Former Ottawa police board member says he did nothing wrong attending 'Freedom Convoy' protest
A former member of the Ottawa Police Services Board insists he did nothing wrong when he attended the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration, saying he wanted to better understand the "growing frustration" being felt by many Canadians during the pandemic.
Robert Swaita was one of three provincial appointees to the police oversight board that resigned on Wednesday, hours after it was reported Swaita attended the demonstration that gridlocked the downtown core for more than three weeks.
Swaita says he attended the protest on two occasions when the demonstration against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health measures first arrived in Ottawa the weekend of Jan. 28.
"I want to be crystal clear - I did nothing wrong," Swaita said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
"I attended the protest on two occasions when the convoy first arrived in Ottawa. I shared this, and my frustrations, in conversations with the Chair and Vice Chair of the OPSB at the time - well before the protest was declared illegal.
"As a private citizen of Ottawa and a member of the OPSB, I wanted to better understand the growing frustration that was being felt by many Canadians to better undertake my duties as an OPSB member and a concerned citizen."
Swaita notes he went on a police ride-along during the demonstration to "better gauge" the challenges faced by officers.
"I unequivocally condemn any racist or destructive behaviour. I never attended the protest after it was declared illegal, and I never made donations," Swaita wrote.
When contacted by CTV News Ottawa Wednesday afternoon, Swaita declined to comment on whether or not he attended the Freedom Convoy protests or if his restaurant, KS on the Keys, donated food to the truckers.
Swaita was appointed to the Ottawa Police Services Board in March 2020 for a three-year term. He ran for councillor in the riding of Gloucester-Southgate in the 2018 election, coming in second to Coun. Diane Deans.
Swaita said he submitted his resignation following the "recent events" and the resignation of Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly and the dismissal of Deans as chair of the board.