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Ottawa police, city lawyers considering court order to end convoy protests


Ottawa police and city lawyers are discussing applying for a court injunction as means of ending the ongoing trucker convoy protest, with Ottawa Police Service Chief Peter Sloly saying Wednesday that the situation is “intolerable” and “unprecedented”

Appearing at a news conference on Wednesday, Sloly had a message for demonstrators, calling them “unlawful” and warning them that there are consequences to their actions – and that charges will be pursued against people “no matter where they’re from,” adding that there were people from across the country in Ottawa.

He said that officers have been “pushed to the limit” and “injured” in the course of their duties, and the longer the demonstration continues, the greater the risk becomes. They are now weighing potentially calling in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“All plans are on the table” to end the protest in Ottawa, Sloly said, from negotiated to enforced removal. Sloly said officers have been working with city and police legal services teams to pursue an injunction against the protesters and have considered military involvement.

“There are some amazing capabilities that come with (military use) but there are some risks involved,” he said.

Military action during a civilian demonstration is extremely rare. In the past, the Oka Crisis from 1990 and the October Crisis involving the Front Liberation du Quebec are among the only instances of military involvement for domestic civilian demonstrations.

On Tuesday, Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters that the demonstration is not within their jurisdiction and is up to city police to resolve, though members of the RCMP and Parliamentary Protective Service have been in contact with city officers in Ottawa.

Ottawa police believe there is a significant faction involved in the trucker convoy from the U.S., with plans for more to come, and that there is evidence some participants have brought in weapons to the downtown core.

According to a statement from the convoy’s organizers Wednesday, they plan to remain in Ottawa “for as long as it takes for governments across Canada to end all mandates associated with COVID-19.”

"Our message to the citizens of Ottawa is one of empathy,” said senior convoy leader Chris Barber, in the release. “We understand your frustration and genuinely wish there was another way for us to get our message across, but the responsibility for your inconvenience lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians who have prefer [sic] to vilify and call us names rather than engage in respectful, serious dialogue.”

Deputy Chief Trish Ferguson estimated that the protest crowds ranged from 8,000 to 15,000, with thousands of trucks at the protest on Saturday, but had significantly dropped off over time. Ferguson said the service has deployed hundreds of officers and is now in a state of “stabilization,” and that police have moved to “more strictly” enforce bylaws outside of the direct downtown core.

Deputy Chief Steve Bell said the remaining demonstrators were “highly volatile,” signalling a shift away from the “demonstration-based activities” of the weekend to more of an occupying force.

“We’re seeing several protesters that intend to attend this weekend on foot,” he continued, adding that he anticipated the demonstrations would continue through the weekend and that every police action has to be weighed against potential violence.

Police are expecting additional trucks and vehicles to arrive in the city this weekend and Sloly said there is little officers can do to slow down or stop the additional protesters.

“There is no lawful authority to seal a city, there is no practical capability to seal this city, the size of it, and if we were to do so and block every truck coming through here, the economic impact would be even greater than what we talked about,” he said. 


Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, thanking the police, reiterated that it “is time for the protesters to go home,” and that the police will be “implementing its de-mobilizing plan to reduce the protesters footprint and further contain disruptions.” Watson said there have been no deaths and no major injuries during the protest thus far, a feat he attributed to Sloly.

Ottawa Police Service Board Chair Diane Deans said it has “been a very long six days in the nation’s capital,” and called the behaviour of the protesters “unacceptable.”

Ottawa police announced Wednesday that they had charged a 48-year-old man from Quebec with “uttering threats” and “counseling to commit an indictable offence not committed,” in relation to threats made on social media while he was in Ottawa.

The newest announcement makes three people charged in relation to the convoy thus far.

Ottawa police also announced Tuesday night that two people were arrested and charged in connection with incidents that took place at the demonstration over the weekend.

A 29-year-old Ottawa man, Matthew Dorken, was arrested and charged for allegedly causing mischief “under $5,000” to property on Saturday. On Sunday, a 37-year-old Ottawa man was charged with carrying a weapon to a public meeting. No further details were given on what the weapon was. 

On Wednesday, court documents revealed that Andre Lacasse was arrested and charged with “carrying a weapon to a public meeting” and allegedly had a collapsible baton and non-folding six-inch knife.

Ottawa police said that they have several investigations underway, eight complaints to their dedicated hotline about the convoy, three of which will be investigated by the service’s Hate and Bias Crime Unit, and that they are making progress on the "desecration of the War Monument."

Deans said she has heard reports ranging from harassment, threats, public urination and defecation to property damage. Deans said she is arranging to get more police resources into the city.

