$14.1 million spent on police over 18 days of Ottawa convoy occupation
The ongoing occupation of downtown Ottawa by the "Freedom Convoy" protest has cost the Ottawa Police Service more than $14.1 million so far, with no signs yet that the most ardent occupiers are leaving.
The figure was shared at Tuesday's special meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board, which heard from top ranking members of the Ottawa Police Service, including newly named interim police chief Steve Bell, who is replacing Peter Sloly following his resignation as Ottawa's chief of police.
Ottawa police CAO Blair Dunker told the board the projected cost for the Ottawa Police Service to date has been about $785,000 per day. A previous estimate by police shared in the early days of the demonstration turned occupation was $800,000 per day.
It's now day 19 of the occupation. There are still hundreds of trucks and other vehicles on Wellington Street, in front of the Parliament buildings and the Prime Minister's Office, though police say the number of remaining occupiers has dwindled significantly since the weekend.
Still, police have shown few overt signs of moving to clear demonstrators out of the core occupation zone in the parliamentary district. There was some movement of trucks out of some residential areas in Centretown, but the trucks were simply moved to Wellington Street.
Former chief Sloly had repeatedly claimed the Ottawa Police Service lacked the resources to effectively end the demonstration and had requested—and received—additional support from other jurisdictions, including the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, which add to the cost of policing the ongoing occupation.
"As additional officers join, those costs will be going up. That's what we tallied, as of yesterday," Dunker said.
Dunker cautioned that this includes recorded costs only, so overtime costs, and any potential invoices by the RCMP are not included in the $14.1 million figure.
Dunker said the Ottawa Police Service is tracking all of its spending and a financial update to the board is due in the coming months.
WE HAVE A PLAN: BELL
Bell suggested to the board that the Ottawa Police Service is now in a position to bring an end to the occupation.
"I believe we now have the resources and partners to bring a safe end to this occupation. The Ottawa police are ready, eager to do what is our part. With new leadership and stability from our command team, I’m confident that we can end this occupation," Bell said. "I can absolutely assure you that we do have a plan to end this illegal occupation in our streets and we continue to work with them to finalize, resource and implement that plan and remove the illegal occupation in our city."
Board Chair Diane Deans referred to the situation as a "carnival of chaos" and said the local police have not been effective.
"I am happy to say the RCMP and the OPP at the table, because frankly the response to this crisis so far has been ineffective at bringing this occupation to an end and restoring peace and security in Ottawa. The OPS has been unable to adequately enforce our laws and our residents continue to be terrorized," Deans said.
However, it remains unclear how the federal government's invocation of the never-before-used Emergencies Act will affect police enforcement.
Acting deputy chief Trish Ferguson said the police service is waiting for additional details on what the unprecedented move entails.
"We continue to await for official details before operationalizing it," Ferguson said. "We have been working with our legal team and those of our provincial and federal partners to understand implications of various orders and actions and consider the impacts on our ultimate mission."
Ferguson told the board that as of Tuesday morning, police had 172 active criminal investigations related to the occupation, 18 arrests had been made and 33 charges had been laid. With the help of Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services, nearly 3,000 tickets had been issued. None of the charges to date include unlawful assembly, according to Bell.
Ferguson also said the number of occupiers had shrunk significantly since the weekend.
"The number of demonstrators was less than 150 in the overnight hours and the numbers of vehicles in the core has declined to approximately 360," she said. "This is down substantially from the beginning of the demonstration where there were over 4,000 vehicles in the downtown core."
Speaking on CTV News at Five, Former Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau told Matt Skube that with trucks more consolidated on Wellington Street, the imprint of the demonstration has been further contained and police have an opportunity to shut it down peacefully.
"I’m hopeful, like many other residents are hopeful, that there will be a move to shut this down," he said.
"I hesitate to put a timetable on it," he added. "But suffice it to say, I’m confident that there’s a window of opportunity that’s presenting itself, and the Ottawa Police Service hopefully will take action along with its partners."
PATIENCE IS WEARING THIN: DEANS
Deans told Bell patience is wearing thin and the public is eager to see more action by police to bring the occupation to an end as soon as possible.
"One of my frustrations has been when we expect action, we don't see it. It's a problem," Deans said. "This weekend, when we said that we were going to treat the protesters more strongly than we have in the past, we had a chaotic carnival on Parliament Hill. I wanted to go up there and pop that damn hot tub myself and unplug the bouncy castle. And I couldn't understand why we weren't doing just those things that were poking the fingers in the eye of our democracy, of our parliament and our city."
Deans said she wants to see police step up enforcement. Bell assured her the police service is working toward the goal of getting the occupiers out of Ottawa.
"They are not welcome in our streets anymore," he said.
But he stressed this kind of occupation is unprecedented in the city's history.
