Ontario’s deputy attorney general said in an emergency law inquiry Thursday that the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa last winter did not pose a significant public safety risk.
“I have received a consistent message from Commissioner Carrick and Deputy Minister Stewart that there are no major public safety concerns,” said Mario Di Tomaso.
Ontario Police Department (OPP) Commissioner Thomas Carrique reports directly to Di Tomasso, and Rob Stewart was his counterpart at the federal level as Deputy Minister of Public Safety.
“In my view, I did not believe there was serious violence going on at that point. There are no serious public safety concerns at this time,” said Di Tomaso, who was addressing a Feb. 3 handwritten note related to a call with Stewart.
Commission counsel Natalia Rodriguez pressured Di Tomaso about whether public safety could be broader than physical violence, and he agreed.
“It has been previously described by various eyewitnesses that this protest has had a significant impact on Ottawa residents and has had a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of the community. I fully accept that.” said Di Tomaso.
“Did it rise to the level of public safety concern?” Asked Rodriguez, Di Tomaso said “no.”
Rodriguez then asked if the information Di Tomaso had received had changed over the course of the protest.
“The public safety risk is not that great,” Di Tomaso said. I recognized it.”
Freedom Convoy protesters, led by truck drivers, began arriving in Ottawa on January 28 and were dismantled after the Liberal government invoked the state of emergency law on February 14.
“useful but not necessary”
A summary of Di Tomaso’s interview with the Commission before testifying states that, in his “personal opinion, the federal government’s use of the Emergency Act was helpful, but not necessary.”
In his Nov. 10 inquiry, he said the emergency powers helped settle the Ottawa protests, pointing to compensation offered to tow truck companies that refused to be involved in the removal of heavy vehicles.
At one point, Di Tomaso said he didn’t think the federal government could have done anything different in managing the event.
“My perception is that the federal government wanted to wash its hands in all this,” Di Tomaso said during a Feb. 6 conference call between officials at three levels of government with national security adviser Jodi Thomas. said in reference to a comment made by
“If this protest was happening outside the city of Ottawa, would the state turn to the federal government?” Thomas said, according to the records.
“I didn’t think it was appropriate at all. I thought the federal government certainly had a role. We protested the imposition of mandatory vaccines on truck drivers,” Di Tomaso told the commission.
Rob Stewart is scheduled to testify before the Nov. 11 investigation, and Thomas is scheduled to testify in the coming weeks.