Starting late within the day on Oct. 19 and persevering with on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, the nationwide inquiry analyzing the federal authorities’s invocation of the Emergencies Act heard from initial police witnesses from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Ottawa Police Service (OPS).
In this testimony, the Public Order Emergency Commission heard about a number of the political and personnel dynamics at play behind the scenes, and paperwork offered new intuition into the sort of intelligence police forces had concerning the ‘Freedom Convoy’ because it rolled throughout Canada and landed within the nation’s capital.
With extra police testimony scheduled within the days forward, listed here are some key findings to this point.
‘BOILERPLATE’ PLANNING, INTELLIGENCE ‘GAPS’
According to appearing deputy Ottawa Police chief Patricia Ferguson, who testified on Oct. 20, the initial planning for the ‘Freedom Convoy’ was based mostly on what a fee lawyer described as a “boilerplate” commonplace template used for demonstrations, and based mostly on the idea the protests could be over by Monday.
“I feel what they did was they developed a plan commensurate to the expertise that we have had for over two-and-a-half many years within the metropolis, so far as I do know, on what demonstrations usually appear to be, how lengthy they final, and the kind of conduct we see,” Ferguson mentioned. “Protesting, you already know, usually is a restricted window in our expertise.”
In hindsight, she testified that OPS should have “given extra credibility to the knowledge and intelligence telling us that there was a faction that we’re planning on staying for a for much longer time frame.”
Speaking of that intelligence, in keeping with paperwork introduced to the fee from the OPP, the provincial police drive had been doing its personal assessments below mission “Hendon” and gathering data on the convoy because it moved into and throughout Ontario. One “rift” of their intel was why members within the convoy had been transporting “items of heavy gear.”
In a “Situation Report” from Jan. 28, the primary day of the protest, different parts the OPP had been unsure about at that time had been: the extent of extremist participation, the potential for some members to be armed, and whether or not they had been coming with sufficient provides for a chronic keep.
Asked relatedly about why after seeing the convoy head in the direction of Ottawa with varied items of apparatus and plans to park till “they get their lawful freedom again” town did not impose extra highway closures and obstacles, Ferguson advised that it might not have been useful as a result of “if folks had been wanting to go away, the obstacles would have impeded them from having the ability to do this.”
After portray an image of how in want of help the Ottawa police service turned after their initial evaluation of the convoy being a weekend-long occasion, Ferguson was requested by a lawyer representing the federal authorities concerning the position the Emergencies Act performed as soon as it was invoked. She mentioned it was “useful.”
OPS STAFFING WAS ‘ACHILLES HEEL’
Ferguson indicated to the fee that in her view, OPS staffing was their “Achilles heel” all through the occupation. She mentioned the pandemic and the present wave of COVID-19 infections had appreciable impacts on staffing ranges.
“I’d describe us as being on our knees and having run a marathon for the final two-and-a-half years, and it felt like they’d moved the end line 100 yards or one other mile and given us 200 kilos to hold to get to the tip. So staffing was I’d say, our primary Achilles heel in all of this. And so all of those individuals who had labored for the week main as much as the convoy over the weekend… When the convoy got here in, we had been making an attempt to handle staffing and clear posts. Some of them had been working as much as 15 hours. They had been exhausted, so we wanted to be sure that our folks had day off,” Ferguson mentioned.
The lack of staffing turned an enormous danger for the service, she mentioned, as there was no contingency planning to maintain staffing ranges up previous the primary weekend. Compounding this, Ferguson testified that there was a number of confusion inside the drive, and inconsistent instructions given by management.
“Our planners had been additionally individuals who had been web site commanders on the bottom, who had been making an attempt to handle issues on the very tactical stage. And so I feel, to say we had been struggling is truthful, and correct.”
This continued into the second weekend of protests, she mentioned, telling the fee that by Feb. 4 the service didn’t have a brand new plan for easy methods to deal with the protesters.
“Our planners, I feel had been engaged on creating it. But they had been additionally coping with numerous the reside points, placing out fires because it had been,” she mentioned.
Tapping into this “dysfunction,” the OPP at instances in the course of the protests refused to deploy officers to assist take away vans from the intersection of Rideau and Sussex as a result of, in OPP then-Director of Operations Craig Abrams’ view, the protection of his officers was a priority as a result of OPS didn’t have adequate planning in place.
