Ottawa police were ‘drinking from the fire hose’ from day one


Ottawa police ‘shocked’ by number of trucks and other vehicles arriving in Ottawa for protests, investigation finds

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Freedom Convoy leaders could not have met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Governor General Mary Simon, but could have secured a meeting with senior federal government officials in exchange for an end to the occupation.

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The meeting proposal was the subject of numerous discussions and emails between February 10 and 13 between the Deputy Minister of Public Safety Canada, Rob Stewart, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Ontario Provincial Police. (OPP), according to evidence. presented to the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) on Tuesday.

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Ultimately, Stewart told the OPP’s Marcel Beaudin, who oversaw the Provincial Liaison Team (ELP) dealing with protest negotiations, that he could not get a commitment from the government to follow through and meet them to hear their demands.

Speaking to POEC, Beaudin said he agreed with former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly’s controversial position on Feb. 2 that there may not be had a “police solution” to the end of the Freedom Convoy which disrupted downtown Ottawa for three weeks.

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“Typically, protests have grievances with the government,” Beaudin said during his testimony. “It is not for the police to solve these problems.”

Beaudin mentioned the Wet’suwet’en protests, in which federal ministers became directly involved to negotiate. He described a meeting as a way to give protesters a chance to be heard and achieve a “victory” in order to de-escalate the situation.

Beaudin said he got a call from OPP Deputy Commissioner Rose DiMarco on Feb. 9, telling her that Stewart wanted to speak to her. A call ended up taking place on February 10 with Beaudin, Stewart, Jeff Hutchinson, senior adviser at the Privy Council Office, as well as Leslie Jean and Staff Sergeant. Giselle Walker of the OPP PLT team.

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At that time, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “incentives” for the protesters to leave Ottawa, according to the interview summary Beaudin gave to POEC last summer.

On Feb. 11, Beaudin met virtually with Stewart and Hutchinson with the idea of ​​”proposing a meeting” with unnamed officials in exchange for protest leaders calling for trucks to leave downtown Ottawa and denouncing any criminal activity. In a subsequent email, Stewart mentioned that he didn’t think the government would want the pledge made public.

PLT teams had already identified convoy leaders such as Tom Marazzo and Tamara Lich, who were willing to engage with police. But another email to Beaudin mentioned that asking leaders to ask protesters to leave would be met with resistance.

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A draft proposal from February 11 mentions the purpose of the meeting as being to “defuse and encourage people to leave illegal protests” and that representation could include an unelected official from the Prime Minister’s Office, a minister or senior federal officials.

On Feb. 12, Beaudin was communicating with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, as the RCMP “seeked to obtain assurances that the government’s commitment to dialogue with protesters was strong before proceeding with the plan,” according to the summary of Beaudin’s interview.

But on February 13, Stewart informed Beaudin that the government was not ready to meet with protesters.

Beaudin resumed his normal duties on February 14 and left Ottawa. PLT’s role changed from negotiating to advising protesters that they should leave with the invocation of the Emergency Measures Act.

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After that, the proposal was like “dead in the water,” Beaudin described.

Beaudin was of the opinion that the OPS and OPP EPL teams could have been better used in order to dialogue with the demonstrators and to reduce the size of the convoys. He said he was surprised to see “many” members “sitting” during the first week of the occupation.

The use of the PLT has been a contentious issue between police forces, according to previous witnesses, with former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly described as someone unwilling to give a “thumbs up”. to the demonstrators while others wanted to follow the usual negotiation. process.

Inspector Russell Lucas, who served as incident commander for OPS during last winter’s events, earlier said Sloly had ‘interfered’ with his efforts to use PLT to reduce the site’s footprint of the demonstration the week of January 31.

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Additionally, Lucas said Sloly and the OPS executive are focused on getting “quick wins” in enforcement that could be “public relations hits” for the public and the city council.

Lucas considered his authority to have been eroded on February 6, when Superintendent. Mark Patterson became event commander under Sloly’s watch. At this time, Lucas said he ceased to exercise operational decision-making and instead served as operations coordinator.

Lucas also admitted, like many before him, that the OPS was ill-prepared to deal with the three-week occupation in the nation’s capital.

Lucas said the OPS had grossly underestimated the number of vehicles arriving downtown in the week before the events began. He expected hundreds or maybe a thousand vehicles to enter downtown, but not thousands.

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His team was “drinking from the fire hose” from the first day of the January 29 protests, according to his written testimony. At the commission, he compared the situation at the time with trying to build a wall with sandbags in hopes of containing a flood.

Lucas also admitted in his interview summary that the OPS did not have a dedicated social media monitoring team for these events and instead relied on a social media analyst employed by the regional police department. of Waterloo to share information with the OPS.

During the first week of protests, he added, PAHO “struggled” to respond to the spread of misinformation and misinformation on social media and police forces had to “entertain resources” to monitor them and attempt to disseminate accurate information instead.

  1. File: Steve Bell, Acting Chief of Ottawa Police.

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