, 02.07.2022 11:50 AM

My latest: how to end the battle of Ottawa

Ottawa has declared a state of emergency. Police are parading in riot gear. Laws are being broken. Protesters are being arrested.

Does any of that mean anything?

Not really. Not until governments and police make the decision to do something significant and real. And, so far, all that is significant and real is the unravelling of the career of Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly. He’s been an unmitigated disaster.

So, what happens if — as many usually peace-loving Ottawans clearly want — the cops start swinging batons and cracking heads?

Ten points to consider, mainly drawn from the recent post-riot, post-occupation experience of American police forces.

The Americans remind us that the key thing is preparation — by police, by government, by the relevant authorities. This clearly didn’t happen in Ottawa.

Preparation isn’t something — it’s everything. The key is always to have police tactical plans well-thought-out — and well before the protest starts. Ottawa cops simply didn’t do that.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly during a press conference in Ottawa Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. TONY CALDWELL/Postmedia
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly during a press conference in Ottawa Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. TONY CALDWELL/Postmedia

Training exercises help cops. They help to protect people, too — those exercising their constitutional rights, civilians who live in the protest zones, and the officers themselves. And in Ottawa, as noted, that didn’t happen either.

Ten points.

1) Dozens of U.S. studies show us that a lack of adequate planning and preparation causes the police to be reactive, rather than proactive. The American experience has repeatedly shown the need for planning, logistics, training, and police command-and-control supervision. Given the chaos and criminality reigning in the nation’s capital, it’s obvious that the police have lost control.

2) Escalation by police usually leads to more confrontations and violence. It just does. Putting police in military-style gear is usually how escalation happens. And militarization — dressing up like combat troops, basically — is usually a big mistake. It puts otherwise peaceful protesters on edge and often makes them combative. De-escalation keeps everyone — protesters and police — safer.

3) Any law enforcement response to an occupation situation has to be measured and proportionate, and take steps to avoid — even accidentally — heightening tensions and making things a lot worse. In Ottawa, it very much looks like too little response is about to become too much response.

4) So, proportionality: Police need to tailor that response to the actions and mood of the crowd, and should always try to avoid increasing tensions by using more gear and equipment than necessary. British police have found that mixing with rowdy soccer fans in non-military attire works well.

5) Police agencies need to always, always clearly and unambiguously communicate the thresholds for arrest. They need to give warnings to demonstrators when they breaking the law and about to be arrested. And arrests, of course, should only happen where there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. That itself is the law.

A trucker gets three tickets from the Ottawa Police on Elgin Street in Ottawa Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.
A trucker gets three tickets from the Ottawa Police on Elgin Street in Ottawa Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. Photo by TONY CALDWELL /Postmedia

6) A protest is not a riot. But neither is an occupation a garden-variety protest. Police know what to do in riots. The Occupy Movement, which I wrote a book about, showed the need for different tactics in occupation situations. Behaviour of protesters is almost always determined by how they are treated by police.

7) Police need to meet with the protest leadership, regularly. Listen, empathize. Take down the temperature however and whenever possible. This is what the Americans call the Madison Method, and it works. Now, because demonstrations may be spontaneous and groups may not have identified leaders, cops should use social media for outreach and communication. Has Ottawa done that? Doesn’t look like it.

8) Some protesters believe that violence is morally defensible. Those people need to be quickly identified and detained and thereafter prosecuted. At the same time, reaching out to the majority who are always nervous about confrontation and violence is essential. Police need to keep those people from siding with the radicals. Isolate and remove the hotheads.

9) That means this: Police often treat all protesters the same, but they just shouldn’t. They should be trained to differentiate between peaceful protesters and violent troublemakers. That can be hard to do when there’s chaos. But it has to be done.

10) Intelligence is key. Lack of good intel leads to policing problems — poor coordination, inconsistency and confusion. Which almost always ends in violence. Good intel in Ottawa was non-existent, or next to nothing.

Ottawa is at a proverbial crossroads. More chaos and bloody violence is one road. The other road is de-escalation and a peaceful end to an illegal occupation.

It’s not a consideration for the police, but it is for the civilians who oversee them: Leaders need to step up here, more than they have.

Leaders — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the chief of police — can meet with protest leaders. They should. It won’t resolve everything, but it will give the protesters the feeling they’ve achieved something, and it may hasten their departure. It may lead to a peaceful conclusion, too.

Ottawa needs that. Now.

— Warren Kinsella is a former police reporter. His book about the Occupy Movement, Fight the Right, has been reissued by Random House.


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    Miles Lunn says:

    Fully agreed. One thing governments though must not do is give into their demands. If they drop all restrictions, that will just send a message to every group out there that whatever policy you are unhappy with, go launch a disruptive protest and government will change policy. We have elections not mob rule.

    Now yes restrictions need to go eventually, but they should be dropped when public health gives go ahead, not when protesters demand it must.

