As the “Freedom Convoy” rolled toward Ottawa in late January, the city’s police chief said he would be “very surprised” if the protesters stayed for longer than one weekend, the former chair of the police board said Wednesday.
Coun. Diane Deans told the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is examining the government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act in February, that she was in constant contact with then-chief Peter Sloly as the protest unfolded but was not always given a full picture of the situation.
Documents filed with the inquiry show the former chief told the police services board in a Jan. 26 briefing that trucks were expected to arrive in Ottawa that weekend and may stay for an “extended period.”
But in a one-on-one conversation, Deans said Sloly had a different take.
“He said to me, ‘what are you worried about?’” Deans said.
“I recall Chief Sloly saying to me that he would be very surprised if (the protesters) were still there on Monday.”
An Ontario Provincial Police intelligence report dated the same day as that meeting showed the protesters had “no expressed departure date,” but Deans said those facts weren’t shared with her or the board.
In fact, no specific intelligence reports were shared with the oversight board, even in confidential sessions, she said.
When asked what led Deans to understand the board wasn’t entitled to that intelligence information, she said she took Sloly “at his word.”
The trucks began arriving in Ottawa on Jan. 28, and gridlocked the downtown core near Parliament Hill for more than three weeks. The city of Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Feb. 6, and the province declared its own state of emergency five days later.
In the days after the Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, Sloly resigned as police chief and Deans was removed as chair of the police board by her city council colleagues.
—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press