As Ottawa police mop up the last remnants of the Freedom Convoy protest that locked down Canada’s capital city center for three weeks, they face doing some rehab on their own reputation. Many residents asked why the police were doing nothing to enforce laws they had no problem enforcing on left-leaning or First Nations protests. Now, we have small piece of the puzzle: There were Convoy supporters in the ranks.
Reporters at the Toronto Star sifted through the nearly 100,000 accounts of people donating to the Freedom Convoy’s GiveSendGo account. Donations were rerouted to GiveSendGo after GoFundMe closed the Freedom Convoy’s $10 million CAD fundraiser due to reports of law-breaking by protesters. GiveSendGo has far less scruples but also far less security; the site was hacked, leaking the names and postal codes of everyone who donated. Reporters cross referenced the list with publicly available records and confirmed 15 officers, both active and retired, who had donated to the fund after the protest was deemed illegal. From the Star:
By combing through the nearly 100,000 people who donated to the protest via the crowdfunding website GiveSendGo, Torstar reporters identified 15 police officers who as of 2020 were on the payroll of the province’s three largest police forces: Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Service and Ottawa Police Service.
All three services had officers on the ground in Ottawa to police the “Freedom Convoy.”
The police donations were small, ranging from $20 to $200, and all were made on or after Feb. 5 — by which time the prime minister and Ottawa’s police chief had declared the protests “illegal” or “unlawful.”
The OPP has launched an internal investigation into the officers named on the leaked donor list.
“The OPP holds its members accountable for their actions while on duty and off. They have a responsibility to demonstrate neutrality and remain non-partisan. Any demonstration or expression of views and opinions that may be interpreted as condoning illegal activity is in direct opposition to the OPP’s values and mandate,” said spokesperson Bill Dickson.
Toronto police said the force is not relying on the donor list, but confirmed it is looking into the activities of two officers Torstar found on the list.
Another 23 names and post codes on the list match up with officers, but the Star was unable to 100 percent confirm for sure that these donations were made by police. While it’s not illegal for police to engage in political discourse, officers are held to a higher standard:
Kash Heed, the former police chief of West Vancouver, said it’s important to establish if the officers made their donations after the protest was declared illegal.
“That distinction is very important. If you knowingly donate to a cause that’s illegal in Canada, you’re actually breaching your oath as a law enforcement officer,” said Heed, who was also solicitor general of British Columbia.
“There should be — and I’m sure there will be — consequences if those officers donated to an illegal cause,” he said. “Each one of these officers has sworn an oath to serve and protect. They cannot go out and appear to break the law and maintain the trust of the community.”
The protest was declared illegal by both the Prime Minister and the Ottawa chief of police on February 5. All of the donations were made after that day. All three policing organizations with officers identified on the list Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Service and Ottawa Police Service, told the Star that they are investigating the matter. The Star is not identifying the names of the officers who donated. When reporters reached out, the officers either didn’t respond or responded with “no comment.”
Police came under heavy criticism for their handling of the protest. Freedom Convoy participants were allowed to light fires in the streets, use a war memorial as a public toilet, harass citizens, block neighborhood streets while filling the air with diesel fumes and blare their huge truck horns 24 hours a day. Things got so bad that police instituted a hotline just for hate-related crimes and harassment.
It wasn’t until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the controversial Emergencies Act, giving police broad sweeping powers to shut down the protest, before anything was done. Ottawa police didn’t seem to need such powers when they cracked down on a small protest over police brutality of Black and Indigenous people after only three days in 2020. Neither did Toronto police, when peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were immediately tear gassed and beaten in 2016. The Freedom Convoy protest was removed peacefully, with most reports of violence coming from the protesters and on to the police. Almost 200 protesters were arrested and charged with nearly 400 crimes, ranging from mischief to assault on a police officer.
Some Freedom Convoy protesters have regrouped to farms in the surrounded countryside outside of Ottawa, prompting fears that the protesters will flood the city again. While the streets are clear, for now, the city center remains blocked off.