Former Ottawa police chief to appear at parliamentary committee today

Ottawa’s former police chief Peter Sloly is set to appear before a parliamentary committee Thursday, and he’s expected to deliver his first public comments on the Freedom Convoy since his high-profile resignation amid the turmoil of last winter’s protest.

Sloly will serve as a witness at the standing committee on procedure and house affairs, which is looking at whether to expand the parliamentary precinct and have federal security take over Wellington and Sparks streets, in addition to the current coverage zone.

This past winter’s convoy protest has reignited the question of which police force should be responsible for the area around Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital city.

Sloly fielded criticism of his leadership after trucks and protesters entrenched themselves along Wellington Street, including the area immediately in front of Centre Block.

Six days into the protest, the former police chief also told city council “there may not be a policing solution” to bring an end to the occupation of downtown streets. Days later he requested 1,800 extra officers from other jurisdictions to come help the local force.

Jurisdictional questions mid-convoy

As Sloly appeared before city council, media and the public, the city councillor for the city’s downtown core Catherine McKenney — who is now running for mayor — asked for the RCMP to take over from Ottawa police.

The councillor wanted local police to focus on the impact on residents, which included incessant honking and harassment.

McKenney also had council support for the motion asking the RCMP to “assume responsibility for public safety and security” of Parliament Hill, Wellington and Sparks streets. 

CBC News recently obtained an email Sloly sent to Coun. Diane Deans — who chaired the Ottawa Police Services Board at the time, and is also now running for mayor — and current Mayor Jim Watson one day after McKenney moved their motion.

In the email, Sloly reasserted the force’s view that McKenney’s motion was “absent jurisdictional authority” by asking the RCMP to take over.

Steve Bell, who took over from Sloly and was a deputy chief at the time, also told council Ottawa alone had the legal obligation to police the area. 

Then, within days of Sloly’s resignation, officers from multiple jurisdictions did methodically move in on protesters and clear the area.

The expansion of the federal jurisdiction is now under discussion. Bell and McKenney appeared before the committee over the past two weeks.

Sloly is due to appear as an individual late Thursday morning, just after former Ottawa police chief-turned-senator Vern White.

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