Public Order highlights: Friday, October 21

The Public Order Emergency Commission continued on Friday with testimony from Superintendent Craig Abrams. Superintendent Abrams on cross-examination acknowledged that some police wanted to use "snatch and grab” tactics. He testified that snatch-and-grab tactics may have been used but he could not confirm this. He stated that, if "snatch & grab" did occur by OPS, OPP members would not have participated.

Supt. Abrams agreed that he could not confirm that all OPP officers present in Ottawa received proper use-of-force training and further that he was unaware of any use-of-force reports being completed following the use of the Emergencies Act.

He testified that the lack of integration and communication problems had a negative impact on police operations and that these issues continued to impact operations, both before and after the declaration of an emergency under the Emergencies Act.

He expressed the view that there were ways to end the protest without the use of emergency powers and that this came from on-the-ground awareness, along with his experience in dealing with protests. Supt. Abrams further testified that there were some serious bodily injuries inflicted on protesters as evidenced by the involvement of the SIU.

Regarding Chief Sloly's request for 1800 officers, Supt. Abrams believed that the number was “suspicious".

Supt. Abrams described his ability to drive through Ottawa with the exception of the downtown core. He noted that, due to bridge closures, some patients had difficulty accessing appointments at the downtown hospital.

He further agreed that Criminal Code provisions remained available despite the declaration of an emergency. A protester blocking a road, for example, is an offence under the Criminal Code and Highway Traffic Act. Regarding the Coventry road blockages, Supt. Abrams was aware that people were charged with criminal mischief. In addition, he stated that there were checkpoints for vehicles entering downtown before the declaration of an emergency and a number of other options were available to prevent vehicles from entering downtown Ottawa. He noted that the OPP blocked a number of streets prior to the declaration of an emergency.

He agreed that the subsequent protest referred to as ’Rolling Thunder’ was successfully managed and resolved without the necessity of emergency powers.Under cross-examination by Alan Honner of TDF, Superintendent Abrams was asked about the redeployment of OPP officers stationed in Windsor. When confronted with a document stating that, as a result of clearing Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, 400 officers were available to help throughout Ontario, he noted that this redeployment was not directly related to the declaration of an emergency but was an aspect of it. He noted that the redeployment was related to a plan created prior to the invocation of the public order emergency, which plan was already underway.

Chief Superintendent Pardy, a former critical incident commander with many years of experience, was the day's final witness. He stated that the pandemic, officer retirements and lack of major events to hone skills contributed to the inability of OPS to effectively respond to the protest.

When he arrived in Ottawa he noticed a lack of planning. He was there in a supporting role. Chief Pardy described managing the protest as ‘beyond the capability of one single service.’Importantly, Chief Pardy testified that there was, in fact, a policing solution to the protest, and that, in his opinion, the police would have reached a solution with the plan they had, within the same timeline, without the need for the use of the Emergencies Act.

He stated that it is not entirely correct that police needed the powers conferred by the Emergencies Act to secure tow trucks, but he agreed that the Emergencies Act was useful in this respect. Chief Pardy felt that the portrayal of protesters as extremists was problematic, and risked escalation. He testified that the profile of protesters during the convoy was unlike anything he had seen before. He described the participation of grandparents, retired and former police officers, families and children, and nurses.

Chief Superintendent Pardy agreed with the claim that the OPP and OPS did not need the Emergencies Act in order to deploy an integrated command structure. He further agreed that the Emergencies Act was not required to craft an occupational plan and that police services had what they needed to develop the plan. He was aware that some tow truck drivers would have been willing to remove trucks without assurances provided by the Emergencies Act, so long as these assurances could be met in some other way. He further agreed that there were provisions under other existing Ontario legislation for indemnity that addressed the concerns of tow truck operators.

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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