This week, the nation heard from former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly as he testified at the Public Order Emergency Commission. Sloly had the lengthiest appearance of any of the individuals testifying at the commission — two full days.
The Emergencies Act inquiry is taking place in Ottawa from Oct.13–Nov. 25 and is occurring because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked a never-before-used anti-terrorism law on peaceful protesters demonstrating against the federal government's COVID-19 measures. This inquiry is built into the Act to ensure that no authoritarian leader uses it unnecessarily.
You can follow along with and support our independent coverage by visiting www.TruckerCommission.com.
Sloly had an important role during the beginning of the Freedom Convoy, serving as Ottawa's chief of police when the truckers entered the city. Sloly eventually resigned from his position, the day after Trudeau and his cabinet invoked the Emergencies Act — Feb. 15.
At the hearing, the former chief's testimony went back and forth; at times, Sloly appeared sympathetic, under extreme pressure and was being undermined in his role as chief. At other times, Sloly hard-headed and intolerant of the peaceful convoy protesters, using the same language as others to describe the demonstrators as violent.
Needless to say, there is a lot to unpack from Sloly's testimony.
On the first day of his testimony, Sloly began crying when he was asked a question about the morale of his officers on the ground in Ottawa. This shouldn't be too surprising — according to Sloly's own testimony, he seemingly couldn't satisfy anyone, and there's a reason for that.
Handling the convoy didn't require a policing solution as there was no violence taking place. The protest was never officially declared a riot and was not the illegal public gathering it's been labelled.
Instead, the convoy needed a political solution that Sloly couldn't offer.
However, all three levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — decided to delegate all of the responsibilities to the police. Unlike politicians, chiefs of police in Canada aren't elected and are accountable to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to the law. Politicians, meanwhile, are accountable to the public and face that accountability when voters cast their ballots.
As chief of the Ottawa police, Sloly was receiving political pressure from the three levels of government, even though politics and policing shouldn't be mixed. In addition, in the opinion of some left-wing commenters the police weren't doing enough. Those on the right thought police were doing too much and were playing with fire when it came to respecting civil liberties.
It's understandable how the political pressure from all sides placed on Sloly could be crushing.
We also learned that Trudeau's cabinet never explicitly consulted Sloly prior to invoking the Emergencies Act.
After the first day of testimony, it's easy to see why viewers would have empathy for Sloly. That, understandably, changed following his second day of testimony.
Through cross examination, we heard the former chief use pejorative words while saying he was carefuly not to use pejoratives towards the convoy, insulting the protesters and talking about what he called “assaultive behaviour.”
Sloly then backpedaled and admitted that his words were indeed pejorative towards the protesters when he was pressed by Freedom Convoy lawyer Brendan Miller. Take a look at what he said:
I believe that Sloly's pejorative and biased comments towards the convoy were part of what made some people lose compassion for him. The former chief still did not explicitly state his approval of the federal government's decision to use the Emergencies Act on the peaceful protest.
Finally, listen to what Sloly had to say about what he calls “systemic bias and racism” in the police force:
This week, Freedom Convoy organizers and key actors are testifying during the week of Oct. 31 following Sloly's testimony. Stay tuned for more.
To follow along with all of our coverage and to help support our independent journalism covering the inquiry, make sure to visit TruckerCommission.com.