The Epoch Times | by Noe Chartier | October 24, 2022
The Freedom Convoy was “extremely lawful” and “peaceful” before arriving in Ottawa, hence the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) adopted an adequate posture at the time, its interim chief said on Monday.
“Their behaviour as it’s described within the intelligence reports and reports we had back [then] was that they were extremely lawful, that there was no antisocial behaviour that they were engaged in, and [these were] the observations for a number of days,” OPS interim Chief Steve Bell told the Public Order Emergency Commission.
“Beyond that, the organizers clearly stated on many occasions and through the route, the [OPP Project] HENDON reports, that their intention was to be lawful and peaceful once they came to our city.”
Bell, who was in charge of his organization’s intelligence collection and analysis before becoming interim chief on Feb. 15, was questioned by commission counsel Frank Au on what intelligence the OPS had on the convoy and why it assessed the protest would not last long.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) had been producing intelligence reports through its Project HENDON from the early days of the convoy in January and sharing them with the OPS.
It assessed that protesters would remain in Ottawa for an extended period given some were driving from western Canada, they had substantial funding, and their demands would likely not be met.
The Freedom Convoy and associated cross-Canada protests and blockades called for the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
Even though Bell was in charge of OPS intelligence, he told the commission of having no recollection of receiving HENDON reports before Jan. 27, a day before trucks arrived in Ottawa.
Truckers and protesters arrived in Ottawa on Jan. 28 and were dislodged during the weekend of Feb. 18 after the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14.
The commission, which is examining the invocation of the act, is currently in its public hearings phase.
‘Expect Very Large Crowds’
Bell was asked by counsel Au whether it could have been assessed that protesters planned to stay for longer given how far they drove. “That’s an inference we would now make,” he said.
“There was nothing to identify that that would occur within the intelligence,” he said, in reference to size of the protest and the negative consequences for Ottawa residents.
While Bell defended how his organization perceived and consequently prepared for the convoy before its arrival, he admitted more thought should have been put into the potential for a prolonged protest.
An intelligence assessment prepared by his subordinates and published on Jan. 28 said the convoy had increasing funding and was a “truly organic grassroots event that is gathering momentum largely from the widespread population.”
“Expect very large crowds,” says the assessment.
Bell said one area missing from the report was “specifically around the fact that there may be some members of the convoy who would stay on for a longer period of time … than we were planning for.”
“I don’t believe we had enough information to substantiate the level of risk that it created,” said Bell.
“Based on the intelligence we had, we didn’t have legal authority to deny the protesters from a protest. All of the activity had been lawful and peaceful and there was no indication of anything contrary to that.”