City of Ottawa Failed to Disclose Freedom Convoy Emails, Emergencies Act Inquiry Says
Commission says the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police were asked to go back and do another search of internal emails
The Public Order Emergency Commission, which is reviewing the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, confirms the City of Ottawa failed to turn over some “potentially relevant” documents relating to last year’s “Freedom Convoy.”
The Commission says it asked both the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police to review their internal records in response to questions about a string of emails obtained by PressProgress through a Freedom of Information request.
Earlier this week, PressProgress reported Ottawa City Councillor George Darouze sent an email to former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly and the City of Ottawa’s head of Emergency Services Kerry Ayotte last February containing allegations about possible “explosives” at a local hotel.
NEW: Ottawa Police investigated allegations of ‘explosives’ at a local hotel during last year’s ‘Freedom Convoy’.
— PressProgress (@pressprogress) January 30, 2023
The allegations were the subject of a police investigation, though it is unclear what, if any, steps police took or its ultimate outcome.
Ottawa Police told PressProgress they are unable to comment on the investigation due to unspecified “internal inquiries” that remain “ongoing.”
Emergencies Act Inquiry says City of Ottawa failed to disclose emails about George Darouze’s allegations
In a statement to PressProgress, the Public Order Emergency Commission confirmed that after reviewing their internal records, the City of Ottawa acknowledged it failed to disclose emails relating to the allegations brought forward by Darouze to the Emergencies Act Inquiry.
“The Commission has made inquiries with the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police Service regarding this email thread,” Commission spokesperson Michael Tansey told PressProgress, noting “all parties are obliged to comply with their obligations under the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, including the production of relevant documents.”
“The City of Ottawa confirmed that the email thread was not produced to the Commission; it was not identified in the electronic search used to locate potentially relevant documents because it does not contain any of the search terms that were employed.”
“The Ottawa Police Service is in the process of reviewing its file in order to respond to the Commission’s query,” Tansey added.
The Commission was granted a two-week extension Tuesday to table its final report. Tansey said the Commission “advised the Privy Council Office that it is not able to provide its report in both official languages to the government by February 6.”
City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police required to turn over any potentially relevant documents about the Freedom Convoy
The City of Ottawa’s admission appears to contradict an earlier statement insisting it had produced all emails and other documents as required by the Commission’s rules.
“The City of Ottawa provided documentation and information in response to requests from the Public Order Emergency Commission, in accordance with their Rules of Procedure,” Ayotte told PressProgress when first asked about the emails.
Under the Emergencies Act Inquiry’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, all parties, including both the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police, were required to “produce copies of all documents in their possession or under their control relevant to the subject–matter of the Inquiry.”
“Commission Counsel worked with parties’ counsel to facilitate document production and identify potentially relevant categories of documents,” Tansey clarified.
While some threats that emerged during the tense three week occupation of Canada’s national capital later turned out to be false alarms, those incidents were frequently cited during testimony during Emergency Act Inquiry hearings last fall.
After 2,000 firearms were stolen in Peterborough, both authorities and convoy organizers alike worried they may end up on the streets of Ottawa. There are other indications police were reluctant to take action out of concern that trucks could contain weapons and children could be used as “human shields.”
The Inquiry also repeatedly highlighted failures by Ottawa Police.
City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police face critical questions about lack of transparency
Paul Champ, a lawyer representing Ottawa residents at the Emergencies Act Inquiry, says his team has found other examples of the City of Ottawa failing to disclose documents, though he is unsure what if any action the Commission will take at this late stage unless it directly relates to the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act.
“We also identified documents that weren’t disclosed by Ottawa, and there wasn’t comprehensive information about the consent and nature of criminal complaints,” Champ told PressProgress.
“I have no doubt there was other material and emails that were not disclosed.”
Sam Hersh, a director of the local community group Horizon Ottawa, told PressProgress the admission only raises more questions about the level of transparency the public is receiving from the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Police.
“If the Ottawa Police and City officials failed to produce this email, how do we know they didn’t fail to produce other documents of importance related to the convoy?” Hersh asked.
“Residents, particularly downtown residents, who faced the brunt of the traumatic events of the convoy, deserve accountability and transparency that has been sorely lacking for a long time.”
Darouze, a local city councillor for Ottawa’s Osgoode Ward and a longtime ally of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, has declined to elaborate on the allegations he received or clarify if there was an immediate threat to public safety.
Darouze’s Office would not provide any rationale beyond telling PressProgress: “Councillor Darouze has declined to comment.”
Darouze has since ignored several additional requests for comment.
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