Downtown residents still ‘traumatized’ by convoy, lawyer tells commission


People who lived by final winter’s convoy protest and occupation of downtown Ottawa stay “traumatized” by the expertise, a lawyer representing residents and enterprise teams advised the general public commission probing the federal authorities’s unprecedented use of emergency powers to clear the capital.

Paul Champ made the remark throughout introductory remarks on the opening day of the Public Order Emergency Commission, kicking off six weeks of extremely anticipated hearings into the occasions of January and February. Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Paul Rouleau is presiding over the commission.

Many individuals in Ottawa felt like they have been prisoners in their very own residence.– Paul Champ, lawyer

“The individuals in Ottawa are still traumatized, commissioner. They’re bewildered, they’re upset, and I can say, commissioner, these 30 days that you’ve got, we may have residents line up daily to testify, to let you know their tales.”

Champ described an environment of chaos and hazard throughout the three weeks that the protesters occupied a number of blocks of town’s downtown, together with Wellington Street.

He reminded the commission that Ottawa’s downtown core is residence to fifteen,000 individuals who dwell, work and store there.

“People see the Parliament Buildings they usually suppose that is all authorities and so forth in downtown Ottawa, however there are individuals, there are kids, there are faculties — there is a public elementary college that is about six blocks from right here — and the influence on Ottawa for these three weeks of harassment, road blockages, ear-splitting air and practice horns, and common lawlessness was unprecedented,” Champ mentioned.

The Public Emergency Order Commission started in Ottawa on Thursday. The ‘factual stage’ of the inquiry is scheduled to final six weeks. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Residents felt ‘deserted’

Champ described a harmful mixture of carelessly saved fuel cans and propane tanks, and fireworks “pinging” off buildings. During that point, weak residents have been denied entry to public transit and different primary metropolis companies, whereas retailers, eating places and even the Rideau Centre have been pressured to shut their doorways.

“Many individuals in Ottawa felt like they have been prisoners in their very own residence, they usually felt deserted they usually felt unsafe,” Champ mentioned.

Testimony will start Friday morning with Ottawa-based lawyer Victoria De La Ronde and Zexi Li, the downtown resident who helped safe an injunction towards the protesters. It will proceed with Nathalie Carrier, govt director of the Vanier BIA, and Kevin McHale, govt director of the Sparks Street BIA, who’re anticipated to explain the influence of the protests on downtown companies.

The hearings are scheduled to proceed Friday afternoon with testimony from two Ottawa metropolis councillors, Catherine McKenney and Mathieu Fleury.

Their testimony is anticipated to battle with that of different witnesses, together with protesters, who argue there was inadequate justification to invoke the Emergencies Act.

Police transfer in on protesters in Ottawa on Feb. 19, 2022. The Emergencies Act was revoked 4 days later, as soon as downtown streets had been cleared. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Situation downtown ‘grew to become unstable’

On Thursday, the commission additionally heard introductory remarks from David Migicovsky, counsel for the Ottawa Police Service, who echoed a few of Champ’s feedback.

“The protest grew to become harmful and the scenario grew to become unstable. This was an unprecedented scenario, and it required an unprecedented response by the Ottawa Police Service,” he mentioned.

Migicovsky advised the commission that protests are “a reality of life” within the nation’s capital, and police have “a well-established course of” for coping with them, together with speaking with protest organizers.

“What you’ll hear is that this protest was distinctive in Canadian historical past,” Migicovsky advised the commission. “The police had little time to arrange. The genesis of the protest had solely begun a pair weeks earlier than it arrived on the town, and it gained momentum with time.”

Downtown Ottawa resident Zexi Li, who helped safe an injunction towards the protesters, is scheduled to testify earlier than the commission Friday. (CBC)

Adding to the confusion was the truth that most of the protesters joined the convoy simply previous to its arrival in Ottawa, Migicovsky mentioned, so the anticipated variety of members was “tough to unattainable to gauge.” By the time the principle convoy reached town, it was 40 kilometres lengthy and contained hundreds of autos, he mentioned.

“That couldn’t have been predicted,” Migicovsky mentioned

Nor have been police adequately ready for a protracted occupation, or its influence on downtown residents, he mentioned.

“What not one of the intelligence predicted within the very temporary time period previous to the convoy’s arrival was the extent of neighborhood violence and social trauma that was inflicted upon town and its residents.”

Ex-chief to testify

A lawyer representing former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, who resigned on the peak of the protest, agreed with Migicovsky’s evaluation that the intelligence about “what was coming Ottawa’s manner” was missing.

Sloly, who spoke to a separate parliamentary committee final week, will supply the commission 11 suggestions to stop an analogous incident when he testifies, Tom Curry advised the commission. Sloly may seem earlier than the commission as early as subsequent week.

Champ mentioned the coalition of residents and enterprise teams he is representing does not plan to take a place on the federal government’s resolution to invoke the Emergencies Act.

“But make no mistake, it was a disaster in downtown Ottawa. There was dysfunction, there was chaos,” he mentioned.

“It’s going to take some time for this metropolis to heal internally.”


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