Meetings between Ottawa police and other agencies ‘unprofessional and disrespectful’
October 21, 2022 By The Canadian Press
Oct. 21, 2022, Ottawa, Ont. – When former Ontario Provincial Police chief Supt. Carson Pardy arrived in Ottawa with a team of police experts on a cold evening in February, he expected a warmer welcome from Ottawa police.
It was more than 10 days after a convoy of big-rig trucks and protesters against COVID-19 mandates and the Liberal government had arrived in the capital and embedded themselves in downtown streets, forcing businesses to close and setting off a chaotic few weeks.
The federal Liberals invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 for the first time in Canadian history, which brought in extraordinary temporary powers aimed at clearing the protesters who had occupied downtown streets around Parliament Hill. The Public Order Emergency Commission, an independent public inquiry required under the act, is examining the circumstances of that choice.
Pardy said when he met Peter Sloly, who at that time was Ottawa’s police chief, he was surprised by the reception.
“Overall the tone, I would say, was very antagonistic, it was disrespectful,” Pardy said Friday during his testimony before a public inquiry into the use of the federal Emergencies Act.
Pardy said he and his team of experts in public order and emergency planning came from around the country to help, but he said it was clear Sloly did not trust them.
“He made it very clear from my view, in conversation I had, that there were people in the (provincial) ministry that wanted them to fail,” Pardy said.
Sloly is expected to testify before the commission, which is scheduled to hold public hearings until Nov. 25 in downtown Ottawa.
In one of their first meetings on Feb. 9, Ottawa police shared a concept plan for how they planned to handle to protest, but Pardy felt it wasn’t broad enough.
Ottawa police planned to start clearing streets one at a time, but Sloly acknowledged it would take a lot of resources. Pardy said Sloly also appeared suspicious other agencies would make good on their commitment to bring other officers to help with the situation.
Sloly was asking for support officers to come from the OPP, the Mounties and other agencies, but Pardy said they could not commit to sending them without a plan for when they got there.
“You need to know what these people are going to be doing when they get there, right down to where they stay and who’s feeding them,” Pardy told the commission. “You need those basics in place. None of that was in place.”
Ottawa’s police service is renowned for its skill in handling major events and protests, Pardy said, given its status as Canada’s capital city. But when he arrived in February Pardy said he asked: “What’s going on? What happened to you guys?”
OPP Supt. Craig Abrams told the public inquiry in earlier testimony that he was in a February meeting with Sloly, who told his staff he would ask for double the number of officers they thought they needed.
The statement concerned Abrams enough to raise it with his superior officer, and the next day Sloly announced a request for 1,800 officers from other police agencies.
“I only said that I was suspicious how they could come up with a number like that, and certainly the suggestion that number would be doubled,” Abrams said during cross-examination by Sloly’s lawyer Tom Curry on Friday.
Abrams said he was suspicious because there didn’t appear to be an integrated plan in place at that point, so he didn’t understand where the number could have come from.
The comments led to a tense exchange at the inquiry with Sloly’s lawyer, who accused Abrams of casting doubt on the request for resources to end what had been deemed an illegal occupation.
“What did you think you were doing?” Curry asked, demanding to know whether Abrams thought he was acting in the interest of Ottawa police, Ottawa residents and the federal government.
Abrams said he was acting in the interest of his OPP officers.
While the protest continued in Ottawa, tandem protests began to pop at border crossings across the country.
On Feb. 7, protesters blockaded the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont. Documents submitted to the inquiry as evidence show the OPP considered this a greater priority for resources than the protest in Ottawa.
Abrams said he agreed the Windsor blockade had a greater economic impact than the protest in Ottawa.
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