By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
Ottawa’s Chief of Police is out. There is no clear answer as to when downtown demonstrations will end.
On Tuesday afternoon a special Ottawa Police Services Board Meeting was held hours after originally planned. It was meant to provide an update to the downtown siege, but started off with the Chiefs resignation.
“Today, the Ottawa Police Services Board and Chief Peter Sloly reached a mutually agreed upon separation. Effective immediately Chief Sloly is no longer employed with the Ottawa Police Service.,” said Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Diane Deans. “We thank Chief Sloly for his service to the City of Ottawa. As this is a labour relations matter, no further comment will be made.”
Details as to why Sloly decided to leave is still for the most part unknown. A recent CBC News report said he has been accused of bullying and volatile behaviour behind closed doors.
In a statement sent out as the meeting got underway, Sloly said it’s been a difficult journey, but was proud of what he’s accomplished during his time in Ottawa.
“Since the onset of this demonstration, I have done everything possible to keep this city safe and put an end to this unprecedented and unforeseeable crisis,” he said. “We have acquired new resources and enforcement tools, and stood up the new Integrated Command Centre. I am confident the Ottawa Police Service is now better positioned to end this occupation.”
For two weeks Sloly has been under fire for how the Ottawa Police have handled the demonstrations downtown. Many in the city feel they aren’t using their existing powers to the fullest capabilities. Horns are still blaring, fuel is still making its way onto the site, stores remain closed, passerby are being harassed, and demonstrators seem to do what they want. Dance parties have been held nightly outside Parliament Hill; a stage, lighting, and sound equipment has been brought in giving off a nightclub atmosphere.
Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson said he agreed with Sloly’s resignation, but thanked him for his service to Ottawa.
“Unfortunately, it had become clear that many members of the Police Board, City Council and the general public were not satisfied with the response of the police in bringing the occupation to an end,” he said in a statement. “While I do not sit on the Police Board, I support the decision made to accept Chief Sloly’s resignation and to appoint Steve Bell as Interim Chief of the Ottawa Police Service.”
A Downton Carnival
During Tuesday afternoons Ottawa Police Services Board meeting, acting Interim Police Chief Steve Bell said a demonstration of this magnitude has never been seen in Canada’s history. The size, scale, and proudness of the demonstrators have meant police are outnumbered.
Bell wouldn’t give many details on operational plans, citing safety concerns. He did say while resources were slow coming, they were in an adequate position to bring the occupation to an end.
Last week Ottawa Police asked for 1,800 officers to protect the capital and lay down the law. Bell admitted that number hasn’t been reached, but noted help from the RCMP and OPP has been valuable.
Board chair Diane Deans said she, like many others, is reaching a breaking point when it comes to the scenes playing out downtown.
“One of my frustrations has been when we expect action we don’t see it, it’s a problem,” she said. “This weekend when we said that we were going to treat the protesters more strongly than we have in the past, we had a chaotic carnival on parliament hill. I tell you I wanted to go up there and pop that damn hot tub myself and unplug the bouncy castle. I couldn’t understand why we weren’t doing just those things.”
Interim Chief Bell responded by saying he shares the frustration of Ottawa residents, and says they are working hard “every single day” to bring an end to the siege.
“These people need to leave. They are not welcome on our streets anymore,” he said. “We are getting the resources, we have the plan and are increasing our abilities to have them go or removed from our streets.”
Rideau-Rockcliffe councillor Rawlson King, who also sits on the Ottawa Police Services Board, didn’t agree with Bell’s opinion that the situation is under control with adequate resources.
“We have seen a scenario where the lack of police action has been inexplicable for many of our residents. We have seen the idling trucks, we have seen the idling generators, we have seen the assembly of jumbotrons, bouncy castles, barbecues,” he said.
“Most dangerously we have seen fuel dumps full of gas, diesel, and propane canisters. People are being harassed in the streets, they can’t go into stores, they aren’t able to enjoy any part of a normal life,” King added. “Supply camps remain in operation and residents have taken on the dangerous work of enforcement and resistance in their own hands. So I have to say I didn’t see adequate and effective policing here.”
The Ottawa Police Services Board says work to find a new Police Chief will begin immediately.
Day 19 of the siege, demonstrators show no signs of leaving. Proof of vaccination will lift in Ontario March 1, masks will remain for now. While they see this as a step forward, the main mission is to end federal mandates.
Truckers want to see an end to vaccine passports at the Canada/US border. Roughly 90 per cent of Canadian truckers are fully vaccinated. And even if the Trudeau government gave into their demands, Joe Biden’s White House has a similar measure in place on that side of the border.
The price tag for police resources locally currently sits at $14.1 million. They say 172 investigations are ongoing, 33 charges have been laid, 18 arrests made, and nearly 3,000 tickets issued.