The police would have dismantled the convoy of truckers with or without emergency measures | Commission of Inquiry into the State of Emergency
The resignation of former police chief Peter Sloly would have made things easier, attests Inspector Robert Bernier.
Inspector Bernier described to the Rouleau Commission on Wednesday tensions with former police chief Peter Sloly, who was demanding deadlines and interfering in operational decisions during the occupation of downtown Ottawa. /p>
It was not so much the invocation of the Emergencies Act as the departure of former Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Chief Peter Sloly that accelerated the dismantling of the convoy of truckers who occupied the city center of the Canadian capital last winter, we learned on Wednesday at the Rouleau commission.
The x27;operation, which began on February 18, stemmed from a plan drawn up on February 13 by the integrated planning cell, which included representatives from the RCMP and the OPP, explained OPS Inspector Robert Bernier, who acted as event commander during part of the crisis.
However, said plan was never approved by ex-police chief Sloly, who left his post on February 15. Rather, it was his interim successor, Steven (Steve) Bell, who signed it on within hours, mobilizing the hundreds of officers needed to implement it. operation.
In his testimony, Mr. Bernier explained that he did not know on February 13 that the federal government was going to declare a state of emergency the next day. He also confirmed that he would have carried out the police operation in any case, judging that the OPS already had sufficient powers to do so under the laws and regulations in force.
“Thanks to the integrated planning cell and the advice I received […], I was convinced that we had the authority to act if the negotiations set out in our plan do not result in a return to normal. »
— Ottawa Police Service Inspector Robert Bernier
Mr. Bernier admits that the creation of an exclusion zone under the Emergencies Act has made the work of the OPS easier. He echoed this when asked about the power to compel towing companies to move trucks from downtown. He agreed with the assertion that this exceptional federal power was useful, even beneficial, but not strictly necessary.
In this context, the inspector finds it difficult for [him] to say what would have happened if the government had acted otherwise. I don't know what kind of complications I could have had.
Police authorities began dislodging protesters on Friday, February 18, the day after a major snowstorm. Forty-eight hours later, downtown Ottawa was free of convoy truckers. (Archives)
The operation, that said, could only unfold after Chief Sloly left, Bernier said, accusing his former boss of inappropriately interfering in his role of event commander, which generated some frustration on his part and also on the side of the OPP.
The Trudeau government invoked the Measures Act emergency on February 14, 2022 to end a rally of truckers and other protesters opposing COVID-19 health measures that paralyzed downtown Ottawa from Saturday January 29 to Sunday February 20.< /p>
This law – adopted in 1988 to succeed the War Measures Act – provides in particular that a public inquiry must a fortiori examine the circumstances which led the authorities to take such a decision.
Inspector Bernier's supervisor, Superintendent Robert Drummond, took over the witness stand Wednesday afternoon. He oversaw the Ottawa Police Liaison Teams and Public Order Units during the convoy.
Superintendent Robert Drummond of the Ottawa Police Service during his visit to the Rouleau Commission
He corroborated Bernier's assertion that Peter Sloly had acted outside the usual chain of command and that it was rare for a police chief to become so directly involved in operations .
Sloly's highly anticipated court appearance will take place on Friday.
According to the summary of an interview he gave to the commission and which was entered into evidence on Wednesday, the former head of the OPS does not believe that his police could have done something different, given the unprecedented national security crisis facing the OPS.
However, this story was contradicted by his successor at the helm of the Ottawa police on February 15. On Monday, OPS Acting Chief Steve Bell told the commission that the police force was unprepared to deal with the occupation that has crippled downtown Ottawa, despite the warnings. He also said police in the federal capital had failed to consider the impacts the protests would have on residents.
Peter Sloly's preliminary interview with the commission also reveals that he was never told by the federal government that he intended to invoke the Emergencies Act.
The former police chief, however, indicates that he had several discussions with the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Rob Stewart. The latter notably asked him for help in identifying “potential negotiators” among the demonstrators, corroborating the information that the federal government had indeed considered a meeting with the organizers of the convoy. .
Chief Sloly resigned from his post on February 15, a day after the federal government declared a state of emergency.
Commissioner Rouleau gave his authorization on Wednesday for representatives of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Center (CIET) to be interviewed at behind closed doors before the committee.
The federal government had requested it on the grounds that disclosure of the relevant evidence would injure national security.
The magistrate explains, however, that his decision only relates to the way in which the evidence will initially be presented. He could ultimately decide to make some or all of this evidence public, for example in a summary that describes the evidence without disclosing information that must remain confidential.
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By the end of the commission, 66 people will have appeared publicly before Judge Paul Rouleau, including Justin Trudeau, seven cabinet ministers and convoy organizers. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who questioned the need to invoke emergency measures, is also set to testify. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the province's former Solicitor General Sylvia Jones have received a subpoena, which they are challenging in court.
This is a federal investigation into the federal decision to use federal emergency measures law, Ford said Wednesday morning at Queen's Park. This was a police issue, not a political one, [and] politicians don't run the police, he added.