How a plan to end the convoy protest came together — and why it failed

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Ottawa metropolis supervisor Steve Kanellakos revealed new particulars Monday about a last-ditch settlement between police, protesters and politicians to transfer vehicles out of residential areas and onto Wellington Street throughout final winter’s convoy protest in the capital — a deal that may finally collapse simply days earlier than the federal authorities gave police particular powers to end the occupation.

Kanellakos was testifying on the third day of the Public Order Emergency Commission, which was triggered when the Emergencies Act was invoked on Feb. 14.

Six days earlier, on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 8, Kanellakos was making his method to his workplace in the heritage wing of Ottawa metropolis corridor when his telephone rang. It was Steve Bell, deputy chief of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS).

Despite earlier assurances from police that the protesters would probably go away the metropolis after the first weekend of demonstrations, many had remained via a second tense weekend and had been displaying no indicators of leaving.

Two days earlier, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had declared a state of emergency, and the earlier week then police chief Peter Sloly had declared he was changing into progressively involved there was “no policing resolution” to the deadlock.

Plan to transfer vehicles

Kanellakos was by that point persuaded Ottawa police alone could not end the occupation, however negotiations with higher ranges of presidency had been proving fruitless and irritating. Towing corporations with the sort of gear wanted to haul away tractor-trailers refused to become involved, both out of worry for his or her staff’ security or sympathy with the protesters.

Bell, who would quickly take over as interim chief after Sloly’s resignation, was in search of a completely different sort of resolution, however he wanted Kanellakos’s assist.

Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell, left, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, proper, are seen throughout a information convention at Ottawa metropolis corridor on April 28, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The plan was to hammer out an settlement with protest leaders to transfer the automobiles clogging residential areas of Ottawa’s downtown onto Wellington Street, giving downtown residents some much-needed respite from the noise and disruption, and giving police a extra manageable geographic space to work inside.

Bell defined that talks between police and protesters had damaged down, however protest leaders had requested for a assembly with somebody at metropolis corridor.

“I used to be reluctant when he first advised me. We by no means had any intention … of assembly with the protest leaders. That wasn’t on our radar or something we had been planning to do,” Kanellakos testified.

“I wasn’t persuaded that I ought to meet with them as a result of I felt that that was opening up one other door by way of a sign that we’re ready to begin negotiating.”

Mayor ‘thought it was a dangerous concept’

Kanellakos consulted with Watson, who he stated was additionally reluctant as a result of he suspected the protesters of making an attempt to use talks with the metropolis as a ploy to draw the federal authorities to the negotiating desk.

“He did not inform me not to meet them, and he did not inform me to meet them,” Kanellakos recalled. “He simply thought it was a dangerous concept.”

Despite his personal reservations, Kanellakos supplied to deal with the assembly with out getting the mayor concerned.

“No one was assembly with them, of an official capability, at the political stage,” he stated.

Ottawa metropolis supervisor Steve Kanellakos seems as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa on Monday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A workforce of police liaison officers was dispatched to a close by resort and returned round midday with protest chief Tom Marazzo, in addition to Keith Wilson and Eva Chipiuk, attorneys who’re representing the convoy organizers at the inquiry.

Marazzo requested to communicate alone with Kanellakos, and the two males entered a boardroom and shut the door. 

“Tom and I started having a dialog about why they’re right here, his background, what occurred to him, his story, simply getting to know one another, principally,” Kanellakos testified. 

Marazzo pushed for a assembly with the mayor, however Kanellakos advised the convoy chief he’d want to reveal some “good religion” earlier than that occurred.

Deal struck

It was agreed that gesture would contain shifting vehicles out of residential neighbourhoods, and by the end of the 90-minute assembly, each side had agreed to work out the primary phrases of a deal. 

By that Saturday, an settlement letter had been drafted and signed by Watson and protest chief Tamara Lich. It was launched to the public on Sunday, Feb. 13.

That night time, protest leaders, police and different metropolis officers reconvened in the mayor’s boardroom to finalize the logistics. Acting Supt. Rob Drummond, assigned by Sloly to execute the plan, produced a map displaying the place the vehicles can be moved.

“He was principally laying out how that operation would unfold the subsequent morning,” Kanellakos stated. “When we left the assembly … we had a map of the place the vehicles can be moved.”

Already, there have been issues. The protesters needed to declare extra actual property alongside the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, however police and metropolis officers had been adamant the bulk of the vehicles be moved to Wellington Street, with overflow being directed to a designated space west of the metropolis.

Meanwhile, Sloly was anxious about whether or not OPS had the assets to efficiently full the operation

“He was involved about his capability to try this,” Kanellakos stated, however Bell and appearing deputy chief Trish Ferguson had been behind the plan.

At the identical time, protest leaders agreed to fan out that night time and go “truck by truck, speaking with everyone to get them in line.”

Problems out of the gate

Things did not go in accordance to plan, nonetheless. First, owing to what Kanellakos characterised as “communications points,” some cops refused to let extra vehicles enter Wellington Street. Eventually, about 40 automobiles had been allowed onto  the avenue.

The greater downside was that lots of the protesters in pickup vehicles and different lighter automobiles refused to transfer from the residential streets the place they had been parked, and some even blocked the effort to focus the protest on Wellington Street, Kanellakos stated.

“There wasn’t an alignment of function by everyone that was on all these streets. They had completely different causes for wanting to keep.”

Left to proper: Tamara Lich, with attorneys Eva Chipiuk and Keith Wilson, arrive at the Public Emergency Order Commission in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

There was additionally pushback from Larry Brookson, appearing director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, who registered his displeasure in a textual content message to Kanellakos.

“Quite actually Steve, I’m at a loss at how this type of settlement may have been labored out with a clear disregard to safety, particularly contemplating we simply completed a bomb blast evaluation which included a menace of explosives being transferred through massive automobiles,” Brookson wrote.

Kanellakos testified that Brookson ought to have been nicely conscious of the plan, and identified that by that point “lots of” of heavy automobiles had already been occupying Parliament Hill.

By the subsequent day, none of it mattered anyway.

“The deal had fallen aside by way of shifting the vehicles anyhow up onto Wellington Street by Tuesday,” Kanellakos stated.

Nor did the assembly between the mayor and the protesters ever happen.

“They by no means fulfilled their end of the discount, so he by no means met with them.”

Watson is scheduled to seem earlier than the fee on Tuesday.

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