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      Henadic Theologian says:

      The science already supports ending restrictions, we are entering the endemic phase of the disease, we have treatments that are 90% effective at proventing hosiptalizations and death and Omicron burns out fast as shown in countries like South Africa that has only a 30% vaccination rate, but is still doing fine. There was no justification for Vaccine Mandates now of all times.

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        Phil in London says:

        Yes the current restrictions are simply not very effective and this last lockdown was an act of cowardice by so many.

        Going into an election Mssrs. Legault and Ford felt they could not afford to be wrong on Omicron so they erred on the side of cautious and extreme public control.

        Both men are now preaching that we need to live with this thing (A prediction that was made very early on was just that, once we have vaccines and treatment options we will be able to live with Covid-19)

        I do get that there are breakthrough cases for vaccinated and that some of us are vulnerable. I have done everything to respect others space, I wear a mask and – I have received four mind controlling microchips (many of us call them vaccines). I don’t feel the political class has a very good sense of how unwilling the public is to continue with living a life of restrictions.

        Because of an unwanted tenant (Cancer) I have a bit different view on how I would hold a freedom rally. I am not afraid of dying from Cancer or Covid, one of these two may get me, it doesn’t matter one day I am pushing up daisies that is guaranteed. What I am sure as hell afraid of is being forced to live in fear.

        My rally would protest the loss of freedom for people who have done what has been asked of them and still don’t have

        1) an ability to go about our business without lineups.

        2) freedom to make informed decisions to attend gatherings and dine in restaurants.

        3) freedom to enjoy the privileges of respecting law and order and good citizenship.

        4) freedom to know that first class health care treatment will be afforded me with equally first class timely delivery.

        5) freedom to express my political leanings with the knowledge that respect begets respect even from the other side.

        I believe that people do have a right to refuse vaccination but every right exercised must come with consequences. That freedom to live without the jab has been poorly, horridly addressed. When you choose a personal freedom over the greater good, you surely don’t get to enjoy the fruits of the greater good.

        Refusing first class healthcare to those that expose their body (by choices made) to second class treatments is not an extreme move.

        Rapid testing at emergency wards would identify covid concerns quickly, those with proof of vaccination should not be denied that first class entry. But, those who can’t should be afforded second class treatment. They should receive treatment but in the field hospitals like the one London built, but NEVER USED and tore down a few weeks before Omicron.

        If 40% of your case load was removed from the main hospitals even as pathetically funded as they have been for decades would not be overloaded.

        That removal is not to a death ward, it is to an isolated facility where treatment is administered. Hell, there are doctors and nurses who could be reinstated to treat “their own”

        There are solutions but not a drop of leadership to be found.

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          Peter Williams says:

          The truckers would like some of the same freedoms Trudeau and his government enjoyed during the pandemic.

          Trudeau and his cabinet told us not to travel. They traveled even on vacation.

          Trudeau said we must be vaccinated to travel, but he himself traveled to a G7 meeting whilst not fully vaccinated.

          Trudeau said we should avoid partying and wear masks while in groups. Oops. Darn photos!

          At one point Trudeau said people shouldn’t travel to their cottages. Oops.

          Trudeau led a group of 100+ Canadians to the recent climate conference in Scotland, where vaccinations were reportedly not required in order to attend.

          Truckers have been trying to make a living in the face of increasing costs. They listen to Trudeau say he doesn’t think about monetary policy and inflation is not a problem. Hey, Trudeau got a raise, and the government undoubtedly paid for office upgrades, furniture, and software so Trudeau et al could stay home.

          Trudeau meets with all kinds of groups, including representatives of causes that have employed blockades, violence, burning, and destroying equipment. Yet he won’t meet representatives of a bunch of peaceful protesters.

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            Robert White says:

            These truckers in Ottawa are not peaceful whatsoever. These truckers have been terrorizing Canadians with disabilities via constant blaring of air-horns that are engineered to be heard at great distances on highways for purposes of safety. Air-horns were not meant to be used as a means to terrorize thousands of residents that represent myriad cohorts of working class people.

            Trudeau is ineffectual as a leader, and the people of Canada have lost confidence in this government due to the mishandling of our shared Charter Rights & Freedoms throughout this medical health debacle.


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        Ronald O'Dowd says:


        Oh yeah, just wait until The Netherlands variant comes a calling.

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    Sean says:

    Have to disagree… there never has been… nor will there ever be… a political problem which has become more solvable by the participation of Justin Trudeau.

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      Henadic Theologian says:

      No worries about his invovlement, Prime Minister McChicken is still MIA in hiding, er “quartine”.

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    Douglas W says:

    Does the truckers/protesters have a leadership group that police/government officials can dialogue with?

    How much influence (over truckers/protesters) does this leadership group have?

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    Jason says:

    Justin Trudeau has made every single decision since his majority mandate ended on one principle and one alone: does this maintain my hold on power, or no?

