Stare down at Oka, 1990 Photo: Wikipedia
"Mixing them (soldiers) into a population in the downtown core in a highly volatile demonstration, without much more than days in advance warning may mitigate some risks and create and escalate a whole bunch of other risks." --Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly
Would Ottawa actually call in Canada’s military to manage the Truckers Convoy?
Before I post Police Chief Peter Sloly’s comments from the February 2nd City of Ottawa Information Session, I’ll share a conversation I had two years ago with a friend in our military.
“Why aren’t the military used more often to handle riots and protests?” I asked, genuinely curious. “They have the tools and the talent, the manpower, the vehicles…doesn’t it make more sense to ask the army to do these things than to turn the police into an army?”
“It’s not that simple,” sighed my friend, who had just returned from a peace keeping mission.
“People see two groups in uniform with guns, and they think we are interchangeable. We are not interchangeable, not at all. Not at all.
“Soldiers are trained to kill, don’t forget. Everyone likes to think of soldiers, especially Canadian soldiers, as peacekeepers first, killers only as a last resort. But that’s not the way soldiers are trained, or equipped.
“Also, we are not versed in, or even aware of, the exact ins-and-outs of local laws. We don’t study them; that’s not our business. So, the only way we can go out into a community and stop something from happening, really, is if a local police officer accompanies us to advise us when and how a local law is being broken. Then, we have to figure out how to handle it on the spot, in conversation with the cop….it’s far more complicated than you think.
“For starters, we have no power to arrest and lay charges. We are not cops. We have to be WITH a cop who will do those things.
He sighed again, and then had one last stab at trying to summarize jurisdictional division of power in the plainest language possible:
“I had a friend who ended up on a mission, they sent him out with a local police officer to try to quell a problem. It was a disaster. Everything he would have done by instinct, he had to stop and check with the cop, ‘Can I do this? Is it legal?’ The cop, instead of focusing on the situation, spent most of his time explaining local ordinances to the soldier. It was a mess.
“It’s not what we are trained to do.”
"Soldiers are trained to kill, don’t forget. Everyone likes to think of soldiers, especially Canadian soldiers, as peacekeepers first, killers only as a last resort. But that’s not the way soldiers are trained, or equipped." --Canadian soldier to RWN
So, with that conversation in mind, here is the transcript of the exchange between Ottawa Ward 4 City Councillor Curry and Police Chief Sloly at yesterday’s meeting:
Councillor Cathy Curry asked: “I do want to thank everyone who’s given us enough information here for us to realize just how bad the situation is. I’m hearing that officers are tired, I’m hearing that snow is coming, I’m hearing that the snow vehicles that we’ve been using need to be moved for the snow.
I’m hearing it’s costing us eight hundred thousand dollars a day and I’m hearing that there are a lot of things that we can do in terms of giving people phone numbers to make sure they’re reporting so i think I’m hearing a lot of important information and I guess, I guess, I know what people in Kanata have asked me and that is why are we not bringing in the army?”
Chief Peter Sloly replied: “Thank you, Councillor. I spent a large chunk of my day out in Kanata yesterday talking with our public order commanders, and in fact at that meeting as we have over the last week we discussed the option of military aid to civil power. I’ve said it again we’re looking at every single option including military aid to civil power.
I’ve had those discussions with mayor, council members, the board, there is a process, it’s extremely well established extremely well governed and extremely rare. The only two occasions that i’m aware of in the last hundred years was in the Oka crisis and the FLQ crisis. One in the 1970s and one in the 1990s.
I have seen in my own policing time in the UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, exactly how that looks when the military are mixed in with police and there are some amazing capabilities that come with it, and there are some incredible risks that go with it as well.
It is not a decision to be taken lightly. I’ll say it again, as I said before, every option is being looked at. None of the options create a beautiful, elegant, simple, safe solution. They all come with massive risks. That option in particular would come with massive risks.
Military are war fighters and peacemakers, they are not peacekeepers, and they are not police officers.
They have different training and equipment and mindset when it comes to assessing threats, threats to themselves, threats to others and they have a whole different tool set and training set to affect the mitigation, if not the end of that threat. Mixing them into a population in the downtown core in a highly volatile demonstration, without any much more than days in advance warning may mitigate some risks and create and escalate a whole bunch of other risks.
All options are on the table, our lawyers are looking at all of them, our commanders are looking at all of them, all of them come with massive risks.
I hope that answers your question.”
Councillor Curry: “Thank you very much.”