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Ontario replacing three Ottawa police board members after one attended 'Freedom Convoy' protest

The three provincial appointees to the Ottawa Police Services Board have resigned and will be replaced after one of them attended the “Freedom Convoy demonstration.

The Office of the Solicitor General says the three new appointees will be announced in the coming days, meaning all seven members of the board overseeing Ottawa police will have been replaced since the start of the demonstration that gridlocked downtown Ottawa.

Sources confirm to CTV News Ottawa that Robert Swaita, one of three provincial government appointees to the police oversight board, attended the protest against COVID-19 public health measures. QP Briefing first reported Swaita attended the rally a few days after it arrived in Ottawa the weekend of Jan. 28.

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 also would not comment on whether or not he believes he should resign from his role on the Ottawa Police Services Board.

Swaita did not deny any of the allegations against him.  

Early Wednesday evening, the Office of the Solicitor General announced the three provincial-appointees have resigned from the Ottawa Police Services Board, and new board members will be appointed in the coming days.

"We have been working with the City of Ottawa to support a governance transition of the Ottawa Police Services Board. It is important that the people of Ottawa have confidence in their police governance, and this will bring fresh perspectives as the Board addresses recent events," said the statement from the Office of the Solicitor General.

"Consistent with the city council’s decision to introduce new leadership and after accepting the resignation of provincial appointees, we are moving forward to appoint three new provincial members. We will have more to share in the coming days."

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.

The two other provincial appointees were Daljit Nirman and Bev Johnson.

Ontario's opposition members and the former chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board had called on Swaita to resign or be removed from the board on Wednesday.

Deans and former board member Sandy Smallwood said they were shocked Swaita didn't disclose to the board he attended the protests, especially given the confidential policing intelligence he had access to as a member of the board.

"I think it’s very problematic, especially because he was privy to in-camera, confidential information in his role as a board member," Deans said. Council voted last month to remove Deans from the board.

"It was not disclosed to the board and information was being shared freely in-camera with members of the board so I think that’s highly problematic."

Smallwood, who resigned from the police services board two weeks ago, says any member of the board should disclose if they're supportive of events such as the "Freedom Convoy."

"It would be extremely important for the member who participated to condemn the activities that were being carried on." Smallwood said.

Earlier in the day, Ottawa Vanier MPP Lucille Collard called on Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones to ask Swaita to step down.

Collard says news that a member of the Ottawa Police Services Board attended the protest that blocked streets for three weeks is an "additional cold shower on the confidence" the citizens of Ottawa have in the service.

"That’s very concerning, especially from somebody that’s occupying a role on the Police Services Board because in these instances, appearance of bias is just as important because we’re talking about the confidence of the public here in the police services," Collard said.

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden also called on Ford to remove Swaita from the board.

“It’s disturbing to learn that a Ford government-appointed member of the Ottawa Police Services Board participated in the convoy in the national capital," Harden said.

"This just adds insult to injury for the people of Ottawa, who are still picking up the pieces after a weeks-long occupation that wreaked havoc on their lives. Only Doug Ford has the power to cancel Swaita’s appointment, and Mr. Ford must do that immediately."

Ottawa Police Services Board chair Eli El-Chantiry told CTV News Ottawa Wednesday afternoon that the board would meet later this week to discuss the situation involving Swaita.

"The Board was made aware of an article this afternoon alleging Board Member Swaita’s participation in recent protests near Parliament Hill rallying against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The Board will be meeting later this week to review the article and the allegations," El-Chantiry said.

The Mayor's Office said Jim Watson was not aware that Swaita attended the protest.

"While these allegations are concerning, Mayor Watson is not aware of any confirmation that Mr. Swaita participated in the protest. The matter has been referred to the OPSB for review," a spokesperson for Watson said.

@ctvnewsottawa Ottawa Police Services Board now gutted completely. Freedom #Convoy continues to shake Canadian politics #ottnews #onpoli #cdnpoli ♬ original sound - ctvnewsottawa


Feb. 15

Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly resigns as chief of the service on day 19 of the "Freedom Convoy" demonstration in downtown Ottawa.

Feb. 16

Council votes 15 to 9 to remove Coun. Diane Deans as chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board.

Coun. Carol-Anne Meehan and Rawlson King resign from the board. Council-appointee Sandy Smallwood also resigns from the board.

Council votes to appoint Eli El-Chantiry and Jeff Leiper as the elected members of the board.

Council appoints Suzanne Valiquet as the citizen appointed by council.

Feb. 17

The Ottawa Police Services Board appoints El-Chantiry as the new chair of board. 

March 2

The Office of the Solicitor General announces Daljit Nirman, Robert Swaita and Bev Johnson have resigned from the Ottawa Police Services Board Top Stories

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