Police chief considering all options including military aid to end Ottawa truckers’ protest

Chief Peter Sloly said police intended to step up enforcement and would pursue criminal charges against participants who broke the law.

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OTTAWA – Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said the city considered all options to end a six-day protest that clogged the streets around Parliament Hill, including using army, as more protesters are expected to descend on the city this weekend.

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What started as a convoy of truckers protesting a vaccination mandate for cross-border travel has grown into a larger protest against all COVID restrictions, including mask mandates and lockdowns.

Sloly said his officers were tired and stretched after days of policing the protest which led to major disruption.

“The range of illegal, dangerous and unacceptable activities is beyond the capacity to enumerate and the time available to us today,” he told a meeting of city councillors.

He said the police intended to step up law enforcement and would pursue criminal charges against participants who broke the law. The number of trucks on Ottawa streets decreased somewhat on Wednesday, but it is still enough to block several downtown streets and close some interprovincial bridges.

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The city’s downtown mall, the Rideau Center with nearly 200 stores, has been closed since Saturday and has announced plans to remain so until at least Sunday. Dozens of other downtown businesses have also been closed since the convoy arrived and residents have complained of harassment from protesters.

  1. Trucks were parked, filling Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway on Sunday afternoon.

    Prime Minister tells protesters to ‘let the people of Ottawa live their lives’

  2. January 31, 2022 - Anti-vaccine protesters and truckers continue to demonstrate on Wellington Street in Ottawa Monday morning

    Remaining protesters say they won’t leave until all COVID restrictions are lifted

Sloly said police expect more protesters to return to the city over the weekend and that a central group is essentially occupying the city. He said they were negotiating with some groups, but other event attendees showed no interest in talking to police about reducing the impact of their protest on residents.

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“The longer this protest continues, the greater the risk to public safety. All options are on the table to solve this demo. That said, there may not be a police solution to this protest.

He said he was also monitoring the border blockade at Coutts, Alta., where a large group of truckers cut off access to the United States.

The RCMP intervened in that convoy on Tuesday, but had only limited success in breaking the blockade.

Ottawa residents and city councilors complained that the police were not doing enough to put down the protest, while police erected barricades to prevent vehicles from coming and going, protesters were able to bring fuel to the semi-trucks parked around Parliament, which operates 24 hours a day and honks at all hours.

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Com. Diane Deans, who is also chairwoman of the police board, apologized to residents for the ongoing disruption.

“I’m sorry for the hell you’re going through,” she said. “We live in the nation’s capital, home of our democracy. We expect protests and demonstrations, but we don’t expect that.

Trucks line Wellington Street in Ottawa as a protest against COVID restrictions reaches its sixth day, February 2, 2022.
Trucks line Wellington Street in Ottawa as a protest against COVID restrictions reaches its sixth day, February 2, 2022. Photo by Tony Caldwell/Postmedia

Sloly said the city had considered asking the army for help, but warned that the army was not trained in policing and bringing them in would have drawbacks.

“We are looking at every option, including military aid to civilian power,” he said. “As I said before, all options are being considered. None of the options create a beautiful, elegant, simple and safe solution. They all come with huge risks. This option in particular would carry enormous risks.

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Some of the protest leaders issued a press release on Wednesday. They said there that the only way to end the protest was for politicians to end all COVID-19 mandates.

“Our message to the citizens of Ottawa is one of empathy. We understand your frustration and sincerely wish there was another way for us to get our message across, but the blame for your inconvenience rests entirely on the shoulders of the politicians who preferred to vilify and insult us rather than engage in a respectful and serious dialogue,” said convoy leader Chris Barber. “The fastest way to get us out of the nation’s capital is to call your elected representatives and end all C-19 terms.”

Sloly said they have support and additional officers from several other police forces, including Toronto, Hamilton and York Region, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP.

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The Parliamentary Protective Service, which is overseen by the RCMP, handles security on Parliament Hill itself, but the Ottawa Police has jurisdiction over the streets just off the hill. Sloly said the RCMP has offered more resources, but the RCMP also has limits on the number of people they can bring.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said they were working closely with Ottawa police and he encouraged protesters to go home.

“We are doing everything we can to support the Ottawa Police and, as I said, those lines of communication have been opened. They talk every day. They speak almost every hour and they make operational decisions on the ground to ensure the safety of the community.

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