The city of Ottawa’s auditor general confirms she will be undertaking a review of the city’s response to the “Freedom Convoy” protest.
The probe into how the Ottawa Police Service handled the three-week protest and occupation of downtown Ottawa was a significant portion of Monday’s Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) meeting. More than a dozen public delegations harshly criticized the police service and the board for their handling of the protest and its aftermath.
The board voted to ask Nathalie Gougeon to perform the audit.
In a memo to city council Tuesday, Gougeon wrote that City Manager Steve Kanellakos wrote to her office to request she audit the city of Ottawa’s response to the protest.
“I believe my Office is well suited to perform this engagement,” Gougeon wrote. “It is important to note that this request is of significant magnitude. While my Office will keep both the City Manager and Interim Chief of Police informed of issues or lessons learned as they are observed throughout the course of our work (to inform potential future events), my Office will take the necessary time required to perform a thorough audit.”
The OPSB motion asks the auditor general to review several areas, including the incident command structure, the police service’s board role and responsibilities to handle major events and crisis management, operational approaches and readiness, enforcement strategies, and whether systemic issues within the OPS, “such as racism or anti-vaccination sentiment,” compromised the police response to the protest.
Kanellakos’s request noted that the city’s role was to support police operations and so, “(H)aving the Office of the Auditor General also evaluating the City’s actions in support of the Ottawa Police Service will ensure City Council and the Ottawa Police Services Board will benefit from an integrated and holistic understanding of what happened and what lessons might be learned.”
Gougeon vowed to be transparent and to involve the public in her audit.
“It is my intention to be as transparent as possible throughout the course of our audit. Where possible, we will share information. Most importantly, in determining the areas of focus for this audit, it is my intention to engage with members of the public to better understand the impacts of the demonstration on all aspects of the City,” Gougeon wrote.
There was no timeline given for the audit in Gougeon’s memo, but the OPSB motion asks that recommendations be incorporated into planning for Canada Day 2022.