February 17, 2022
On day 21 of the occupation in our downtown core, I want my community to know I remain relentless in my commitment to restore our communities.
And as we approach Family Day weekend, I want assurances that residents can enjoy our city freely and businesses can open their doors without fear.
As we have seen the police chief stepping down, the reorganization of the Ottawa Police Services Board, as well as questionable actions from other leaders, I am left with pause.
The decisions made at Council last night were not easy. Emotions were high. We want answers and results for residents.
At the end of the day, as a leader, I believe you must stand behind those who you chose to lead, and should they fail, you must also be held accountable. Coun. Diane Deans should have stepped down as Chair of the board following the resignation of our police chief.
However, at Council last night, right after receiving an update from interim Chief Bell, I, and many council members found out – via media leak – a new interim chief from Southern Ontario was arriving after the long weekend. All while residents in Ottawa urgently implored authorities to end the occupation.
To me, this was not a sign of responsible leadership. Nor does this offer the stability or openness we need. This contributed to my decision to vote for the replacement of the Chair of the Police Services Board.
I am saddened many felt the need to resign and want to thank those who have served on the Ottawa Police Services Board.
To my friend and colleague, Rawlson King, his tireless efforts on the board offered hope to a police service that desperately needed hope and change. He is a person of integrity, who carries the voice and hope of so many in your community as well as a leader within the BIPOC communities across Ottawa.
I regret that Councillor Carol Ann Meehan also resigned. She has worked extremely hard – to bring change to Ottawa’s policing model and to raise challenges from communities and ask tough questions as she had done for decades in local media. Her dedication is admirable.
I do not challenge their effectiveness on the board. They worked hard to bring action and change to the Ottawa Police service. I voted against their proposed replacements as this would have caused further unnecessary instability for the board.
Ottawa has changed, and our leadership needs to reflect the Ottawa of the future. We must not stop our work towards having more BIPOC and gender diverse leaders in key decision-making roles.
Now, as we move forward, my hope is this is the last day we must question City Council leadership and that we come together to permanently resolve this situation for the residents of Ottawa.
These deep-rooted concerns require answers from City and emergency services as well as the full understanding of the Federal and Provincial governments offer of aid.
But importantly, we must also do the hard work of rebuilding trust with police and community. I pledge to Interim Chief Bell any assistance and insights I can provide.
After the occupation, the Ottawa Police Services Board must conduct a nationwide search for the next Chief through an open and transparent process.
It is also necessary to have increased foot presence from our local police service in our residential neighbourhoods. This must remain once the trucks and occupiers are removed to help rebuild confidence and safety.
From loss of transit, safety and security, small businesses on the brink of permanent closures and the unprecedented three-week and counting closure of the Rideau Centre – everyone deserves answers.
On Wednesday at Council, I supported several motions which stand up for what Ottawa citizens believe in and deserve.
From a request for free transit for Somerset and Rideau-Vanier wards, creating a mechanism to counter the hate we witnessed in our streets, to limiting movement within our residential streets to stop the occupiers from overrunning the city anymore especially in or near school zones.
Additionally, Council has requested that Mayor Jim Watson issue a formal apology on behalf of City Council to all Ottawa residents, and those in the downtown core, for failing to provide the safety and security we all expect.
We must all, leaders, decision makers and elected officials, focus on the end of the occupation. Then we can begin to heal.
In time, we must hear from residents on the impacts of the occupation, have a transparent investigation on the failures that were made across institutions.
We deserve answers and must ensure these mistakes never happen again in Ottawa.
I have submitted several questions to Ottawa Police Services Board and to the City to begin to bring clarity on the decisions made.
These include but are not limited to:
- What legal advice led OPS to allowing trucks to move freely outside of dedicated truck routes?
- What intelligence did OPS have prior to the arrival of demonstrators and how did it inform the enforcement plan?
- When was the first request to the provincial government (from City, Mayor and Chief) and what was it for and on what date was it requested? (Please include all/any official correspondence and request from City/OPS authorities to the Government of Ontario (including OPP).
- When was the first request to the Federal government (from City, Mayor, Chief) and what was it for and on what date was it requested? Please include all/any correspondence and request from the CITY/OPS authorities to the Government of Canada (Including RCMP).
- Why did the City not declare a state of Emergency following the weekend of the Jan 28th?
- Was the demonstration declared illegal? If so, when? If not, why not?
- What were the enforcement tactics once the situation became an Occupation instead of a protest?
- Was an ultimatum given to occupiers? If so, when was this given and with what consequences?
- Can you share the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) decisions timeline?
- Why was bylaw refused, and on so many occasions stopped, from enforcing City bylaws, including parking violations?
- What led to the City’s injunction? Why wasn’t that injunction filled weeks earlier?
- Why were random heavy trucks allowed to be abandoned on City streets, outside of the occupiers red zone? (Including Sussex Drive, Nicholas Street, Rideau Street, King Edward Avenue)
- How did City/OPS bring public safety within Rideau Street, ByWard Market, and Sandy Hill?
- How did City/OPS make it possible for local businesses to operate safely?
- Can you outline the decisions made by OPS as it comes to enforcement approach in the Integrated Command Centre?
- What measures were taken to protect elected officials who received threats during the occupation?
- What measures were put in place to support targeted businesses?
- What measures were put in place to protect threats on local schools?
This list will grow.