"Nobody across Canada has ever dealt with an occupation on this scope, scale, size, with this type of equipment or vehicles in an area. This is unprecedented," he said. "This has not been managed by any police service across Canada in the history of our country."
Bell's response to numerous questions about enforcement taken to date, or the lack thereof, was to say there would one day be a review of the Ottawa Police Service's response to the demonstration, which he welcomes, but his primary focus now is bringing the occupation to an end.
Bell claimed there is "no right of return" or an "in-and-out pass" for people in the area of the demonstration, despite evidence that people have been coming and going from the protest site regularly.
"When we either negotiate them to leave or they do leave on their own accord, they are not allowed back and there is no one that is allowed to come in and fill their space," he said.
As an example, a DJ who was playing for the crowd last weekend told CTV News Ottawa's Graham Richardson police allowed him back in a day after he was fined.
EMERGENCIES ACT INVOKED
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the act—a first in Canadian history—on Monday. The move enables the RCMP to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial offences and prohibits taking part in a public assembly where it’s considered a breach of peace and goes beyond lawful protest, among other measures.
The Emergencies Act does not make the RCMP the lead agency, nor does it bring in the military.
Some premiers publicly opposed the move, but Tuesday morning, Premier Doug Ford said it will give police "the tools that they need to move the occupiers on."
"I don’t care about the politics. Whatever it takes to give the police the tools to get these people out of there," Ford told reporters. The province declared a state of emergency last week, and the city declared one last weekend.
Sloly had said during other emergency declarations that the Ottawa Police Service lacks the resources to fully deal with the protest downtown. Last week, the city appealed to the federal and provincial governments for 1,800 additional police officers, including 100 civilian members, to help bolster the ranks. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the federal government has sent "three installments of reinforcements" to ensure OPS has the support they need.
"But, I think, as we've seen, there have been many, many challenges on the ground to restoring public order on the streets," he said.
Trudeau acknowledged a "high level of frustration" on behalf of residents of Ottawa with regard to police enforcement downtown, but he said he believed the new measures brought in by the Emergencies Act would help.
"It is important that the police of jurisdiction, working with the OPP and the RCMP, are able to put an end to these illegal protests," he said. "The specific and limited measures that we are putting forward today as part of the Emergencies Act will give them further tools that in their coordinated response between the Ottawa Police Service, the OPP and the RCMP working together, should be able to respond to these concerns by the citizens of Ottawa."
Organizers of the protest have said they would not be swayed by the invocation of the Emergencies Act. Convoy organizer Tamara Lich urged protesters and truckers to stand their ground at a press conference on Monday.
“There are no threats that will frighten us. We will hold the line,” Lich said. “To our truckers and friends on Parliament Hill, do not give into fear and threats.”
Protesters who spoke to CTV News Monday evening said they had no intention of leaving until their demand to drop all COVID-19 public health measures is met.
Some movement of trucks was observed Monday. Trucks parked in residential areas were moved to Wellington Street, as part of a deal between Lich and Mayor Jim Watson to help alleviate some of the pressure on residential streets.
COUNCIL MEETING POSTPONED
A special meeting of Ottawa city council that was to be held Tuesday afternoon has been postponed until Wednesday.
A notice to councillors said Mayor Jim Watson cancelled the meeting "to allow Council to receive a more comprehensive update" following Trudeau invoking the Emergencies Act.
There were some last-minute changes to the availability of key personnel, partly due to the police board meeting being rescheduled for later Tuesday, the notice said.
"Further, yesterday's announcement requires more work and analysis to provide Council and the public with a better understanding of the tools available under the Emergencies Act."
The meeting will be rescheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m.
One of the items expected to be brought forward is a motion by councillors Carol Anne Meehan and Matt Luloff to request the aid of the Canadian Armed Forces "in aid of the civil power." It would require appealing to the provincial attorney general, who could make a request to the Chief of Defence Staff.
Trudeau said Monday invoking the Emergencies Act would not bring the military to Ottawa to help deal with the downtown occupation, nor would he speculate what might be required to reach that point.
The Rideau Centre, Ottawa City Hall, and two Ottawa public library branches remain closed today.
The city of Ottawa says Ottawa City Hall, the underground parking garage and the Rink of Dreams are closed until further notice.
The Ottawa Public Library Main and Rideau branches remain closed.
Ottawa Public Health’s vaccination clinic at the University of Ottawa Minto Sports Complex will re-open today. The Lowertown Vaccine Hub, located at the Jules Morin Fieldhouse on 400 Clarence St. E., will re-open as scheduled on Wednesday.
The detours of OC Transpo routes 10, 11, and 16 will be modified based on more reliable access to roads in Centretown, including sections of Bank, Gladstone, Albert and Bronson. Maps of the revised detours are available on octranspo.com.