think we’ve done our best to stick to the agreement, as have the truckers who have moved, and we appreciate that,” Mayor Watson said.

The federal Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act on February 14, granting police extraordinary temporary powers in a bid to clear protests that have blocked downtown streets for nearly three weeks.

Mayor Watson said Tuesday he believed the Emergencies Act had helped end the protests.

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