Ottawa police investigating allegations of officers leaking info to ‘Freedom Convoy’
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Ottawa’s interim police chief confirmed Thursday his force is investigating allegations that officers leaked intelligence to organizers of last winter’s “Freedom Convoy” protest.
But despite the allegations also being levied at Ontario Provincial Police, the provincial force’s commissioner said no ongoing investigation is underway.
Keith Wilson, a lawyer for some of the organizers, alleged on Wednesday that the convoy regularly received leaks from sympathetic officers about the operational plans of police.
He made the allegations while testifying at a public hearing of the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is tasked with assessing the federal government’s decision to invoke special emergency powers weeks into the protests.
Interim chief Steve Bell told a committee of MPs and senators that Wilson’s testimony contained “net new information” and the Ottawa Police Service initiated an internal investigation Wednesday evening.
Bell said the police service is planning to reach out to Wilson “to get more information so we can look to follow up on that.”
He was testifying at a special parliamentary committee that is pursuing its own investigation of the government’s use of the Emergencies Act. Both the commission inquiry and the committee study are legally required under the checks and balances laid out in the act.
Later in the same committee meeting, Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique said there was “no ongoing investigation at this time” over potential leaks from the OPP.
At the commission hearing Wednesday, Wilson had described a “steady stream of information and leaks” coming from on-duty officers in the Ottawa police, Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP and security agencies.
“At all times, there was a high degree of situational awareness of what the operational plans were for the police,” he said.
The RCMP has not responded to a request for comment.
Carrique said there were concerns that some police officers were “sympathetic to the cause.”
But he said he has “no evidence” of leaks during the convoy.
“There is no ongoing investigation at this time. There was no evidence ever identified that there were any leaks coming from within the Ontario Provincial Police.”
During the convoy, the OPP produced intelligence reports, tabled with the Public Order Emergency Commission, that outlined concerns about information on police action becoming available to protesters.
Carrique said he “shared those same concerns” and “it was certainly a risk that needed to be addressed and mitigated.”
But he said it didn’t lead to any concerns on his part about sharing OPP intelligence with the Ottawa Police Service and other policing partners.
Asked whether the Ottawa police were aware of any leaks before this week’s testimony, Bell said that internal investigations and discipline related to officers’ conduct had already taken place, but that most of these were related to donations made in support of the convoy.
“Right from the very early days of the convoy, it was something we were concerned of,” he said. “At every turn, as we received information to initiate an investigation, we did.”
When asked how senior the officers were who had been investigated or disciplined, Bell said he can’t comment on the investigations and how they unfolded.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.
— With a file from David Fraser.