The Ottawa Police Service has cleared the Freedom Convoy of involvement in a highly-publicized arson attempt in an apartment building while protests were still ongoing throughout the city.
According to a Mar. 21 press release, one 21-year-old man named Connor Russell McDonald was charged for his involvement.
“A man has been charged in relation to a deliberately set fire in an apartment building on Lisgar Street on February 6, 2022. A second man is still wanted by police,” Ottawa Police wrote. “There is no information indicating MCDONALD was involved in any way with the Convoy protest which was going on when this arson took place.”
McDonald was charged with one count each of arson disregard for human life, arson causing property damage, mischief to property endangering life, mischief to property and possessing incendiary material.
Police are still looking to identify the second suspect, and anyone with information is being asked to contact the Ottawa Police Service Arson Unit at 613-236-1222, extension 3771 or 4587.
Various media outlets and politicians had spread the claim that the arson was perpetrated by convoy protesters, part of a concerted effort by opponents of the truckers to smear them as extremists and domestic terrorists.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was chief among those who blamed the convoy for the incident.
During a Feb. 7 city council meeting, Watson declared that the arson “clearly demonstrates the malicious intent” of the truckers.
“Yesterday we learned of a horrific story that clearly demonstrates the malicious intent of the protesters occupying our city,” said Watson. “On Sunday morning, two young men entered the lobby of the building on Lisgar St. where they proceeded to light fire starter bricks near the elevators before taping up the door handles so residents would struggle to get out during a fire.”
A number of federal politicians have also tried to pin the arson on protestors including Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull who said that he saw “thefts and attempted arson.”
The Liberals also used the attempted arson to justify Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act to quash the peaceful protests.
“(Protesters) have harassed employees of local businesses, so much so that businesses have had to close for three weeks. There was an attempted arson and the doors were handcuffed shut so that if a fire started, people would be burned alive inside the building,” said Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell on Feb. 19.
As recently as last week, at least one MP was still openly blaming the arson on convoy protesters.
Speaking to Global News on Mar. 14 about an anticipated Victoria convoy, NDP MP and former Victoria city councillor Laurel Collins continued to attribute the crime to Freedom Convoy demonstrators.
“You know, there was attempted arson,” she said. “Citizens in Ottawa were subjected to noise at all hours of the night. People were harassed on the streets. This was not a peaceful demonstration. It was an occupation. And, you know, the organizers, many who had connections to far right extremism, were very clear in the lead-up that they actually wanted to overthrow the government.”