The Freedom Convoy used big rigs to shut down life in downtown Ottawa for three weeks this past winter and, ever since, the government has been investigating what happened. Police officials announced this week there is now sufficient evidence to open an investigation into what many Canadians already suspected: That at least some officers were sympathetic to protesters and were leaking information to convoy organizers.
Ottawa Police often seemed hesitant to do anything about the Convoy, which shut down life in downtown Ottawa from Jan 29 to February 23. The Ottawa Police Service claimed that Freedom Convoy organizers told them they would be gone after a weekend, which seems remarkably Pollyannish for a major metropolitan police department. If they had applied existing laws to protesters, the siege would have been broken much earlier. And it wasn’t just Ottawa police. Even when the Freedom Convoy shut down the busiest border crossing in North America, costing both the U.S. and Canadian economies $1 billion and worsening inflation and supply chain issues, local and federal law enforcement seemed hesitant to use existing laws to break the Convoy.
Well, there was a reason for that. The lawyer representing the Freedom Convoy organizers testified in a federal hearing that multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in sharing information with protesters.
Interim chief of the Ottawa Police Service Steve Bell made the announcement earlier this week. Bell has been serving as interim chief after former chief Peter Sloly resigned at the height of the protest. From CBC:
“The information that was presented yesterday at the Emergencies Act inquiry was net-new information to us that we had not yet investigated. And we’ve already, as of last night, initiated an internal investigation,” Steve Bell testified Thursday night to a parliamentary committee.
Bell added that the police service would be reaching out to lawyer Keith Wilson, who mentioned the leaks during testimony at the inquiry earlier in the week.
Wilson, who represents convoy organizers including Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, testified Wednesday in front of the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is reviewing the federal government’s decision to invoke emergency powers to clear the crowds and vehicles that gridlocked the capital’s downtown for more than three weeks during the protest.
“There was a steady stream of of information and leaks coming from all of the different police forces and security agencies,” Wilson told the inquiry.
“There were numerous times where information would come into the operation centre from various police sources that a raid was imminent. And it happened many times.”
There are random reports of police officers praising the protestors and donating to the group’s hyper successful GoFundMe, but this investigation could ferret out other officers who offered aid and information to protestors. The OPS said it is investigating a small number of officers at this time, CBC reports.