First witnesses at Emergencies Act inquiry include Ottawa residents, city officials

By David Fraser

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA-The Ottawa woman who filed for a court injunction to stop truckers from continually honking their horns during the “Freedom Convoy” in February is among the first witnesses at a public inquiry exploring the government’s use of the Emergencies Act.

Zexi Li launched a class-action lawsuit against organizers of the convoy on Feb. 3, and an Ontario court granted her an injunction four days later to stop the horn-honking.

A week later, on Feb. 14, the federal Liberals invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time as protesters opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and lockdowns blockaded border crossings and occupied downtown Ottawa streets.

Invoking the law temporarily granted police extraordinary powers and allowed banks to freeze accounts, which the government argues was critical to ending the protests.

Li will testify before the Public Order Emergency Commission Friday as it begins examining the effect of the protests on Ottawa residents as well as the communications between city councillors, police and other government officials.

Catherine McKenney, who is currently running for mayor of Ottawa, will be joined by fellow city councillor Mathieu Fleury as witnesses Friday. Both were representing wards significantly affected by the convoy.

Fleury said ahead of his testimony that he was a part of daily calls with officials during the convoy, and was often “quite disappointed with the lack of plan and lack of information that was shared with us.”

“There wasn’t much more information than what was provided to the public,” he said.

He also said he faced threats, including an incident where people in pickup trucks came to his home and shouted at him.

“Ultimately, we just moved out and reported the incident,” he said, adding that he has a young family.

The commission is tasked with examining the evolution and goals of the protests, the effect of misinformation and disinformation on the convoy, and the efforts of police before and after the emergency declaration.

Ottawa city manager Steve Kanellakos’s testimony is expected to include details about the role he played in trying to negotiate an end to the protests.

Kanellakos met with some of the convoy organizers in early February in a then-secret meeting.

A few days later on Feb. 12, Tamara Lich, one of the protest leaders, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson exchanged letters discussing an agreement that would see the truckers move their vehicles outside of

residential areas.

But convoy organizers were not on the same page about striking a deal, and some high-profile protesters said they had no plans to leave.

During the first day of the commission’s hearings Thursday, a lawyer representing Ottawa police said they had little time to prepare for the protests, and could not have predicted the impacts it had on the city.

David Migicovsky, legal counsel for the Ottawa Police Service, said Thursday there were well-established processes in place to deal with protesters, but they didn’t work during the “Freedom Convoy.”

He said none of the intelligence reports predicted the “level of  community violence and social trauma that was inflicted on the city and its residents.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2022.

 

Add Your Voice

Is there more to this story? We'd like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Contribute your voice on our contribute page.