Secret recording reveals deep rift over plan to hire new Ottawa police chief during convoy crisis


A secretly recorded dialog between Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Diane Deans about an aborted plan to hire a new police chief on the peak of final winter’s convoy protest was performed Wednesday on the public inquiry analyzing the federal authorities’s resolution to invoke the Emergencies Act to assist finish the crisis.

The Feb. 15 recording, which was solely introduced ahead to the fee Wednesday morning, was entered into proof on the Public Order Emergency Commission Wednesday afternoon. The tense name was recorded by Deans’ assistant with out Watson’s data, she later testified.

The name, which got here simply hours after former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly introduced his resignation, begins with Watson asking Deans for an replace on the plan to change Sloly and restore “stability to the group” after almost three weeks of disruption to town’s downtown.

I hope that you do not rush into this, as a result of I believe it might be a mistake at this level.– Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

“So principally, I’m going to sign a contract with a new chief at present and I consider he’ll begin on Monday,” Deans advised him.

“Who is that this and the way did you discover her or him?” a stunned-sounding Watson asks.

Dean explains the new hire was Matt Torigian, former chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, whose identify was amongst a brief record of potential candidates urged by the solicitor common’s workplace.

“He’s going to convey a crew with him, principally of some former chiefs with a number of depth of data, which can be going to are available to help him in getting this factor to an finish,” Deans mentioned, describing it as a “semi-permanent” contract of three to 10 months.

“This is clearly a shock,” Watson advised her.

Outgoing Ottawa metropolis councillor Diane Deans seems as a witness on the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa Oct. 19, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

‘So it is a carried out deal’

The two talk about what this can imply for deputy chief Steve Bell, who had simply been named interim chief.

“The method I see it’s that is most likely going to save Steve’s alternative to be the subsequent chief, as a result of the [poisonous] setting that now we have proper now. Anybody we put in there’s not going to final very lengthy, and Steve’s going to get blamed for this,” Deans mentioned, referring to the occupation.

“My understanding was that we had been going to get via this with Steve. So it is a carried out deal principally,” Watson replied. 

Deans advised him the Ottawa Police Services Board had authorised Torigian’s hire the day earlier than, however the contract hadn’t been signed.

“I imply in order for you to inform me that you do not assume you need me to sign that contract, I imply I can return to the board and inform them that you’d moderately not, however I truly consider that that is the suitable factor to do, Jim.”

Watson expressed his concern that the new hire, which he described during testimony earlier this week as “three chiefs in three days,” can be “very destabilizing,” notably because it was coming simply earlier than what was anticipated to be a transfer by police to disperse the protesters.

“I do not help this. I believe that is the fallacious method on the fallacious time,” mentioned Watson, describing the concept as a “sideshow” that might probably jeopardize any plan to finish the occupation. Watson advised Deans he was additionally involved a couple of lack of transparency or session, notably with town’s BIPOC group.

Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly sits and waits to appear as a witness at the House of Commons Procedures and House Affairs committee June 2, 2022 in Ottawa.
Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly resigned amid the convoy crisis final February, sparking a tense few days at metropolis corridor as they tried to determine a plan ahead. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

‘Internal angst’ inside Ottawa police

Deans argued that bringing in an skilled and revered lawman might convey stability to the Ottawa Police Service.

“There’s inside angst within the high ranks proper now,” she mentioned.

As mayor, Watson can not legally direct the police board in its decision-making, however Deans once more supplied to defer to his authority.

“If you are telling me not to do it, then I’ll not do it,” she mentioned.

“I hope that you do not rush into this, as a result of I believe it might be a mistake at this level, and I believe it might undermine Steve Bell,” Watson answered.

As Watson testified earlier this week, the contract was nonetheless signed later that day, however Torigian quickly withdrew his identify and Bell continued as interim chief.

A politician looks at a room from behind a desk with a microphone and water bottle on it.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson surveys the room as he waits for the Public Order Emergency Commission to resume Oct. 18, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Plot to oust Deans as chair

Deans additionally requested Watson whether or not there was a behind-the-scenes plot amongst her council colleagues to oust her as chair of the board.

“I’ve labored actually laborious for the final 20 days, I believe it might be a courtesy to a minimum of let me know what’s coming at me,” she advised him.

“I have not seen any movement,” Watson mentioned, telling her he hadn’t determined whether or not he would help a vote of non-confidence.

Deans was eliminated as chair of the police board in a metropolis council vote the next day.

Asked during cross-examination whether or not she had any moral qualms about asking her assistant to report the decision with out Watson’s data, Deans testified she didn’t.

“I simply needed to make certain we had an correct reflection of that assembly,” she mentioned, noting Watson had failed to disclose to her that metropolis supervisor Steve Kanellakos was additionally on the decision.

“I do not assume it was calculated,” Deans mentioned of the recording. “This was a really tense moment.”

Asked after testifying whether or not she felt the rift between her and the mayor contributed to any delay within the police motion that ended the occupation, Deans mentioned she wasn’t sure.

“What was the consequence? I imply, the mayor and council destabilized the board in the midst of a crisis. I do not assume that was helpful,” Deans advised reporters.

“I believe when the going acquired robust, the police board and to a sure extent the police chief had been handy scapegoats.”


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