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UPDATED: OPP, RCMP take control of protest enforcement, Ottawa Chief Peter Sloly quits

Authorities are now figuring out how best to use new powers. granted through the Emergencies Act
A protester yells “freedom” towards a person who attempted to stick a paper sign on a truck criticizing the so called “Freedom Convoy,” a protest against COVID-19 measures that has grown into a broader anti-government protest, on its 18th day, in Ottawa, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police have taken control of enforcement in Ottawa amid sustained criticism of the local force’s handling of a chaotic antigovernment protest, while the city’s chief of police has resigned from the role.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says an integrated command centre has been set up so the RCMP and OPP can share and assume command over the enforcement necessary to bring about public order in Ottawa.

Mendicino’s announcement today came hours after the news that Peter Sloly had abruptly resigned as Ottawa police chief, while the protest that has paralyzed the downtown core stretches into its third week.

The minister says the federal government’s focus is ensuring the Ottawa police, as well as the RCMP and OPP, have all the tools necessary to restore public order in the city.

Authorities are now figuring out how best to use new powers. granted through the Emergencies Act invoked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, to help remove scores of protest trucks that have clogged the city’s downtown for more than two weeks.

The Ottawa police have been criticized for their response to the protest that has sparked a highly critical backlash from residents fed up with what many call an occupation.

Some protesters have harassed residents for wearing masks, flown Nazi and Confederate flags and honked their truck horns incessantly, though an injunction has helped quell the noise to some extent.

Many Ottawa residents and city councillors have expressed dismay at the police force’s seeming reluctance to enforce laws and maintain order downtown.

Sloly became chief of the Ottawa Police Service in 2019 after previously serving on the Toronto force for decades, including as deputy chief.

Ottawa’s police services board was originally scheduled to meet Tuesday morning, but that was pushed back to 2:30 p.m. eastern time.

A city council meeting that was slated for Tuesday has been bumped to Wednesday to allow local politicians to receive a more comprehensive update.

In addition, the city says, the federal move to invoke the Emergencies Act requires more work and analysis to provide council and the public with a better understanding of the tools now available.

On Monday, Trudeau said after invoking the act that despite the best efforts of police, it’s clear there are “serious challenges” to the ability to enforce the law.

Declaring a public order emergency allows authorities to zero in on the crowdfunding of protests, ensure services such as towing are available and have the RCMP enforce municipal bylaws.

—Jim Bronksill, The Canadian Press

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