Auditor General releases Freedom Convoy report, says Ottawa's response had 'limited transparency'

The audit uncovered that the police board lacked clarity in its role during the early stages of the convoy protest. They also lacked the operational details from city police while protestors remained in the city.

Auditor General releases Freedom Convoy report, says Ottawa's response had 'limited transparency'
JuliaDorian -
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According to the auditor general, the Ottawa Police Services Board broke the rules when it oversaw the Freedom Convoy protest last year.

Nathalie Gougeon’s office reviewed the seven-member police board’s response to the convoy and if they provided "adequate and effective police services" in the city.

Gougeon’s audit uncovered that the board lacked clarity in its role during the early stages of the convoy protest. She also said they lacked the operational details from city police to do their job while protesters remained in Ottawa.

The report also lambasted then-board chair Diane Deans for her "limited transparency" in hiring former Waterloo Regional chief Matt Torigian as interim police chief for not seeking the input of other board members.  

Deans' council colleagues unceremoniously ousted her as chair on February 16, with three additional board members retiring soon after.

However, on Wednesday, Deans said that while the board delegated the final hiring decision to her, she involved the four members of the board’s HR committee, who agreed on the approach.

In a statement to the Ottawa Citizen, she said the audit "correctly identifies the lack of information sharing with the police services board, which made it extremely difficult for the board to perform our duties to the full extent possible."

"The board was operating in the dark as the direct result of the failure of the service to share information," added Deans.

Moreover, the auditor general conveyed that per the board’s significant events policy, police must inform them immediately when an event like the convoy protest is on the horizon.

According to the police board policy document, the police chief determines the mission and objectives for policing significant events alongside the board. The chief must also give the board enough information to ensure consistency as the police conduct the operation.

However, the board never received a detailed briefing from city police before the convoy’s arrival.

The Ottawa Police Service notified Deans about the incoming convoy protest on January 24. The board received word the following day — 12 days after the police became aware of the event. 

The police service also kept the city in the dark during last winter’s convoy protests, withholding intelligence reports that included important risk assessments and its key 46-page traffic management plan.

The result was ineffective planning, disruption to OC Transpo service, and sometimes "chaotic" police requests of the city’s traffic team, which were unfeasible to implement, said the intelligence report.

The city received a single-page summary of the traffic plan on January 29, the day after the first protesters arrived in the nation's capital. 

It had warned of a planned mass protest to "put the fear of God in the politicians and bring about an end to all COVID public health measures."

However, Gougeon said the report's information was "constantly changing." She added that sharing the established traffic plan, when it was in a sufficiently finalized state, would have enabled the City to be better prepared.

By February 13, the intelligence report said that police had a working plan to end the convoy protests — but the Ottawa police board did not receive a briefing before its approval.

"During a major event, the board cannot adequately perform its oversight functions unless it is provided with relevant and appropriate operational information as soon as the information is available," reads the report. 

"Timely sharing of this information from the chief of police to the OPSB is therefore crucial to the board’s ability to carry out its role."

The board also violated its procedure bylaw, including a February 1 meeting that wasn’t announced or open to the public.

Gougeon also found that board members "materially advanced board business," which she said had contravened the Police Services Act and board procedure because they involved a quorum of members, which constituted a meeting.

"While it is understandable, in such circumstances, that the Board was seeking opportunities to work expeditiously, these actions constituted a basic violation of procedural rules and legislation which are in place to promote public transparency of police board business," the AG report concludes.

The board agreed to all 11 of the audit’s recommendations.

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