Public Order highlights: Monday, October 31

The Commission continued today to hear from Ottawa Chief of Police Sloly. Chief Sloly was head of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) from 2019 until mid-February 2022. 

He stated that he was aware that some individuals in the police force wanted him to fail - a view he expressed to Supt. Pardy. The Commission heard that Chief Sloly had some concerns about the selection of personnel for various positions. He conceded that he was under immense pressure to resolve the problems arising from the protest. Regarding his comments that he would "crush" anyone who does not follow the plan, he said that it was inappropriate. He disputed the notes taken by Deputy Chief Ferguson and denied that he considered resigning earlier in the protest.

When he submitted his OPS-issued cell phone to IT, he had not altered the files stored in any way. However, upon being reviewed in advance of the Commission, there was no remaining record of calls or messages in the phone's storage.

On cross-examination by the Convoy Organizers, he was asked about his use of the term "assaultive behaviour." He said it was a broad term. He claimed that Criminal Code assaultive behaviour was occurring, but he had no knowledge whether the individuals engaged in this behaviour were part of the protesters. He said that OPS officers were enforcing the Criminal Code but had discretion with respect to laying charges. When asked if he would be surprised to learn that between the start of the protest and declaration of emergency, there were a total of 5 assault charges, he responded that he was unaware of the statistics.

Chief Sloly agreed that the injunction added an additional tool available to OPS and was a net benefit to public safety. He was relying on the city of Ottawa to pursue an injunction. He testified that Commissioner Lucki did not believe the injunction would be a substantive solution. He was asked if there was a declaration of a riot or unlawful assembly, to which he responded that there was not but that protesters must have been aware that there was illegal conduct at the protest. He agreed, however, that the arson incident turned out to be unconnected to the convoy and that there was extensive misinformation surrounding the protests. 

Chief Sloly described Commissioner Lucki's "editorial allowance" in her notes, as they related to him, as "extreme" and added that her notes said more about her than they do about him. He agreed that notes are produced for the purpose of gathering evidence. They are supposed to be an honest representation of events. "Clearly," he added, in some cases, they are not honest.

Regarding the lack of charges laid, he stated that criminal charges alone are not necessarily reflective of the occurrence of crime. 

He claimed that OPS had difficulty compelling tow truck operators to participate in towing trucks. He heard about tow truck drivers receiving threats on or around February 4, 2022. He described tow companies as being available but intimidated for various reasons, and, as such, OPS could not access tow trucks predictably. He explained this to his federal partners. He believed it to be likely that enforcement efforts would need to occur, but he could not rule out the potential for successful PLT negotiations. 

It was his view that the protests were a national security threat due to the concurrent protests in Coutts and Windsor. He said that the protests in Windsor split policing resources. He testified that the protests were peaceful in that there were no deaths, burned police cars or riots, but again, he cited some "assaultive behaviour."

Regarding the term "tinderbox," he stated there were clearly areas that would not fit this description. He agreed that, on January 29, 2022, there was loud honking, diesel fumes, blockaded streets, and assaultive behaviour along with lawlessness and chaos for businesses. Some residents, he said, experienced harassment and intimidation. He agreed that the OPS would investigate and enforce law-breaking. He said some complaints would not have been investigated due to a lack of resources at the time, but he does not know the details. He agreed that many public officials received threats.

He further agreed that there were problems with "misinformation and disinformation." He was aware of some reports of funds sent to the convoy via GiveSendGo by officers.

It is typical for protesters to have the stated goal of staying long-term. He did not take the position that each convoy had millions of dollars of funding. He disputed the claim that OPS did not take the convoy protest seriously enough. 

He took offence to a comment, in a meeting with federal parties and Deputy Minister Stewart, that the OPS was seen to be "helping white supremacists take over Ottawa." He denied that OPS engages in policing differently based on race or colour. 

Chief Sloly testified that he heard Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director Vigneault describe the protest as a national security event during a meeting he attended. He does not believe, however, that CSIS Director Vigneault had formed an assessment about foreign influence at this point. 

He stated that he needed approximately 1800 additional officers and heavy towing services. Tow trucks were already present by mid-February. This included between 3 and 5 contractors on the first weekend, though he claimed that this did not increase until his last day (February 14, 2022). He conceded that he was not directly involved in tow truck procurement services and did not know who handled it.

When asked about the test under s.2 of the CSIS Act regarding "threats to security", Chief Sloly conceded that he was not aware of credible intelligence regarding espionage or sabotage. He said he thought there were significant elements of foreign funding based on GiveSendGo funding. He claimed that there may be "some other nations involved." When pressed, he said that he had information that activities were taking place beyond the borders of Canada but that this information was not tested. He was unaware whether donations via GiveSendGo met the legal definition under s.2 of the CSIS Act for foreign influence. He claimed that he knew of some GiveSendGo funds and that some foreign parties may come to Canada. He was not aware if specific HENDON intelligence reports mentioned these donations. When asked whether he had credible intelligence of serious violence, he said there was a wide array of open-course social media posting about threats, but these threats had not been validated or corroborated to his knowledge. Finally, when asked whether he had information as to credible threats to overthrow the government, he said that he did not. 

On re-examination by the Government, he said he had a conversation with Minister Blair during which he said that he towed "hundreds of vehicles and issued thousands of tickets." When asked about claiming that there was no safe way to carry out removals without risking injury or death, he said, "it was a tinderbox," at least on the first weekend. He recalled the "swarming" of police officers. He had concerns about officers resorting to the use of force to prevent being overwhelmed. He said that even requiring minimal compliance would increase the risk of violence. He recalled that one OPS sergeant was assaulted, but he was unsure if a Criminal Code charge was laid.

It is important to recall that, in order to justify its declaration of a public order emergency under the Emergencies Act, the government must establish, on reasonable grounds, that a public order emergency exists and necessitates the taking of special, temporary measures for dealing with the emergency. The situation must be so dire that it cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.

The definition of a public order emergency is an emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency.

Threats to the security of Canada is defined, in the Canadian Security Intelligence Services Act as: (a) espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage, (b) foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person, (c) activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state, and (d) activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of, the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

*All quotes are subject to revision as Commission video and transcripts become available.

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