Outgoing Ottawa mayor testifies at Emergencies Act inquiry
Live now to Ottawa where the inquiry into the government’s use of the emergencies ACT earlier this year continues outgoing mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson speaking today the um summary of the timeline and I believe the timeline you’re referring to is yes so we’re going to take that one and.
You can have the the timeline of events as yeah and that is the institutional report of the city of Ottawa with respect to the timeline of events correct yes okay and you’ve indicated that are there any notations on that one uh not this one though okay thank you and can you tell us why you’re having that with you today for your testimony.
Uh just to be clear on the dates uh the sequence of events that took place earlier this year okay so it’s a way to remember the dates correct okay now my understanding is that you were not involved in the day-to-day planning and preparation for the convoys arrival and Ottawa is that right that’s correct and that was left mainly to the city.
Manager Steve kanalakis and others within the city is that right yes okay and I understand that you had a briefing with former Chief slowly and Mr kanalakis on the 26th to talk about what to expect in terms of the convoys arrival so this is now before the arrival of the Convoy is that right yes and can you tell us what the chief told.
You in terms of what to expect well uh the information was not particularly clear no one had a real sense of how many vehicles were coming whether they were going to stay a long period of time what their actual plan was there was a sense on the the chief indicated that the group was somewhat disorganized and did not speak with one.
Voice and in terms of scope scale number of vehicles number of protesters can you give us a sense for what you were told they were coming from three different locations the West the East and Central Canada to convene on on or near Ottawa and that they were upset with the mass mandates which were primarily as.
You know a provincial matter but they were upset with the federal government as well and did he give a sense for how long you could expect them to be in Ottawa uh my recollection was that uh they would be here for one or two days that was the norm you know a lot of people protest in our city and our police do a.
Very good job of controlling and managing the situation and to the best of my knowledge we never had a protest in the 25 years I’ve been in public service that lasted more than a couple of days and then they gathered their signs and placards and and went back home so it was one or two days was the sense that you got from the chief in.
Terms of how long the Convoy would be in Ottawa yeah there was a bit of a moving agenda for the organizers of the Convoy because it at one point they had I believe Mr Bernier wanting to speak and then he was able to come on the Fridays or the Saturday and then it was pushed back a day so there seemed to be some challenges that they were having as to.
Who was going to speak and when they were going to speak and that prolonged it my view at the time was that it would probably last a couple of days my understanding was most of these truckers were independent and if they weren’t on the road doing business and Pickups they were losing money so that they would in fact go home.
On Saturday or Sunday and obviously that did not happen right and the chief didn’t give you any indication that it would be other anything other than the weekend no we didn’t have any indication we had uh we had a a memo or an email from Steve Ball the hotel association indicating.
That one of the organizers coming inquired about a long-term booking of 30 plus days at a number of hotels they wanted I think nine to ten thousand hotel rooms and did that concern you at all well um it did except uh you know when you’re.
Making a booking you have to have some evidence you’re going to follow through with it so simply asking about booking 11 000 rooms when the city only has about 11 000 rooms it’s at its disposal the tourism industry um I don’t think I don’t think most took it seriously for the simple reason that there is no follow-up it was simply.
Asking um about rooms and room availability and rates I suppose and then uh it didn’t really go anywhere because my understanding is the bulk of the people with large rigs stayed in their cabs they didn’t need hotels and so in your discussions with Chiefs slowly on the 26th was there any.
Discussion about what would be done in the event that the protesters decided to stay longer than a couple of days uh I don’t recall any other discussion on that at that point okay use the term occupation in your correspondence at what point did you determine that this was no longer a protest and that it was an occupation.
Well a couple of points went first when more people started to arrive and secondly when people were not leaving the Parliamentary Precinct so there were there were those two points that really brought to light the fact that this was going to be more of an occupation as opposed to a protest as I said the police in our city are very used to.
Handling large protests and large visits of State leaders and so on but nothing of this magnitude has ever been seen quite frankly in any City that I’m aware of in Canada in the last 25 years so is it fair to say by Monday the 31st after that first weekend when the the majority of the of the trucks were still there that that’s when you determined that.
They were not going to leave anytime soon uh thereabouts either whether it’s the Monday or the Tuesday and then certainly that was solidified in my mind that they weren’t going to leave on the weekends when the weekends started to create this very tense situation where people were coming in from all over the region in.
