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Emergencies Act a 'turning point' to end trucker 'occupation': Ottawa interim police chief

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On the first full day since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s historic Emergencies Act invocation, Ottawa’s interim Police Chief Steve Bell believes his police force now has the resources to end the protests in the city’s downtown core.

During a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Bell said he’s confident that police have reached “turning point” to end the demonstrations.

“With the new resources that we have seen flowing in from our police partners, the new tools that both our provincial and federal government have put in place, and our new integrated command centre … we believe we now have the resources and power to bring a safe end to this occupation,” he said.

Police say demonstrators in Ottawa overnight are down to fewer than 150 people, while vehicles in the downtown core are down to about 360, from the more than 4,000 vehicles during the height of the protests.

There are currently 172 active criminal investigations related to the protests, while police have laid 33 charges and made 18 arrests. Additionally, more than 3,000 tickets have been issued.

It remains unclear how Ottawa’s police will use the Emergencies Act, which Trudeau invoked on Monday and provides more tools for police to bring an end to the protests.

"We continue to await for official details before operationalizing [the Emergencies Act]," acting Deputy Police Chief Trish Ferguson said during the briefing. "We have been working with our legal team and those of our provincial and federal partners to understand implications of various orders and actions and consider the impacts on our ultimate mission."

Despite the additional police powers to end the protest in Ottawa, those still on the ground are undeterred.

“There are no threats that will frighten us. We will hold the line,” Convoy organizer Tamara Lich Lich said during a news conference on Monday. “To our truckers and friends on Parliament Hill, do not give into fear and threats.”

The police update came hours after news broke that Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly had resigned from the Ottawa Police Service.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Sloly said he is stepping down “with a heavy heart.”

“It has been a difficult journey, but I am incredibly proud of what has accomplished,” Sloly said. “Since the onset of this demonstration, I have done everything possible to keep this city safe and put and end to this unprecedented and unforeseeable crisis.”

In a news release on Tuesday afternoon, Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Diane Deans said the board reached a “mutually agreed upon separation” with Sloly, and replaced him with former Deputy Chief Steve Bell.

“We thank Chief Sloly for his service to the City of Ottawa,” Deans wrote in the statement. “As this is a labour relations matter, no further comment will be made.”

During the council briefing on Tuesday, Deans described the situation downtown as a “carnival of chaos," and welcomed the aid from the RCMP and OPP.

“Frankly, the response to this crisis so far has been ineffective at bringing this occupation to an end and restoring peace and security in Ottawa,” she said. “The OPS has been unable to adequately enforce our laws and our residents continue to be terrorized.”

Sloly has faced criticism over his handling of the Ottawa protests, which he and other officials have described as an unlawful "occupation."

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said there was a “level of frustration” among his council and city staff concerning the inaction downtown and that Sloly did “the right thing” by resigning.

“We saw too many examples where promises were made and they just didn’t deliver,” Watson told CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Tuesday.

“There was not clearly any movement to bring this situation to ahead. Really, the tipping point for me was we went into the third weekend and nothing happened.”

Watson reached a backchannel agreement the organizers of the convoy over the weekend to get the trucks parked in residential areas moved, and on Tuesday said that 43 of the 120 trucks in these areas had since moved. 

CTV News confirmed late Tuesday that former chief of staff to Ontario Premier Doug Ford Dean French served a mediator to the discussions between Watson and the convoy organizers, under several conditions, including that he was doing it as a private citizen and would not be paid.

Speaking at an announcement on Tuesday about changes to pre-arrival testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino addressed Sloly's departure from the Ottawa Police Service, saying that decision is not within the "remit or the mandate of the federal government."

He said an integrated command centre has been set up so the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP can share and assume command over enforcement in Ottawa.

"Our focus is to ensure that the Ottawa Police Service, as well as the OPP and the RCMP, have all of the tools that are necessary to restore public order in Ottawa."

Mendicino also acknowledged the police actions at the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alta. and other areas of the country in recent days, saying, "while we have seen progress, it is important that we continue to secure that progress going forward."

Both the clearing of the highway in Coutts and Sloly's departure come after the federal government on Monday declared a public order emergency, invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time since the law came into effect in 1988.

Additional powers granted under the emergency order include prohibiting public assemblies such as blockades and other protests deemed to be unlawful, authorizing the RCMP to enforce municipal and provincial laws, and imposing fines or imprisonment for breaches of measures.

During a technical briefing with reporters on Tuesday, senior officials with the federal government said the Emergencies Act would prohibit children under the age of 18 from joining the demonstrations, prohibit people from providing support such as fuel, and would stop slow-rolling protests designed to slow traffic, to name a few.

After formally declaring an emergency, the federal government must table a motion in Parliament within seven sitting days to allow the House of Commons and Senate to confirm it. Both chambers also have the power to revoke the declaration.

"This is about keeping Canadians safe, protect people's jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a news conference on Monday.

"We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue. The Emergencies Act will also allow the government to ensure that all essential services are rendered."

The federal government says the emergency measures will be "time limited" for the next 30 days and localized to certain blockades.

Trudeau said measures do not involve bringing in the military or the suspension of fundamental rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"We are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally, we are reinforcing the principles, values and institutions that keep all Canadians free," Trudeau said.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues that the federal government has not met the threshold to invoke the Emergencies Act.

