Solicitor General was warned but ignored police disfunction in Ottawa

ABOVE: The Hon. Sylvia Jones (Dufferin—Caledon), Solicitor General of Ontario. (PHOTO: The Peterborough Examiner)

Op-Ed: Like many Canadians, I was very shocked at how easy it was for the convoy of truckers to roll into the nation’s capital and occupy the core of the city. Whether one agrees or disagrees with what the trucker’s convoy delivered to the city, the fact remains that it could have and should have been prevented in the first place.

In my view, the blame for this falls not on the truckers who have a constitutional right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but on the politicians at the provincial and municipal level whose inaction allowed this to happen.

For years, Dan Donovan, the publisher and managing editor of Ottawa Life Magazine, and I have been writing articles documenting the widespread police misconduct in the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) and the failure of the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB), Mayor, and city councillors to deal with the problem. To say that the OPS is in crisis is an understatement. At present, some twenty officers are currently suspended with pay. Over the past six years, officers in the OPS have been charged with a plethora of offences under both the Police Services Act of Ontario and the Criminal Code of Canada. 

In June 2020, Dan Donovan and I filed a complaint with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). We argued that neither the Chief of Police nor the Ottawa Police Services Board were fulfilling their statutory duties to provide residents of Ottawa with an efficient and effective police service. The OCPC acknowledged our complaint in writing and asked us to provide them with additional information, which we continued to do up to the very date the Chief of Police resigned, and the Ottawa Police Service Board sank like the Titanic.

The fact that the OCPC did not launch an investigation into our complaint is one of the contributing factors that led to the chaos that erupted in our city with the trucker’s convoy. It makes absolutely no sense that 60 plus truckers could merely drive into the centre of the city of Ottawa without meeting any resistance at all. 

In July 2021, I sent a letter to Doug Downey, the Attorney General of Ontario, and Sylvia Jones, the Solicitor General of Ontario. I advised them that the Ottawa Police Service was in such a state of disarray that the provincial government must step in and establish an independent management and oversight board to take control over the management and direction of the Ottawa Police Service. I pointed out that if they did not take action to deal with the level and extent of the malfeasance by officers in the Ottawa Police Service, it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The Attorney General did the responsible thing and promptly referred my request to the Solicitor General of Ontario. Although I wrote to Jones several times, she did absolutely nothing. I found this odd as she had no problem calling upon the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to launch an investigation into the Thunder Bay police service that was also in difficulty.

I believe that the Solicitor General of Ontario, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the Ottawa Police Services Board, the Mayor of Ottawa, and all City councillors are directly to blame for the events that occurred in our city with the trucker’s convoy. 

Instead of criticizing the truckers for what happened, the blame should be put squarely on the politicians who turned a blind eye to the ubiquitous pandemic of police misconduct that was infecting our city like a virus.

If the Solicitor General of Ontario had acted on my request back in 2021 to establish an independent management board to manage and oversee the Ottawa Police Service, the convoy of truckers would never have gotten within fifty miles of the City of Ottawa. The bottom line is that you can’t expect a dysfunctional and disorganized police service to respond effectively and professionally to a protest the magnitude of the trucker’s convoy when that police service is already mired in crisis.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that politicians are unable to recognize a crisis when it's literally staring them in the face. For the residents of Ottawa, this was and is the ultimate betrayal and disgrace.

Darryl T Davies is a criminology professor at Carleton University. The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity.