The chief superintendent in charge of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) response to the Freedom Convoy said the profile of demonstrators was unlike any he’d ever seen at a protest.
Carson Pardy, who has since retired from the OPP, testified Friday before the Public Order Emergency Commission that characterizing the convoy as having an “extremist” element was a problematic claim.
“The profile of the protester for this event was none like I’ve ever seen in my 36-year career,” he said. “We had everything from grandparents – you know, my first day in this assignment I was shown a picture of two officers that had worked for me in the past, who retired, who were in the crowd – we saw children, we saw a lot of crestfallen police officers in the crowd, nurses. It wasn’t your normal group of people that you’re dealing with.”
This stood in stark contrast to protests Pardy said he handled in his career around events like G-20 and G-7 summits, where there were groups espousing extremist views.
Pardy’s testimony also took aim at “one-sided” media coverage that didn’t reflect the situation on the ground.
The former chief superintendent reiterated that the Emergencies Act was not required for the police operation that ultimately broke up the three-week-long Ottawa protest.
Asked by counsel to the Commission whether the Emergencies Act was necessary, Pardy initially said it was a “loaded question.”
“I’m a police officer,” he said. “Parliament gives us legislation. We don’t make legislation. They provide it to us and we use it to the best of our abilities. They gave us a piece of legislation to use, we were thankful for it and we used it to the best of our abilities to incorporate it into our own plan.”
Pardy said police did use powers given to them by Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act and the federal Emergencies Act, but only did so because they were available, not because they were needed.
“In my humble opinion, we would have reached the same solution with the plan that we had without either of those pieces of legislation,” Pardy said, adding it would have taken place on the same timeline as it did with the Emergencies Act in place.
Pardy’s testimony also reaffirmed a recurring theme throughout the week of constant clashes between governments and police services at all levels, in particular between the Ontario Provincial Police and Ottawa Police Service.
Next week, interim Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell is slated to testify, as well as former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly.
The Public Order Emergency Commission hearings are scheduled to run until November 25, with dozens more anticipated witnesses including Freedom Convoy organizers, federal government officials, and eight cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.