OTTAWA POLICE HAD ‘UNCLEAR’ COMMAND
In one of many extra telling parts of her testimony, Ferguson was requested to touch upon whether or not she agreed with phrasing included in a draft ‘demobiliziation plan’ from Feb. 10—4 days earlier than the Emergencies Act was invoked—that made a collection of frank statements concerning the state the Ottawa police discovered themselves in at that time within the protests.
Under a piece titled ‘Deployment Plan’ it said that the present state of affairs was: “Not intelligence led.”
It additionally famous that whereas officers had “low morale” and there was poor communications, the protesters had the initiative.
The doc states there was “unclear and obscure command and management,” and there was “unqualified skilled management.”
Being taken by means of this part, Ferguson mentioned at one level that whereas they did have a system in place, “we had gamers who had been, you already know, leaping up or leaping down our incident command construction.”
Speaking concerning the level about unqualified management, Fergusons mentioned that OPS had misplaced so much subject material consultants within the final 4 or 5 years.
“And, as a result of we hadn’t had any large occasions, you already know, with COVID, with no presidential visits, none of these issues, we hadn’t flexed these muscle mass. And so this was clearly unprecedented by way of its measurement, and the kind of factor we had been coping with,” she mentioned.
The doc additionally made observe that the Ottawa police had “no nationwide perspective” and its focus was “solely upkeep and never decision.”
Fergson testified that she recalled then-Ottawa Police Chief Sloly saying: “‘I do not care about what is going on on elsewhere. Ottawa is the place I must, you already know, have my focus.’ And, you already know, from his perspective, I can perceive that, however we did know that after we took actions right here, it had ripple results throughout the nation. These had been very related, reactive folks,” Ferguson mentioned.
OPP WARNED OF POLITICIANS ‘EMBOLDENING’
In a Feb. 6 ‘Project Hendon’ state of affairs report, the OPP put appreciable consideration on a number of the controversy surrounding the “de-platforming” of the GoFundMe crowdfunding web page. The OPP cautioned that with the protest garnering the eye of U.S. Republicans together with Donald Trump Jr. and Marjorie Taylor-Greene in addition to different “controversial, however very influential, ultra-conservative public figures,” this might improve the “anti-government sentiment” in Canada and harden protesters’ resolve.
In this report, the OPP additionally made the evaluation that the Ottawa protesters appeared “to have the monetary and logistical assist to stay in place for the long-term.”
They additionally famous that “the apparent support from Canadian political figures is definite to additional embolden these organizing and taking part within the blockade, lending them credibility and validating their techniques… As lengthy because the blockade stays in place, it’ll proceed to draw people and teams with a spread of various ideologies, agendas, and intentions hoping to capitalize on the protest for their very own ends.”
The OPP cautioned that assist from public officers could be prone to “nurture and embolden ideologically motivated extremists in Canada.”
Asked about this throughout his Oct. 19 testimony, OPP Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau’s Supt. Patrick Morris appeared to contradict what his colleagues had made observe of, stating that whereas he noticed on-line rhetoric and knowledge on social media relating to protesters’ extremist views, he was “conscious of no intelligence that was produced that might assist concern in that regard.”
Challenged on this by a federal authorities lawyer who pointed to different paperwork that made reference to intelligence gathered about Diagolon and Quebec-based Farfaada’s involvement within the protests, Morris mentioned that whereas “everyone was asking about extremism, we weren’t seeing a lot proof of it.”
TOTAL OF 533 CHARGES LAID IN OTTAWA
During testimony on Oct. 20, a document was entered into evidence that confirmed that there have been 533 fees laid in relation to the convoy, together with weapons fees, assaulting a peace or public officer, a whole lot of mischief fees, and obstructing arrest.
After the convoy organizers’ lawyer tried to get Ferguson to agree that there was not a rise in violent crime within the metropolis in the course of the protests, she mentioned she did not agree. He then advised that there have been not many fees laid in the course of the interval of the protests, to which Ferguson famous that whereas fees could not have been laid within the moment, that may be attributed to the investigation time wanted earlier than fees had been laid.
Picking again up on this in her cross examination, an OPS lawyer requested Ferguson concerning the cost listing, and he or she famous that in the course of the Feb. 17-21 time frame when the streets had been being cleared post-Emergencies Act invocation, 11 peace or public officers had been assaulted.
With recordsdata from CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver and Mackenzie Gray