Emergencies Act inquiry hears claims of former Ottawa police chief being scared of ‘Freedom Convoy’

One Ottawa woman says the atmosphere around the anti-vaccine mandate protests was like "The Purge". On the second day of the Emergencies Act inquiry, Ottawa locals, politicians & businesses describe how they experienced the protests.

By Patricia D'Cunha

In the first day of testimony of the public inquiry into the Trudeau government’s use of the Emergencies Act, there are claims the former Ottawa police chief said he was scared when talking about the “Freedom Convoy” protest.

The inquiry on Friday heard from business representatives of impacted areas who say they were baffled by the plan for the City of Ottawa ahead of the convoy’s arrival and that streets weren’t being shut down to prevent an occupation.

Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier Business Improvement Area, claims former police chief Peter Sloly said in a phone call discussing the arrival of the convoy that he understood why people were scared and that he was scared too.

Sloly’s lawyer refuted the claim but Carrier stands by it and clarifies that while she felt it was made out of empathy rather than fright, it still concerned her.

Carrier also said she was told by a Canadian Tire store near one of the convoy encampments that it sold out of knives and bear spray, but under cross-examination she said she never saw any weapons.

“I don’t think waving around a knife states whether or not a knife exists … Did I see the knife being waved around? No I did not. But I trust that the Canadian Tire is telling me the truth? Yes,” Carrier said.

Earlier, residents of the downtown core described the impacts of the non-stop honking and the chaos and lawlessness in the streets that arrived in Ottawa in late January.

Victoria De La Ronde, one of the witnesses, told the commission the protest was an “assault on my hearing,” adding she was unable to leave her home.

“It didn’t feel safe, my guard was up all the time,” said 22-year-old Zexi Li, who had filed a court injunction to stop truckers from continually honking their horns during the protest

The inquiry will be examining why the Act was invoked to deal with the convoy protests that took over a large portion of downtown Ottawa in January and February.

On Feb. 14, 2022, the Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act, which granted police extraordinary temporary powers to clear people and vehicles out of downtown Ottawa, and allowed banks to freeze the accounts of some of those involved.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the 65 people on the list slated to testify at the commission. Other high-profile people on the list include Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Anita Anand, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, outgoing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, and others.

The commission is also expected to hear from key organizers of the convoy, including Pat King and Tamara Lich.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it is looking for answers from the federal government on what information they have that warranted the historic use of the Act.

“It is our opinion that their actions were unlawful and unconstitutional,” Cara Zwibel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association told CityNews.

The inquiry will run for six weeks, at which point the commission will prepare a report to be submitted to the House of Commons by Feb. 20, 2023.

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