Monday, July 15, 2024

Remember when the OPP cleared the Ambassador Bridge without the Emergencies Act?

The OPP action to clear protesters from the Ambassador Bridge February 13th, 2022 was clearly professionally planned and executed. Photo: Global News/YouTube

Global News coverage of the OPP clearing the Ambassador Bridge February 13, 2022.

Watching the Public Order Emergency Commission hearings this week, I can’t help but recall the day the Ontario Provincial Police cleared the Ambassador Bridge, using no special powers but their own competence and confidence.

On February 12 and 13th, 2022, OPP officers squared off against the Truckers and their supporters who were occupying the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. Protestors had occupied and stopped traffic at the single busiest commercial crossing between Canada and the US for a week, which certainly got the attention of auto manufacturers and Trade ministers.

When eventually authorities lost patience with the protest and decided it was time to end it, the OPP (supported by RCMP and some other police forces) moved in and ended it. I must say, as a former Ontario government staffer and someone who has been protested at multiple events over many years, I was tremendously proud of everyone involved in the effort to clear the bridge.

The OPP officers were incredible! They were calm, professional, organized, clearly using a well-designed plan and an expertly trained unit. They went toe-to-toe with the protesters. Inch by inch, they backed the protesters up until eventually, they were off of the bridge, which could then be cleared of vehicles.

Perhaps the protesters felt that after seven days of occupation, they had made their point. As they were gradually backed up by the line of police officers, they appeared proud and unbowed, but they did in fact back up. They had delivered their message; they saw reason.

No weapons were used; no batons or guns were pulled. No police horses were trotted out. There wasn’t even any tear gas.

It was the ultimate reasonable, practical Canadian scenario. There were a lot of good guys, and no hosers. You almost wondered if any of them headed out for a beer together after.

In the October 18th Commission hearings featuring Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, there were repeated mentions of how Ontario failed Ottawa. Ontario did not send staff to the tri-partite meeting with the city and the federal government; Doug Ford was missing in action.

Granted, policing in Ottawa is a strange kettle of fish: the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) generally polices the city (along with 130 by-law officers). However, as the nation’s capital, there are some areas and/or events which are the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The Parliamentary Precinct (including Centre Block, the East and West Blocks, and Confederation Block) is the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Police Service (PPS). If you commit mischief while standing on the sidewalk on Wellington Street, you might be accosted by the OPS; the RCMP; the PPS; or a by-law officer. If there is one thing that is NOT in short supply in downtown Ottawa, it is police organizations.

So, it really beggars belief to imagine that all of these various and sundry police forces did not have the authority required to manage the Truckers’ Freedom Convoy in February, 2022. Indeed, once the OPP in Windsor decided it was time to act, they did an amazing job of clearing the Ambassador Bridge quickly and cleanly on February 13th. According to Ottawa City Manager Steve Kanellakos, this was the very day the City of Ottawa reached an agreement with the Truckers to begin moving vehicles from downtown Ottawa neighbourhoods, and the day before Justin Trudeau announced he would be invoking the Emergencies Act to end the Ottawa protest.

Frankly, I am really enjoying watching every minute of the Public Order Emergency Commission.

It’s fascinating, watching the people in the background of last winter’s protest events explain what they were thinking, and why they did what they did. For pure entertainment value, it’s a blast.

However, from the point of view of efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars, I tend to think there is a much faster way to answer the question “Did the federal government need to invoke the Emergencies Act to end the Freedom Convoy protest?”

I hope Commissioner Paul Rouleau will view one of the many videos or news reports of the OPP clearing the Ambassador Bridge on February 13th, without the Emergencies Act Trudeau felt compelled to invoke. Seeing is believing.