Police officers suggested announcing the end of health restrictions to please the Freedom Convoy

Police officials circulated the idea that it was possible to announce the end of sanitary measures against COVID-19 to offer a “victory” to the Freedom Convoy in exchange for their collaboration, documents show.

“Perhaps a Health Canada official [pourrait] talk about science to the effect that numbers [du nombre d’infections au variant] Omicron have experienced a spike and set a timeline/date for the lifting of restrictions,” reads an email from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

OPP officers responsible for negotiations with the Freedom Convoy floated ideas to prepare for a meeting with a Trudeau government official, federal Deputy Minister of Public Safety Rob Stewart. Everything was recorded in an email of February 10 in the morning and made public last Tuesday evening at the Commission on the state of emergency.

Mr. Stewart offered to talk to the demonstrators, which ultimately never happened. The reference to negotiations on health measures quickly disappeared from the documents after his meeting with the police, and there is no indication that the Freedom Convoy influenced the decisions of public health authorities.

Hope for negotiations

The provincial police were looking for avenues to « allow the protesters to have a kind of ‘victory' », in order to negotiate their departure from their occupation of the federal capital, which had lasted for more than two weeks at this time.

“The police are unable to solve the fundamental problem. There are few options to resolve this situation without government action,” the document reads.

It is also noted that in the past, face-to-face meetings between the government and protesters blocking railroads or pipelines have offered the latter a negotiated “exit strategy”. This allows the majority of protesters to leave, in order to let the police arrest extremist elements.

A later version of this same document was presented to the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Brenda Lucki, but without the suggestion of mentioning the end of the sanitary restrictions. According to the final proposal, government officials would simply explain COVID-19 statistics, « which is likely to take the pressure off, and the passion to stay [au convoi] could decrease.

“Listen and explain the government’s position — NOT a negotiation,” the new document stresses.

No authority to negotiate

According to OPP Liaison Team Officer Marcel Beaudin, federal officials have indicated they do not have the authority to negotiate government positions with protesters. “They would go there, to listen, to be listened to,” he explained during his testimony on Tuesday.

The ability to negotiate with protesters opposed to health measures and driving trucks has been at the heart of a deep row between hard-line ex-police chief Peter Sloly and his troops, who found the plans on their part too risky. Some Ottawa police officers had previously expressed positive views toward the Freedom Convoy.

According to the plan of negotiation elaborated, the provincial police would have asked the leaders of the convoy ready to collaborate to leave the demonstration and to denounce any illegal act, in exchange for this meeting with the Deputy Minister Rob Stewart. The planned meeting never materialized.

Mr. Beaudin was unable to say on Tuesday why the idea fell through on February 12, two days before Ottawa invoked emergency measures. According to a record of a meeting that day between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several of his ministers and deputy ministers, the government pointed out that a similar negotiation attempt fell through when the border at Windsor.

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