Former RCMP officer calls for detailed internal autopsy of OPS

by Calvin Lawrence, Retired RCMP officer (Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse)

Many Canadians believed the January 6, 2021, turmoil they saw in the U.S. could not happen here. But now, after the trucker's protest over vaccines and Covid restrictions, we know that it can. In democratic societies, including Canada, there is an orderly process in government. Imagine a pyramid shape. At the top of the pyramid, there are the people in charge. They solve problems, give directives, permit and restrict actions, and enact change.

The process and plans wind their way down the pyramid through middle management until reaching workers at the bottom. Exchanges of information, problem options, and possible solutions go up and down the pyramid chain of command in a slow, cumbersome fashion. A cumbersome bureaucracy is not equipped to respond quickly to emergency situations like terrorist attacks, major disasters, not even a truck convoy in Ottawa.

Strategic planning for efficient emergency response within the system would prevent a shutdown and paralysis of the whole process.  A little closer to ground zero, citizens and businesses of Ottawa’s downtown core were subjected to the honking of horns, loud truck motors and toxic fumes, loss of business, missed appointments due to blocked streets, and other major problems. 

If the Ottawa Police Service received intelligence about the truckers’ intentions, it was flawed or not acted upon. As a result, the truckers were able to get a foothold in the downtown area. Internal conflicts within the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) did not help with the emergency situation, and partisan politics did not help matters. In fact, politicians made the handling of the conflict more confusing. 

Not all the political parties made the plight of people living and working in the downtown core their priority. When Ottawa Police upper management and the OPSB are in conflict or suffering from lengthy suspensions of its members, adequate response to an emergency is diminished. 

The truckers got their message across but lost the propaganda war—the inability to control the infiltration of radical behaviour and messaging caught them off guard. 

The truckers threw the party. Therefore, the moral responsibility was on them to say who was expelled from the demonstration. The Nazi and Confederate flags present represented extreme elements. Even if you only have a few people carrying extremist symbolism, in the eyes of the public, if they are not ejected, you are seen as a group of sympathizers.  

The very public conflict between Ottawa Chief Peter Sloly and Minister Bill Blair regarding insufficient human resources to move the truckers and demonstrators from the downtown core requires an explanation. 

I don’t believe that a public inquiry is necessary. However, a detailed internal autopsy is required. This should not be a witch hunt or blame game but a fact-finding process followed by implementing a practical work plan with built-in accountability. 

Calvin Lawrence served as an officer with the Halifax City Police Department for eight years and with the RCMP for 28 years before his retirement in 2006. He is the author of the acclaimed book Black Cop.