Capital city overhauls police board over ‘Freedom Convoy’ — Analysis

Three individuals resigned after one appointee was accused of attending the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest

Three Ottawa police board appointees are being replaced by the provincial government in Canada after one of them was accused of attending an anti-Covid vaccine mandate ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest in the capital city.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones stated that the province will announce three new appointees to the police board after the resignations of the individuals were received.

The departure of the three members of the police board came after one of them, Robert Swaita, was accused of having attended the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest that ground Ottawa to a halt and caused disruption at the US-Canada border.

The allegations, reported by a provincial political news outlet, Queen’s Park Briefing, has not been confirmed independently but saw two members of Ottawa’s provincial parliament call for Swaita’s removal from the board.

The report in the Queen’s Park Briefing accused Swaita of attending the protests “a few days after they started” and prior to the government’s declaration of an emergency due to the ongoing demonstrations. According to the outlet, Swaita replied when she was questioned by reporters that she said, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

“Consistent with the city council’s decision to introduce new leadership and after accepting the resignation of provincial appointees, we are moving forward to appoint three new provincial members,” the solicitor general’s office confirmed.

“It is important that the people of Ottawa have confidence in their police governance, and this will bring fresh perspectives as the Board addresses recent events,” the statement added.

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The latest resignations mean that the Ottawa Police Services Board has no members who sat on it before the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests broke out in late January.

It consists of three councillors from each city, and three appointees from the province. One community member is also appointed by city council.

The ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Ottawa began in response to a Covid vaccine mandate imposed on truckers who moved between the US and Canada. Demonstrations spread to New Zealand as well as the United States. These activists were opposed to similar Covid policies.

The protests were met with an unprecedented response from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in the country’s history. Backed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the capital city’s authorities broke up the protests, using batons and cavalry charges into the crowds. According to Ottawa Police Service, 191 persons were detained and 57 vehicles were taken away over three days.

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