"Governments regularly deal with difficult situations, and do so using powers granted to them by democratically elected representatives," the organization said on Twitter. "Emergency legislation should not be normalized. It threatens our democracy and our civil liberties."

The invoking of the Emergencies Act has received mixed responses from Canada's premiers, with some supporting the initiative and others opposing it.

SOME PROTESTERS LEAVE COUTTS

A number of protesters who set up a blockade at the border crossing near Coutts, Alta., left after Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized a cache of weapons and made a series of arrests on Monday.

Trucks, tractors and trailers seen blocking Highway 4 in Coutts had cleared the road on Monday afternoon, with protesters telling CTV News they decided to leave after police launched a raid on a smaller group within the larger protest.

Alberta RCMP say they arrested 13 people in total and seized multiple firearms, including 13 long guns, handguns, multiple sets of body armour, a machete, ammunition and high-capacity magazines. Two additional weapons were seized later in the day.

RCMP Supt. Roberta McKale said the weapons were brought in by people who intended on "causing harm."

"A number of different acts has created a situation where we're investigating conspiracy to attempt to commit murder," she said.

Protesters had restricted access to the border crossing, across from Sweet Grass, Mont., since Jan. 29. The Canada Border Services Agency reported on Tuesday that normal border processing had reopened at the port of entry.

A protester holds a hockey stick wrapped in a Canadian flag above his head, Feb. 14, 2022, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A protester holds a hockey stick wrapped in a Canadian flag above his head, Feb. 14, 2022, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

THE MONEY

Also part of the emergency declaration is a broadening of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing legislation to cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use.

Financial institutions can temporarily stop providing services to personal and corporate accounts suspected of furthering the blockades, freeze or suspend an account without a court order, and report anyone believed to be involved in the blockades to the RCMP or Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

All crowdfunding platforms and their payment service providers also must register with FINTRAC, or the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, and report "large and suspicious transactions," Freeland said.

She added that the federal government plans to put forward legislation to make the FINTRAC rules permanent.

"We are making these changes because we know that these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity, which is damaging the Canadian economy," Deputy Prime Minister Chystia Freeland said.

Kim Manchester, managing director of financial intelligence training company ManchesterCF, told The Canadian Press that flagging accounts in this way could financially ruin those targeted and make it difficult for them to get any financial services in the future.

He says that the new powers go too far given the level of threat posed by the protesters.

A new online fundraising venture, started by some self-described organizers of the Ottawa protest to "take care of home and family monthly expenses of truckers on the frontlines," went down Tuesday afternoon not long after it started.

As of Tuesday morning, $91,710 had been "pledged." The site was asking for $225,043.78.

A partial list of donors to the Freedom Convoy campaign on the U.S.-based platform GiveSendGo has also been leaked.

Organizers of the fundraiser moved to GiveSendGo after GoFundMe removed their initial campaign for allegedly violating the company's terms of service. The GiveSendGo fundraiser has raised about $9 million, while the GoFundMe campaign raised more than $10 million.

An analysis of the leaked GiveSendGo donor list by The Canadian Press shows that while 56 per cent of donations came from the United States, Canadians contributed the largest amount of money at US$4.31 million.

Traffic flows over the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Feb. 14, 2022 after protesters blocked the major border crossing for nearly a week in Windsor, Ont. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Traffic flows over the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Feb. 14, 2022 after protesters blocked the major border crossing for nearly a week in Windsor, Ont. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

OTHER PROTESTS

Late Tuesday, a border blockade near the border crossing at Emerson, Man., and Pembina, N.D., began to reopen, as local RCMP anticipate the demonstration to be completely cleared by Wednesday.

"Our negotiators appear to have come to an agreement with organizers of the blockade, and they have actually begun working on taking it down," Sgt. Paul Manaigre of the Manitoba RCMP, told CTV News Winnipeg.

"We've given them time to basically get their message across, at the same time we've kind of stipulated sort of where we needed to have things moved forward."

Earlier, a video posted to social media showed RCMP members shaking hands and hugging protesters. Cpl. Gina Slaney confirmed the scene was from Monday night in Coutts, The Canadian Press reports.

Traffic has resumed over the Ambassador Bridge linking Windsor, Ont., and Detroit after police removed remaining demonstrators who had blocked the critical border crossing.

In an update on Tuesday, the Windsor Police Service said officers have made 46 arrests since the demonstrations began, laying 90 charges including 43 for allegedly breaching a court order and another 43 for mischief over $5,000.

Police also said single charges have been laid for obstruction of justice, failing to attend court, dangerous driving and a Highway Traffic Act violation for failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

Thirty-seven vehicles have been seized or towed, police say.

Police in B.C., meanwhile, arrested four people for mischief at a protest near the Pacific Highway border crossing at Surrey and Blaine, Wash.

In a statement released Tuesday, the RCMP confirmed another 12 people had been arrested, bringing the total number of arrests up to 16.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed traffic is moving again at the border crossing. While never closed, protests and police barricades have limited traffic to pedestrians.

About 30 people continued to protest outside of the New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton on Monday. Police arrested three people over the weekend for blocking or stopping traffic in contravention of the province's Emergency Measures Act.

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press

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