Ottawa police chief resigns as trucker protests continue to strangle city

Peter Sloly's resignation comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to quell protests

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Ottawa’s top police officer resigned on Tuesday amid a driver-led protest against vaccine mandates in Canada’s capital that is now in its third week.

Police Chief Peter Sloly had drawn criticism for his handling of the lorry driver protest that has paralysed the city for weeks.

Deputy Chief Steve Bell has been named interim chief by the Ottawa Police Service Board.

“The unlawful occupation has been a tremendous stress to our community,” interim Chief Bell told the service board. “I'm confident we've reached a turning point.”

“I'm shocked,” Michael Kempa, associate professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa, told The National.

“In any emergency, continuity of leadership is almost always the preferred course, unless it has been deemed that it is so problematic, that it's worth a disruption to go in another direction.”

Mr Sloly’s decision comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to quell the protests and choke off the flow of money to demonstrators.

The measure gives the government the power to ban public assemblies in certain locations while ordering financial institutions to freeze the accounts of demonstrators and those supporting them.

Mr Kempa said that with Mr Trudeau's move and Mr Sloly's resignation, it's clear “the feds are now in the driver's seat".

He cautioned that Mr Sloly's resignation would not fix the Ottawa Police Services, which is widely seen to have underperformed over the course of the past two weeks, making a series of mistakes that ultimately allowed the protesters to take control of a huge portion of the city centre.

“If people think that this solves the problem, they are deeply misguided,” Mr Kempa said.

“We have had a systems failure that led to this problem.”

For more than two weeks, hundreds of lorry drivers and thousands of their supporters have “occupied” Ottawa, shaking many Canadians' faith in their governmental institutions.

On Friday, the Canadian province of Ontario declared a state of emergency over the protests.

The former Ottawa chief, on the job since 2019, had emphasised negotiations with protesters and avoiding confrontations between the demonstrators and police.

Mr Sloly said in the early days of the crisis that there may not be a policing solution to the problem.

Updated: February 16, 2022, 4:32 AM
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