Fact different parts of the country to come and support the protesters and that’s where the havoc and the chaos was created in our communities and was there ever ever a discussion that you had with either Chief slowly or the deputy Chiefs about blocking access to the additional convoys that were coming that second weekend to join the original protest.
I I don’t recall being in any meeting when that was discussed did you raise the issue um my my bigger concern at that time from recollection was what can we do to ensure that the trucks don’t go into the residential areas because we knew that the impact that would have because we’d seen in the first couple of days the.
Constant horn honking and they had some train whistles on some of the trucks and there was just a unruly behavior on the part of these people who’d come and basically occupied our downtown so it wasn’t a concern that there were additional convoys that were coming to join to kind of expand the footprint of the original Convoy well I think.
There was concern absolutely because when you saw hundreds and then it turned out to thousands of people arriving with different pickups and 18 wheelers and so on that this was going to be bigger than any of us had imagined okay but there wasn’t a discussion to try and prevent that from happening not in my presence to the best of my.
Recollection right now I I want to take you to a document which is a readout of a call that you had with the Prime Minister on January 31st and it’s ssm.can.nsc Dot four zeros two eight one two and so you had a call with the Prime Minister on the 31st is that right.
That’s correct and how did this this call come about did he reach out to you or did you reach out to him uh to be honest I I don’t recall whether it was me to him or him to me um okay if we can just make that bigger so we can see okay so you say hi and as we know these are summaries of of the call it’s not.
Transcript but it gives you a sense for what’s being said and if we go to uh right so JW is when you’re speaking PM is when the prime minister is speaking and so the second thing a second section there before the redacted portion the second sentence uh third sentence you said these people had their.
Time and need to move on we have been trying to get this across to the chief of police do you see that yes and when you say these people are you speaking about the protesters that’s correct and you say we have been trying to get this across the chief of police so this is now Monday the 31st um so right after the first weekend and so what.
Discussions did you have with the chief of police about this issue about letting them or asking them to move on well I was interested in what the plan of action from the police was going to be in order to clear out the downtown core because my sense was that this was not shrinking in size as people started to go back home it was growing in size.
So everyone could see that and um I you know I stress to the police as you know we can’t direct the police and what to do but certainly in conversations I had with you slowly he understood very well the importance of getting this situation resolved sooner than later because it would grow into a bigger issue so you had discussions.
Achieved slowly over that weekend or on the Monday uh sometime in that period I don’t know if it was a Sunday or Monday but you know I was in contact almost on a regular basis with someone from the police service when I was the chief for the deputy Bell and so at some point you told him.
It’s time to move on we need to get these people out of here is that right uh no I can’t as I said I can’t direct the police but certainly I asked the questions um you know what is the game plan to move forward and uh he’s the chief said that they’re they’re working on one and I relay that to the Prime Minister he.
The Prime Minister wanted to get a sense of what was going on on the ground and how this was affecting our city in particular our residential community and the small business Community because as you know we just got out of the lockout from covid and restaurants and businesses could start opening and then all of a sudden we have another lockdown.
Imposed really by The occupiers Who came here to disrupt our quality of life and at the bottom there if we can just move it up a little bit uh nope sorry at the bottom yeah it says the turning point so right after the redacted portion you say the turning point is the Terry Fox statue the tomb Shepherds of Good Hope people just can’t.
Fathom how this is acceptable and so you’re referring to the incidences that took place over the weekend with respect to the war National war memorial and the Terry Fox statue is that right yeah I think what what was happening was disgraceful we had some people dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier we had other people.
Urinating at the cenotaph we had a group that went and stole meals from the Shepherds of Good Hope we had and the Mandate placards put on the Terry Fox statue it was completely despicable behavior on the part of these individuals we welcome protesters who are respectful of the law and respectful of our communities the vast majority of.
These people and that kind of behavior were not being respectful and I think we’re hurting their cause quite frankly when you saw you know the Shepherds of Good Hope who does such good work in the in Lower Town in the byward market having people bully their way in to get a free meal that was just abhorrent and further down you say chief of police.
Said it’s sold all right some pretty Stark witness testimony from the outgoing mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson at the inquiry into the government’s use of the emergencies ACT earlier this year will continue to follow that story