Deans said there has been discussion about the mayor or the prime minister calling GoFundMe directly to ask them to stop releasing money to the trucker convoy, and brought up potential legal action against the fundraising platform, but did not say if those decisions had been made.

“I want to say I am sorry for the living hell you are enduring,” Deans said. 


However, parts of Ottawa’s downtown core remain inaccessible to the public as a scaled-down, core group of protesters continue to occupy the areas surrounding Parliament Hill.

Several businesses remain closed due to the protest on Wednesday, including the Rideau Centre. The Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History, which were supposed to reopen their doors Wednesday, announced they would remain closed until Feb. 9 due to ongoing disruptions.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday inside Parliament's West Block, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Marco Mendicino said the government wants to “emphasize is the concern that we have for local residents whose daily lives have been significantly disrupted as a result of the convoy and the demonstrators.”

“For those who say that this is simply been festive and peaceful, I think the local residents here have experienced, you know, quite a significant amount of disruption on that,” he continued. “The demonstrators have been able to get their message across but now it's time for the city to move on.”


There have been calls for Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the Ottawa Police Service to do more to remove the convoy, after officials on Tuesday estimated the crowd to include approximately 50 people on Parliament Hill and another 200 nearby.

When questioned about residents who have reported being harassed about wearing masks or who “feel abandoned” by the city and by the police, Mendicino said he empathized, and that it was “unacceptable” for anybody to say “don’t wear a mask” when public health guidelines say the opposite.

Mendicino said the city and Ottawa police are in contactwith the federal government and the Commissioner of the RCMP “every day” about additional resources, but did not elaborate on if or how, those resources could be rolled out. 

Ottawa businessman and co-owner of Happy Goat Coffee Henry Assad said on CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday that they closed some of their locations in downtown Ottawa for the safety of their employees.

“When the convoy started rolling into Ottawa and setting up shop in the city centre…groups of the demonstrators were harassing employees and telling them to take their masks off…talking to employees in an intimidating manner. The police showed up a few times, so we thought it would be a good idea to close down for now,” Assad said. “The staff have made it clear they don’t feel comfortable going to work.”

Assad said he felt there was a “double standard” with the trucker convoy, referring to how the police and city staff have been dealing with them compared to other protests.

“I think the police need to do more, I’ve never seen Ottawa Police acting in such a manner for other demonstrations.”

As for the protesters themselves, Assad said their attempts to help small businesses with their protest to end mandates, “are really hurting [them].” 

Some residents in Ottawa have reported being challenged on wearing masks by protesters and being assaulted while walking in their neighbourhoods.


Meanwhile, organizers reiterate that the best way to get them to leave is with a dropping of all COVID-19-related health restrictions.

"The fastest way to get us out of the nation's Capital, is to call your elected representatives and end all C-19 mandates, as the U.K. did two weeks ago and as both Sweden and Switzerland did today,” Barber said in a release from the convoy organizers. 

The U.K. lifted many COVID-19 restrictions in mid-January, and while Switzerland announced Wednesday plans to relax several coronavirus measures, with two paths forward towards dropping all restrictions by the end of February, it has not dropped them all.

Sweden, which has had less COVID-19 restrictions than many countries, still uses a COVID-19 vaccine pass for travelling, attending indoor events and public gatherings.

The statement also decried “rhetoric” from politicians, in particular Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who they accuse of characterizing the protesters “as racists, and even terrorists.”

"We are determined to be respectful the law [sic], be peaceful in conduct, and to retain our dignity, despite the school-yard mudslinging and bullying of some politicians and members of the press. Nobody should underestimate our resolve or our resilience,” the statement reads.


Some counter-protesters have begun to show up to the more congregated areas of the protest, one with a sign Tuesday night that read “we will not be held hostage in our own city.”

Others are making a moresimple stand against the trucks in their neighbourhood, standing in the roadway and refusing to let them pass.

Sloly said on Wednesday that he is concerned with residents taking matters into their own hands and urged people to instead report all criminal actions with police.

“If investigators don’t have an actual report or complaint, they can’t commence a criminal investigation,” he said.

“When we get reports, we’ve been able to assign investigator and so far we’ve been able to actually arrest and charge people for those criminal offences.”

Some concerned residents have begun a counter protest outside Ottawa police headquarters, with signs such as “Do your job. Send them home” and “What are we paying you for?”

Protesters will have to deal with the winter storm coming their way, with Environment Canada estimating that parts of Ontario, including Ottawa, could see freezing rain Wednesday morning in addition to snowfall, depending how low the temperature drops. Up to 20 centimetres of snow is expected in the capital.

The snow also presents an issue for the city, as many trucks are blocking routes and residential areas that will need snow removal services.


With a file from writer Tom Yun Top Stories

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