Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Ottawa’s interim police chief says he did not ask the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act in February during the Freedom Convoy.

The Liberals have said law enforcement asked for additional powers that could only be granted by declaring a national emergency, which they did on Feb. 14.

Ottawa interim chief Steve Bell spoke to a parliamentary committee Tuesday about issues with jurisdiction in downtown Ottawa, along with representatives from the Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP and Gatineau police.

The committee on procedure and House affairs is examining whether federal security jurisdiction should expand to include Wellington and Sparks streets, the two east-west streets just south of Parliament Hill.

But MPs on the committee wanted clarity about who asked the government to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time since it became law in 1988.

“We were involved in conversations with our partners and with the political ministries,” Bell said. “We did not make a direct request for the Emergencies Act.”

The act granted police and financial institutions extraordinary powers to freeze bank accounts of organizers, create zones where people were not allowed to protest, ban people from supporting the protest and compel tow truck companies to help them clear out vehicles.

Similar to RCMP comments

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said something similar to a separate committee investigating the use of the Emergencies Act last week: that she was involved in conversations about triggering the act a week before it was invoked, but that she never asked for it.

She said emergency powers were useful in dislodging the protesters who were entrenched in Ottawa’s streets for weeks and there were times the RCMP would have used those powers sooner if the act had been invoked earlier.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told that same committee back in April that the Liberals “invoked the act because it was the advice of non-partisan professional law enforcement that the existing authorities were ineffective at the time to restore public safety.”

Mendicino also said the emergency declaration helped “smooth over differences in jurisdiction” among police forces and levels of government.

WATCH | Mendicino says what the Emergencies Act allowed:

Emergencies Act allowed police to end Ottawa protest convoy: minister

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says invoking the Emergencies Act gave law enforcement the necessary power to end the Ottawa protest convoy, in a special joint committee hearing looking into the federal government’s use of the act.

Police have faced a great deal of criticism from politicians and the public for what many said was a lack of enforcement of existing laws and a slow response.

Ottawa police were the lead agency in charge of the response to the convoy, which started in the last weekend of January and ended about three weeks later.

Ottawa’s police chief Peter Sloly resigned on Feb. 16 amid public outrage. Later that same day, the chair of the city’s police oversight board was also voted out.

Many police agencies were involved in clearing the occupation of streets in the downtown core, with hundreds of demonstrators blocking streets with vehicles to protest COVID-19 restrictions, vaccine mandates and the Liberal government.

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