OPSB Report That Arsons and Unauthorized Gatherings are on the Rise

Ottawa’s Police Services Board (OPSB) met Monday, May 29, 2023. The newly appointed chair, Dr. Gail Beck, had trouble connecting to the meeting, so the provincial appointee and Vice Chair, Salim Fakirani, took over the meeting. There were no public delegates. However, Fakirani stressed that the new chair had been actively engaged with the community since her appointment to the board.

Chief Eric Stubbs began his report to the board by addressing the death of OPP Sergeant Eric Muller, whom he called an “outstanding officer.” Stubbs also said that the thoughts of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) remain with the two other officers injured the night of Muller’s death, one of whom remains in critical care from a gunshot wound inflicted during the incident.

Stubbs reminded the board that ten officers have died on duty since September, half of whom were in Ontario. The chief then directed his frustration at local academics, who he said have been downplaying how dangerous policing has become. They claim that more officers died on the job in 1962, but the OPS boss said, “The citizens of Ottawa need to know that they have hundreds of officers that are working day and night in this community to keep you safe,” and stated that fewer officers were working in the service 60 years ago. Stubbs condemned those trying to play down the deaths, saying it is unprecedented in the Canadian “police industry.”

The topic shifted to the Ottawa Carleton District Schoolboard’s attempt to ban uniformed officers from schools. Stubbs told the board that he has participated in school outreach programs and witnessed the positive impacts of such programs. Stubbs voiced his support for the letter by Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Ontario’s schoolboards in support of police engagement at schools but said he would continue to attempt positive outreach with the Ottawa Carleton District Schoolboard.

Stubbs then briefed the board on operational matters. His first and most disturbing statistic was that arsons continue to rise in Ottawa yearly, with a 50 percent increase, many taking place in the Rideau Vanier ward.

Stubbs also noted that noise disturbances and unauthorized gatherings have increased at Moody’s Bay and Britannia Beach. During an attempt to break up a fight club meeting, one participant kicked an OPS officer. The assailant was later discovered carrying a machete. Stubbs implored councillors to act, noting that if this pattern of gatherings continue, something more tragic would likely occur.

Councillor Marty Carr asked the board how the arsons started in the reported upward trend. Deputy Chief Trish Ferguson responded that most of the arsons were not targeting residential buildings but were garbage bin and dumpster fires.

Sergeant Ali Toghrol presented the OPS data collection strategy around hate crime-based incidents. He defined how hate crimes were determined and praised the federal government's expected expansion of the definition of what constitutes a hate crime. Toghrol described how the OPS deals with hate crimes. He said that several crimes were on the “verge” of hate, resulting in OPS officers warning suspects or offenders to change their behaviour.

The meeting concluded after just over two and a half hours with no participation from the new chair due to her internet issues.

Ottawa’s police services board is scheduled to meet again on June 26, 2023.