An Edmonton police officer sympathetic to the 2022 Freedom Convoy is only now returning to active duty after an extended, unpaid leave of absence.
Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Const. Elena Golysheva attended a disciplinary hearing on June 21 for her role in the Coutts border blockade last February 12.
Golysheva has been relieved from duty without pay since March 2022.
In the days preceding a Coutts border rally, the EPS constable posted a video of her sympathizing with demonstrators from the sister protest in Ottawa. The Freedom Convoy participants protested the ongoing COVID vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions.
POEC Commissioner Paul Rouleau concluded the protests occurred because of a "loss of faith in government" and "economic hardship" caused by the government's COVID response.
"It's clear in my mind what decision I will make when I'm asked to follow an unlawful order," said Golysheva in the video.
"My heart has been broken every day when I saw the very freedom I moved to Canada for has been taken away, and Canadians who were born here were not recognizing that."
Golysheva addressed her message to the Ottawa police officers, who she acknowledged was in a difficult position during the protests.
During her 17 years in the service, the constable had to constantly question and come to her own decisions in every scenario.
She thanked the truckers for standing up when the police officers did not say no to 'unlawful orders.'
In an open letter from "concerned law enforcement officers of Alberta," officers described their moral dilemma of enforcing COVID bylaws.
"It's a tough position for sure. Do they obey the instructions of their superiors to enforce the restrictions?" reads the letter.
"In obeying what are likely to be unlawful orders, do they understand that they may, ultimately, be committing an offence under section 423 of the Criminal Code, and potentially others as well?"
"Do they understand that the excuse 'I was just following orders' may not be an excuse that a court of law will accept as justification for an officer's actions? Do they go to their respective associations and stand against their superiors, potentially risking their livelihood?" it continues.
"We won't offer any answers here, as it falls to each law enforcement officer to grapple with their conscience and make their own decisions."
At Coutts, Const. Golysheva told convoy supporters she had questions about the orders she may be given while on duty. She also wanted other officers to question their orders as well.
"It's not necessarily insubordination or anything. It's just supporting you guys, serving you," she said.
EPS told reporters they began reviewing the video before the constable appeared at the Coutts protest on February 12, 2022.
On February 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Everyone has the right to protest peacefully" — a right he claims his government will "always protect."
However, he also claimed the "lawful protests embraced lawlessness" at the Ottawa protest and several border blockades.
According to a report by the Ottawa Police Services Board, residents complained 410 times about the Freedom Convoy, which blocked Wellington Street and other roads near or in front of Parliament.
The Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) Inquiry said the convoy impacted Ottawa residents by shouting, honking, and exhausting truck fumes.
Supporters entered Ottawa last January 28 and disembarked on February 14 — before Parliament invoked Section 17(1) of the Emergencies Act. Ottawa kept Wellington closed for another 455 days after the fact.
The prime minister even said convoy participants encouraged "ideologically motivated extremism" that posed a "volatile, out of control" threat to Canadians.
Rouleau declared the 'diversity of views' present among protestors included some who posed a threat to commit "dangerous acts." He expressly referred to the Coutts border blockade.
On February 14, RCMP Officials uncovered a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition in three trailers at the Coutts blockade. Four men face charges of conspiracy to commit the murder of police officers.
The POEC Inquiry claimed online threats against officials, the risk of violence from lone wolf actors, and weapons at the Coutts blockade constituted threats to national security.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the blockades also caused negative economic impacts that justified declaring a "national emergency" and later invoking Section 17(1) of the Emergencies Act.
A national emergency constitutes a situation not effectively dealt with under Canadian law, requiring "urgent and critical" action of a "temporary nature" — including espionage or sabotage, foreign-influenced activities, acts of serious violence, or an attempt to overthrow the government.
"Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on the alleged threat or use of acts of violence [to achieve] a political, religious, or ideological objective," said Justice Centre lawyer Hatim Kheir.
Under the Emergencies Act, law enforcement could establish exclusion zones around the convoy and kick people out without identifying them as protestors. It also permitted banks to freeze the bank accounts of convoy participants and supporters.
On February 17, a reporter asked the prime minister if invoking the Emergencies Act was a failure of federalism. He said invoking the Act, though "undesirable," met the "high bar" in its implementation.
"Throughout the process, we saw that there were times when the provinces could have done things differently and could have cooperated better with the federal government," said Trudeau.
The prime minister admitted they could have been 'better partners' in federation with the provinces in handling the protests they referred to as 'occupations.'
Kheir confirmed the Coutts and Windsor blockades cleared on February 13 and 14, 2022 — before Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act. Most voluntarily left at Coutts upon learning weapons had been present.
During the POEC Inquiry, Rouleau admitted the media actively spread 'misinformation' about the Freedom Convoy — narratives the federal government pushed in the aftermath of the main protests.
Last February, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino advised reporters to "be very careful" in dealing with convoy participants. It ultimately furthered the government's 'disinformation' campaign against protestors.
The Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery called the demonstration 'unsafe' in a February 1, 2022 letter. It provided no evidence to substantiate the claims.
"Protesters of the truck convoy have harassed some of our members in the last few days, and we cannot afford to be left exposed without protection for hours outside the building," wrote Catherine Levesque of the National Post, then-Press Gallery president.
No convoy participant ever faced charges of misconduct against reporters.
On Golysheva, she remained on an extended leave of absence as of January 2023. However, the service reinstated her pay, said EPS spokeswoman Cheryl Voordenhout.
"[Golysheva] will be returning to active duty following her involvement in a reintegration program," she said.
Another officer, Staff Sgt. Rick Abbott joined Golysheva at the protest and received an unpaid leave of absence. Voordenhout confirmed Abbott is no longer with the police service.