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Day 3 Public Order Emergency Commission: Plan to move trucks blocked by Parliamentary Protective Service

In the third day of the hearing the evidence was mainly focused on the negotiation between the Freedom Convoy organizers and the City of Ottawa leadership. A large amount of time was taken up discussing the details of the agreement reached by Freedom Convoy leadership and the City of Ottawa to move trucks out of the residential neighbourhoods and centralize on to Wellington St.

Steve Kanellakos, Ottawa City Manager was confident the city was prepared for the first weekend of the Freedom Convoy based on the assumption protesters would be gone after the weekend.

The first weekend of the Freedom Convoy went “quite well” Ottawa City Manager, Steve Kanellakos told the Commission. He said “There wasn’t any violence. People were protesting. It was managed. There were no major incidents that weekend”

Both Kanellakos and Arpin clearly state for Commissioner Rouleau that there was continuous communication between convoy organizers and municipal officials before the government invoked the Emergencies Act. Both city officials testified the negotiations that were being discussed by convoy organizers was “in good faith”.

“There was no other place to put the trucks,” Kanellakos said. “The discussion (with protest organizers) was that we wanted to reduce the footprint in the area, to get them out of the neighbourhoods.” and placed into a more manageable enforcement area.

The decision to move trucks from the residential neighbourhoods to Wellington Street was supported by Ottawa police. Sloly wanted to make an edit before a copy of the letter was sent to the convoy leadership but the letter was already sent.

The edit Sloly wanted to add to the letter was a request to the convoy leadership and protesters to stop asking more to come down to join the Freedom Convoy protest.

Kanellakos’s evidence came under question by Convoy lawyer Brendan Miller when he asked the deal the leadership of the convoy and the city grinded to a halt.

Kanellakos expressed regret that the agreement to relocate trucks out of residential neighbourhoods and onto Wellington Street was being obstructed by the federal Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) and Ottawa Police Service (OPS) in a text message discussion with Convoy attorney Keith Wilson during the demonstration.

Kanellakos believed Keith Wilson was doing everything in his power to move the trucks out of the residential areas and on to Wellington St but wasn’t sure if the plan was blocked by Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) or Ottawa Police Service (OPS).

The plan was to move almost all of the trucks out of the residential areas and onto Wellington St. Kanellakos says he remembers telling Wilson he was “disappointed we couldn’t move more trucks out of the neighbourhood.”

then-Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly had resigned on that same day and Kanellakos  says that got in the way of the agreement to move trucks and he was made aware the OPS and other police services “were getting ready to move into tactical operations.”

Tow trucks was another dominate topic during Kanellakos’ testimony with the challenge the city was facing with getting tow truck operators to help tow vehicles.

Tow truck operators didn’t want to tow for a number of different reasons Kanellakos told Commission counsel. Some tow truck operators expressed concern for the own safety and potential to their equipment and trucks getting damaged. Other tow truck operators were worried about their business relationships going sour as the often work alongside the truckers.

Where was Ford? During questioning by Commission counsel, Kanellakos revealed there were discussions taking place in “tripartite meetings” City of Ottawa, federal government, and Ontario officials.

Ford government was not present at the “tripartite meetings” to discuss how to deal with the freedom convoy. However Ford government responded the convoy “was a law enforcement issue and it should be dealt with by law enforcement.”

At a press release, while standing next to Justin Trudeau, Ford was asked why he isn’t testifying at the Emergencies Act inquiry, he said said he wasn’t asked by the Commission to testify.

“I was never asked to testify,” Ford said. “Our police did an incredible job. They were very peaceful, they moved forward and I am so proud to stand here and back our police.” 

‘Ottawa Coalition’ lawyer Paul Champ, representing a group of Ottawa residents and businesses oppsing the protesters claimed there was an incident at the Chateau Laurier where firetrucks had difficulty getting that was quickly shut down by Kanellakos .

“We heard about one incident at the Chateau Laurier that fire trucks couldn’t get to them. You are aware of that?” Champ asked Kanellakos.

“That’s actually not true.” said Ottawa city Manager Steve Kanellakos as laughter from the room is heard. “We have contingency built in for all of our emergency operations.”

Democracy Fund lawyer Rob Kittredge asked Kanellakos if there was any reports of tow truck drivers being assaulted or equipment damaged, Kanellakos said he didn’t receive any reports of equipment being damaged or assaults on tow truck operators .

“We would know very quickly if this was a stunt or a bluff (by Convoy leadership) to try and gain more time, and we found out that it wasn’t a stunt,” Arpin said. 

Arpin’s text messages with senior officials from Ministers Bill Blair and Marco Mendicino’s offices were examined line by line by Commission counsel and Convoy lawyers.

Arpin slammed the feds’ decision to “denigrate protesters” at press conferences while the city is attempting to negotiate with them in a scathing text message to Bill Blair’s Chief of Staff.

“I assume that you must understand how spectacularly ridiculous the contention is that we could be meeting with them when your level of government trots out a number of ministers to denigrate the demonstrators and let them know that dialogue is imposable with the Government of Canada in the context of a demonstration targeting the government of Canada but somehow we should divine that we should be meeting with them to make them feel heard. That’s nauseating to say the least. But thanks for sharing frankly.”

It was clear in Aprin’s testimony that Mendicino and Blair, two senior members of the federal government, were aware of negotiations with the Convoy leadership the day before Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, which hasn’t been used since its rebranding from the War Measures Act with a few changes.

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Jordan is a casual reporter for BC Rise


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