Freedom Convoy was illegal from the start, says ex-Ottawa police chief


The Ottawa police considered the Freedom Convoy to be illegal as soon as the protesters opposed to the sanitary measures arrived last January, said the one who was local police chief when the trucks settled in front of the federal parliament.

“From the second laws have been flouted, be it municipal, federal or criminal law […]as soon as they fail [aux manifestants] to obtain a permit, it was illegal,” ex-chief Peter Sloly replied to a question posed in parliamentary committee on Thursday evening about the precise moment when the occupation ceased to be legal.

“There are a lot of illegal protests that still get support from the police, which furthers the intent of our Bill of Rights as much as possible, [même] when you see violence, ”he qualified, however.

The committee studying last winter’s declaration of crisis heard Thursday from the former Ottawa police chief, who abruptly resigned from his post on February 15, the day after the Act was invoked. on emergency measures by the Trudeau government.

Trust deficit

Peter Sloly explained Thursday that his departure was motivated by several reasons, some of them personal, but especially by the fact that the population had lost confidence in the Ottawa police. “When the police lose the public’s trust, it’s a risk to public safety. I made the decision to leave,” he said. He later acknowledged that the relationship with his officers was strained — or, in his words, « contentious. »

Mr Sloly said police had tried to enforce the law throughout the occupation, but it was not safe to do so on a large scale. He also gave up towing the trucks as soon as they arrived because of the risk to public safety, he said, even though he had a few heavy tows at his disposal at the time.

The Freedom Convoy is a protest movement openly opposed to health measures against COVID-19 that occupied the streets of Ottawa for three weeks last winter, in addition to having inspired blockades at several Canadian border crossings. . It was a “national security crisis,” according to Mr. Sloly.

A survey of To have to on the intentions of the demonstrators demonstrated that the blockade of Ottawa was planned, and that many of the participants considered their action to be perfectly legal. Some demonstrators were even encouraged by the support displayed by police officers.

A plan without emergency measures

The ex-chief reiterated that he had a comprehensive plan to end the record-breaking three-week occupation that did not require emergency measures. In his opinion, the special powers granted to the authorities still made it possible to end the gathering « more quickly and safely ».

Why didn’t he launch a police operation sooner? He was waiting for the resources to implement his plan, he repeated. The Ottawa police asked for 1,800 agents, and it was finally thanks to the dispatch of approximately 2,000 officers from various police services, including the Sûreté du Québec, that the occupation of the streets of the federal capital was able to take end.

Mr. Sloly said that negotiations with the organizers of the convoy were difficult since they were uncoordinated and divided into many groups. On the other hand, he claimed success in the fight against nuisance in residential areas.

An organizer of the convoy told the To have to in February that the Ottawa police never asked him to clear the streets, calling them « very cooperative » after nearly two weeks of occupation.

Before the trucks arrived, the Ottawa police chief had underestimated the impact of the Freedom Ride: he estimated that the disruption would be limited to a single weekend. He had to declare a few days later in front of elected municipal officials that this rally was not ultimately peaceful.

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