BY IAN PATTISON
An updated version of a column that appeared in the November 5 print edition.
Well, it certainly doesn’t go according to anyone’s expectations. Rather than a tactical showdown between two well-organized factions, the Emergency Law investigation reveals a jumble of dysfunctions on the ground at the “Freedom Convoy” – among police and protesters.
Now that a judge’s attention is turned to the events of last winter – an attention that leans heavily towards the protesters – the competing narratives seek to put all players in the best possible light. The differences between what we’ve seen happen and what players say happened are sometimes mind-boggling.
So far, no one on the police side looks worse than former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly, who insisted he had no idea convoys Hundreds of large trucks converging on the capital from three directions to protest COVID-19 vaccination mandates would remain past. the first weekend.
Organizers of the convoy in British Columbia said before leaving that they planned to occupy downtown Ottawa “for as long as it takes”.
Three days before the first trucks arrived, the Ottawa Hotel Association notified the city of an organizer’s email requesting rooms for “a minimum of 30 days to 90 days,” with an estimated 10,000 people planning to attend. to arrive.
Intelligence from the Ontario Provincial Police confirmed all this and much more long before the arrival of the first large aircraft. What was Sloly thinking? Perhaps, as the police are wont to do when other police officers are brought into their jurisdiction, his instincts about his territory was all that mattered.
More disturbing than different interpretations of the same scenario by local, Ontario and federal police is testimony that some sympathetic officers shared intelligence with convoy organizers, warning of raids on fuel supplies, for example. The thin blue line is riddled with holes and that should be of concern to all Canadians as we enter a new era of discontent among factions that have proven themselves well armed and angry.
A particularly terrifying video tendered into evidence is that of the horsefly in the Pat King convoy who said, “Trudeau is going to catch a bullet.” There was a lot of that kind of talk in convoy communications, but in his testimony Wednesday, King said he was taken out of context before finally saying it was inappropriate.
It’s easy to act contrite after being caught. But the bravado was evident in many video messages from inside the convoy with his hatred of the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in particular.
Let’s not forget perhaps the most enduring image of these three weeks of occupation: a giant banner hanging from the side of a truck trailer parked in front of Parliament bearing the words “F—TRUDEAU”.
There was evidence at the inquest this week that someone threatened to ‘put a bullet’ in Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s head the day after someone linked to the organizer’s group Chris Barber had handed out flyers to the convoy that made inflammatory claims about his relationship with the World Economic Forum.
Oh no it was peace and love and hugs all around King, Barber, Tamara Lich and other key organizers insisted all week before the survey. Violence was the furthest thing from our minds. So the guys who wore swastikas and a Confederate flag early on were – what – kidding?
People who harassed shelter clients and ate soup kitchen food meant for the poor were – what – just hungry?
Protesters yelling at police on patrol and threatening Ottawa citizens wearing face masks were – what – were acting uncharacteristically?
A recurring theme among convoy attendees this week has been a version of “I had no idea the violence was being discussed and when I found out I told them to stop.” The preponderance of video and SMS evidence suggests otherwise.
These witnesses may be wrong, but few spectators of this circus have been convinced. An Ottawa police attorney accused Lich of “selective memory” after he denied he was told to leave, to put it mildly.
Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick called this parade of misfits a “convoy of the helpless.”
“Many convoy types testifying were people I would be hesitant to share an elevator with,” she wrote on Friday. “There’s something wrong with them.”
The participants in the convoy were given ample leeway by judge Paul Rouleau to spit out their abyss largely unchallenged by the lawyers in charge of the investigation. Meanwhile, Ottawa police attorneys and local citizens have had their cross-examination deadlines strictly enforced by Rouleau.
Another organizer took the hype to a new level this week. Tom Marazzo used his past experience as a military officer in the Canadian Armed Forces to provide military skills and training to partisans.
Regarding his motivation, Marazzo testified that Trudeau’s description of the convoy as it approached Ottawa alarmed him. He called Trudeau’s remarks “terrifying.”
For the record, here is what Trudeau said that so upset the former serviceman: “The small minority of people who are heading to Ottawa and who have unacceptable opinions that they express do not represent the opinions of Canadians who have been there. for each other, who know that following the science and protecting each other is the best way to continue to guarantee our freedoms, our rights, our values, as a country.
Downright scary, isn’t it?
THE QUESTION before the inquest is not whether the demonstrators in the convoy were bad or good, or whether the police acted in the interests of law and order. The question is whether the federal government was justified in using the Emergencies Act, which is the most powerful tool at its disposal to respond to problems.
The RCMP and senior security and intelligence analysts from the Privy Council Office, as well as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), provided a steady stream of information to the federal government.
Based on the intelligence as the convoy approached Ottawa, the RCMP mobilized a tactical troop, noting the social media posts “directed at certain ministers” which the RCMP deemed to have “an aggressive tone and possibly threatening”.
The RCMP warned that the rise of online rhetoric “in various networks known for their more extreme content referred to the events of January 6, 2021 at the United States Capitol during the discussion of the convoy to Ottawa”.
A threat notice issued by the RCMP on January 27 – the day before the trucks arrived – said news of Trudeau being isolated at home due to exposure to COVID-19 had sparked comments in line “he’s hiding” with “gossip” about where he “is located to protest”.
The RCMP emails described a volatile situation that Ottawa police were unable to contain as protests by copycats erupted at border crossings and in provincial capitals. No wonder the government was alarmed.
Some truckers went to Ottawa to plead for their livelihood. Others were not truckers at all, but agitators using truckers’ concerns to stir up broader issues and promote violence. Some were there strictly for the money that poured in — $24 million, it turns out.
Obviously, things were escalating, potentially out of control, and with the police unable to calm things down or even coordinate their efforts, a call had to be made. Do we wait for things to blow up or do we act in the interest of national security and end this hard and fast?
Besides the question of whether the Emergencies Act was justified, one might also ask what could have happened without it?
Ian Pattison is retired after 50 years of award-winning journalism at the Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on the news.