On day 7 of the hearings investigating the controversial use of the Emergencies Act, a top Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer testified that officers “did not need the Emergencies Act.”
One of the most senior law enforcement officials involved in the Freedom Convoy effort, Chief Superintendent Carson Pardy, testified to Commission lawyers that the Emergencies Act was not necessary to tow vehicles and that the existing police tactics in place prior to using the act would have been sufficient to clear the protests in the same time period.
Commission lawyer Frank Au asked Pardy, “In your view, was there a police solution to the demonstration?”
“There was a solution and we reached that solution,” Pardy said. “We had some help with the Emergencies Act but in my humble opinion we would have reached the same solution with the plan that we had without (the Emergencies Act).”
Asked by counsel to the Commission whether the Emergencies Act was necessary, Pardy initially said it was a “loaded question.”
“Did the police in Ottawa end up needing the Emergencies Act to tow vehicles?” Au asked Pardy.
“No,” Pardy responded. Explaining if they needed the Emergencies Act that would imply they don’t have authority to seize and/or remove or tow vehicles.
“We have various authorities to seize and/or remove or tow vehicles. So we did not need the Emergencies Act.” said Pardy
The Act “helped” police in carrying out their strategy and allowed them to stop individuals from entering the “red zone,” according to Pardy, but “we could’ve done that anyway,” Pardy said.
Honner asked Pardy OPP Supt. Pat Morris testimony and if he also found it problematic took with the media labeling protesters in Ottawa as “extremists”.
Pardy agreed and elaborated on the uniqueness of the typical Freedom Convoy protester.
“The profile of the protester for this event was none like I had ever seen in my 36 year career. We had everything from grandparents, I was shown a picture of two retired officers in the crowd that I had worked with, we saw children, we saw a lot of crestfallen police officers in the crowd, military, nurses.” Pardy said. “It wasn’t your normal group of people that we were dealing with.”
Law enforcement officers were repeatedly questioned by Convoy lawyers about the absence of a plan and the breakdown in communication between various levels of law enforcement and the various units on the ground both before and after the act was invoked.
Abrams was questioned by Convoy attorney Bath-Sheba Van Den Berg about whether the Act’s use had any impact on resolving the inter-police communication problems.
“Do you agree with me that after the invocation of the Emergencies Act that these integration problems and communication problems did not improve?” Van Den Berg asked Abrams.
“Within the police liaison teams (PLT) there were still issues,” Abrams said.
Van Den Berg then questioned Abrams about whether there would be issues with decision-making from the perspective of law enforcement if there were communication issues between the OPP PLT teams and Ottawa Police Service (OPS) PLT teams. Abrams agreed and stated that it had a negative impact with access to critical information from the convoy leadership .
Abrams was cross-examined by Van den Berg, who then questioned him about whether any officers involved in physical altercations with protesters had filed the necessary “use-of-force reports” to record their engagement with them.
“Were any use-of-force reports completed after the major operations after the invocation of the Emergencies Act?” Van Den Berg asked Abrams.
“I’m not aware” Abrams responded.
Pardy was questioned by legal counsel for the Saskatchewan government about the approved plan to remove the protesters from Ottawa without using the law enforcement powers granted by the Emergencies Act.
“When you signed off on that plan you were confident that it could be implemented to end the occupation?” Saskatchewan counsel asked. “That February 13th plan did not contemplate any powers under the federal Emergencies Act, correct?”
Pardy confirmed that the operations plan, which had also received approval from the RCMP and the OPS, did not involve the use of Emergencies Act powers and could be carried out without doing so.
Abrams was questioned by lawyers for the Government of Canada in an effort to obtain testimony that would show the excessive force used by officers during the crack down on protesters in Ottawa didn’t result in “death or bodily injury” to any of the protesters.
Counter to the government’s lawyers, Abrams said that “there was bodily injury to participants coming from my side.” Abrams referenced the Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit’s subsequent investigation into the actions taken by riot police that day as evidence that bodily injury to protesters did occur. “You’re not aware of any death or serious bodily injuries though?”
“I’m not aware of any deaths. I have to say that I saw serious bodily injury because if you look at the mandate of the Special Investigations Unit of Ontario, they only become involved when there is serious bodily injury,” Abrams responded.