Emergencies Act Investigation: What Ottawa Police’s Steve Bell Says

Another expected police week in the Public Order Emergency Committee’s investigation into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act got underway on Monday, with the appearance of the Police. Ottawa interim chief Steve Bell.

Bell as deputy director of surveillance for intelligence, information and investigations for the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) before taking command of the shock police force during the following “Liberty Convoy” protests. when his predecessor Peter Sloly resigned.

While Bell’s cross-examination continues, from the legal guidance OPS is operating on, to the usefulness of emergency powers, here are some key moments from the hearing so far.


In his testimony, Bell said one of the gaps in the city’s intelligence was the way truckers and other anti-COVID-19 protesters and anti-government protesters would use it. uses Ottawa residents as a “lever point”.

Bell said.

Later in her testimony, Bell testified that the OPS realized that they had not put enough emphasis on the initial planning and handling of the convoy when it came to the impact of the protest on the community.

“I don’t think it can be overstated, the real impact of this protest is the community harm created… There hasn’t been any information to determine that, and for me that’s what has happened. creates a need, an emerging need for us to make sure we have action plans in place when we see it emerge.Our communities have faced violent activity in the past. that period,” he said.

Another area of ​​intelligence gaps that have been thoroughly explored in committee hearings so far is around how long officials predict the protesters will stay.

On October 24, Bell told the committee that while there had been “regular but handover references” to the possibility of the protests extending beyond the first weekend, “based on the fact that it was supposed to be a small group,” an undefined “output” plan is a priority.


One of the most notable elements of Bell’s appearance was through a document submitted as evidence: OPS “Intelligence Assessment” dated January 29, but prepared a day earlier.

The report contained some details, including that the convoy participants were fully funded and stocked with sufficient supplies, that “those with extreme political views” were supporting the protest. online and the “most likely problem for the police” would be the number of cars on the local road.

“Convoys will be able to effectively stop and close the movement if they want to,” it wrote.

Under the description of the context surrounding this event, the report was prepared by OPS Sgt. Chris Kiez said that while “most demonstrations are repetitive“what they see with the convoy is” rare. ”

“This event… is not a ‘pro rally’ with the usual sad playersbut rather, as a real fact of organic origin gaining momentum, “read the report, go on to mention there seems to be” a strong expression of deep discontent with the way people people feel they are being controlled. “

Furthermore, in describing the demographics of protesters heading to the nation’s capital, the report called it “unusual”.

“The demographics of the Convoy are very unusual; protests around the globe consist almost exclusively of middle-class members of society. As the so-called ‘silent majority’ is much larger than the activists. As a result, law enforcement is being met with numbers that exceed the standard.”


Bell was questioned in his testimony about the legal views prepared for the Ottawa police that he shared with other top OPS leaders, including Sloly, on how they might end the union. vehicle while balancing Charter rights and public safety considerations.

A part stated legal opinion that “when individuals or groups do not obstruct or impede vehicular traffic for an extended period of time, they maintain their right to object so far to opt out or engage in unlawful conduct.”

When asked by a commissioner attorney about trucking and other vehicles being allowed downtown and parked that first weekend, where they were then entrenched, Bell said that OPS capable of stopping vehicles from entering the city center, stating: “a truck is not an entity protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, human beings are.”

However, OPS did not stop the convoy because that is not what they did with previous vehicle-based rallies.

“We’ve always allowed them because our experience is they’ve come and they’ve gone, and we’ve managed them, and that’s what happens often for us,” he said.

The attorney then asked if he agreed with Sloly’s view that the OPS had no legal authority to deny the “Liberty Convoy” access to the city center and that any road restrictions or any traffic should be commensurate with the threat. Bell said yes.

“I completely agree, based on the intelligence we have. We have no legal authority to deny protesters participation in a protest. All activities are legal. law and peace and there is no indication of anything to the contrary.”


In a summary from Bell’s pre-summer interview with the committee, Bell’s position was outlined when it came to the usefulness of different levels of government. issue emergency declarations.

Bell said that when Ottawa declared a state of emergency, it “created easier avenues for OPS funding and procurement,” but the police agency “didn’t take advantage of any of these avenues.” these roads.”

When Ontario declared a province-wide state of emergency, this proclamation and authority “did not directly benefit OPS” but noted that it had indirect benefits because the Ontario Provincial Police raised capacity.

As for the impact of the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, Bell said that these extraordinary powers were “significantly beneficial to OPS in ending the occupation,” though he “has no opinion on the matter.” ​about whether the Emergencies Act was necessary.”


Part of the committee’s job is to find out what happened so that those involved can learn from mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again. On October 24, an attorney for the commission asked Bell what he thought the Ottawa police could do better. Bell then used the opportunity to describe how he thought the Ottawa police learned from the way they handled the convoy.

“In terms of intelligence, I know that one of the things that we have developed is a capacity and a better ability to open source information. What is born out of this situation is a unit established within the organization. our organization, specifically dedicated to the open information collection Bell said.

“One of the things we can do is: we read intelligence differently now. We’ve had many follow-up events in this city where we’ve used our experience to promote push his operational plan,” he continued, citing the “Rolling Thunder” protests in the spring as an example of how he believes the OPS “prevented a further occupation of the streets.” ours.”


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