On Day 12 of the Emergencies Act hearings, former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said that “misinformation and disinformation” from mainstream media sources during the Freedom Convoy was “unrelenting” and seriously damaged the morale of Ottawa police officers.
“It was crushing to the members’ morale” – “It was unrelenting, it was 24 hours a day,” said Sloly. “By the end of the weekend it had become a global story that the mainstream media was following and none of it was portraying, in any way accurate, the hard work of the men and women of the OPS. None of it. To this day it hasn’t.”
“That is very unfortunate because public trust and confidence is the number one public safety factor,” Sloly continued. “When any police service loses public trust and confidence that in itself is a massive public safety threat and risk. It materializes in so many ways.”
“Public opinion against the OPS and its members turned just as quickly and to the same unprecedented levels that were unrelenting.”
Sloly, who resigned from his position on Feb. 15, went on to talk about how during the pandemic, he lost communication with his staff and other officers. He noted that meetings with staff on Zoom were inadequate for proper communication and that he was eager to meet with people in person.
Sloly testified that he was under the impression that the convoy would be a weekend event and that he had “some doubts” as to whether or not it was actually going to materialize. Sloly said that his force was “tired” after the 2020 ‘Defund the Police’ movements.
Yet a risk assessment later produced by the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) said the demonstrations were expected to be “bigger in crowd size than any demonstration in history” with large pools of protesters.
A few days before the convoy had arrived, Sloly explained, he got his first request for additional police resources from Ottawa Acting Deputy Chief Patricia Ferguson
Sloly mentioned there was a disconnect from federal partners and that he was only communicating with provincial police: “Why wasn’t I getting risk assessments from federal partners?”
“There’s a structural deficit in the national risk assessment process,” said Sloly. “This was “not optimal.”
Commission lawyer Frank Au asked about Sloly’s view of the Charter, which prevented them from blocking trucks from coming downtown. Sloly said that he’s a cop, not a lawyer, but still believed they couldn’t close roads without a real threat to public safety.
Au brought up a Jan. 28 internal memo, which offers a legal opinion on the convoy. It said cops should balance competing Charter rights, impacts to mobility and health safety in Ottawa. Sloly said he had access to the legal opinion at the time.
Sloly recalls there being roughly 5,000 vehicles surrounding Ottawa’s parliament building between Jan. 28 and 29.
“There wasn’t one convoy ever. There were multiple convoys with groups that arrived and left on a daily basis,” said Sloly.
“What we were dealing with in reality was a massive group of fluid interacting individuals and groups where there was no one leader, no one spokesperson and no one thing to deal with,” he said.
Sloly described frustrations within the department, noting instances of changes to incident commanders without his knowledge and examples of individuals going outside of the chain of command.
Sloly became concerned that OPS would not be able to remove protesters and trucks without “hundreds of officers.”
When asked if he was comfortable letting the OPP take a lead role, Sloly said he did not make a request and would not unless he needed to.
“We were three days into the situation… I think it would have been irresponsible and unnecessary to burden another police service with that level of a request,” he says. Sloly rejected the idea of having OPP take command of local officers.
Although Sloly said that “nothing was off the table” in the response, including OPP integration.
By Feb. 14, Sloly began to hear comments about his potential resignation. At first Sloly did not consider it but said he changed his mind the next day due to exhaustion and, among other reasons, how then-board chair Diane Deans said she lost confidence in him.
Sloly was asked to give his account on the competing narrative of the convoy bring a risk to public safety or if it was “family friendly.”
“It was a tinder box waiting to explode, it was not a family festival,” said Sloly.
Hearings will resume on Monday October 31 at 9:30 am ET. Peter Sloly is expected to continue his testimony.
True North will continue to have daily coverage of the ongoing Emergencies Act hearings.