Ottawa’s former police chief says the force needs to confront bias and right-wing extremism in order to repair trust with its citizens in the aftermath of the “Freedom Convoy” protest.
Peter Sloly is continuing his testimony at the public inquiry investigating the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
A lawyer representing downtown businesses and community members asked Sloly this afternoon if he was aware of a double standard being applied to left-wing protests like Black Lives Matter in comparison to the treatment of convoy protesters who occupied the city for weeks.
Sloly says he saw that kind of bias during his time as chief, in the private sector, and in provincial and national intelligence gathering.
He says he was hired as chief to confront bias and discrimination among Ottawa police members, which he believes is the reason he was undermined by his own members during the protests.
Sloly resigned as Ottawa’s police chief at the height of the demonstrations on Feb. 15.
Trust issues plagued police response
Sloly said he took a more direct role in the police response to the “Freedom Convoy” protest, outside of the chain of command, after he lost some degree of trust in his deputy chiefs.
The former Ottawa police chief has been repeatedly accused of creating confusion and dysfunction in the ranks of the Ottawa police during the protest by not abiding by the chain of command.
He says he was concerned after his deputies appointed a new event commander without informing him.
Ex-Ottawa Police chief on replacing the deputy chief amid disagreements over handling of convoy protest
Sloly resigned amid widespread criticism of the police force on Feb. 15, the day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act.
The inquiry has so far painted a picture of conflict and confusion within police services and among all levels of government in the wake of the convoy’s arrival in Ottawa in late January.
Texts suggest feds weighed how to respond as convoy neared
Newly released text messages show how the federal government was planning its communications strategy before the arrival of “Freedom Convoy” protesters in Ottawa back in late January.
Messages between a senior member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s staff and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s press secretary on Jan. 24 have been released by the inquiry investigating the government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
In the exchange, the prime minister’s adviser Mary-Liz Power said Mendicino’s office was considering having the minister do media interviews about “some of the more extreme elements” of the protest, and suggested it could be an opportunity to “get in on” the growing narrative about the truckers.
Emergencies Act inquiry: Former Ottawa police chief says force didn’t foresee size, scope of protests
Power said they would use a similar message to the one used in response to the Jan. 6 attacks in Washington, D.C.
She suggested Mendicino could talk about how some convoy organizers’ language was concerning and needed to be taken seriously, but warned he would need to be careful to ensure it didn’t look like government was directing police.
Mendicino’s press secretary at the time, Alex Cohen, responded to say Mendicino wanted to wait a day or two because there was a danger that if they come down too hard, it “might push out the crazies.”
Key protest organizers are expected to testify this week, beginning with Chris Barber, who is one of several people facing criminal charges related to their involvement.
© 2022 The Canadian Press