    I’m willing to bet you won’t find a single soul who voted for him in 2021 who wants to see him make a single concession to these protestors, even a symbolic one. That makes this even more dangerous – his narrow grip on power would likely be weakened, not strengthened, if he budged an inch.

    And if anyone thinks he cares about the lives and well beings of Canadians, they haven’t been paying attention.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Well, were this Prime Minister and his family removed from Canadian soil because of serial threats? If so, I certainly wouldn’t want him to end up in a non-virtual meeting.

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    Gilbert says:

    Justin Trudeau won’t meet the protesters because he’s a coward. The Indian ambassador to Canada mentioned that Mr. Trudeau lectured the Indian government about the protest by Indian farmers and urged the Indian government to negotiate with the protesters, but with the protest in Ottawa, the prime minister does the opposite- he runs away.

    Kyle Kemper, the prime minister’s brother, wants the prime minister to resign. He also wants him to stop lying. Kyle Kemper says Justin Trudeau is controlled and believes in the policies of the World Economic Forum, the Great Reset.

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    Nigel says:

    It’s too late to resolve this with talk. The mob has been empowered. I heard the former Chief of the Ottawa Police on 1010 today and he said physical removal will be the only outcome of this occupation. Just get on with it.

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      Eastern Rebellion says:

      That’s what the protestors want. All that will do is make them martyrs. The authorities need to be smarter than that. You can negotiate an end to this if you really want to.

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        Nigel says:

        There’s no one to negotiate with, These are not rational people. Two words: Tear Gas and plenty of it.

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    Peter Williams says:

    What was the Trudeau government’s response to a peaceful protest?

    Calling the protesters racists and misogynists.

    Next time someone disagrees with you try the Trudeau approach; call them a racist and misogynist. See where it gets you.

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    Phil in London says:

    I do understand the ten points, it’s just that I don’t see how to put the genie back in the bottle?

    How does the great apologist meet with people he has dismissed and continues to label today as somewhere lower than that scum on the bottom of lakes and oceans?

    How does Ottawa police “unprepare” not being prepared?

    There are different degrees of protestor? Last week anyone who did not stop rebel and nazi flags was contributing to the disgrace but now we’re somehow going to determine that guy in the orange vest is an agitator but the lady n Birkenstocks is just some peaceful hippy?

    I do agree that we need a measured response. I just don’t know how to start rolling out – what processes – now to get things to de-escalate?

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    Pedant says:

    Ultimately, Warren, the only way to truly end this battle (which WILL continue even after the trucks finally go home) is to begin to reverse the massive wealth inequality that this government and the Bank of Canada have unleashed on the country.

    I’m think Robert White would agree with me on that.

    You cannot have a situation where already-wealthy, mostly older, mostly professional asset-holders are becoming even MORE wealthy by the day due to government intervention, while asset-poor, mostly working class, mostly younger, are being crushed, and not expect fireworks to eventually occur.

    If housing costs (among the most expensive in the world) and general inflation continue on their current trajectory, these trucker convoy tensions will look like a picnic compared to what’s coming.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Ah, central banks, on their best day, the spawn of Satan.

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      Robert White says:

      I fully agree, Pedant. I’m fully onboard with the Yellowjackets of France and they have my respect and admiration for standing up to the idiots governing throughout the EU.

      The WEF reset conspiracy has to addressed openly and via peer-review.

      Printing is the central bank answer to decades of Greenspan Put culture in American finance.

      Weimar Republic level hyperinflation is Finance Minister Freeland’s only move given connectivity to the U.S. Federal Reserve Fractional Central Banking System.

      I saw all this manifesting back during the Lehman Moment. The WEF reset is the next Lehman Moment that will send markets crashing worldwide.

      Structural Inflation undergirds the trucker rally via tensions not appropriately addressed by governments at all levels.

      Bureaucrats just don’t give a tinker’s damn about the lower levels of income earning distributions.

      The poor of Canada are statistical outliers that PM Blackface no longer cares about because he has his $368k plus perks.

      We are discriminated against based upon our status as statistical outliers that have no voice in Canadian politics that caters to Davos ideologues & corporate profits.

      Government of Canada has lost its way.


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    Arron Banks says:

    And I remember there were those who were in Sloly’s corner when he was upset that he got passed over for the TPS top job in favour of Mark Saunders lol

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    Eastern Rebellion says:

    This is an excellent post Mr. Kinsella. Your suggestions are both cogent and articulate. I agree the way forward is for the authorities to come up with a strategy to resolve the current situation. The police and the politicians need to be on the same page. The Ottawa Police Service appears to be overwhelmed,and will likely require assistance (not from the military though). Between the RCMP, the OPP and the Sûreté du Québec they should be able to provide the additional resources the OPS needs. There will be hardliners in the protestors who won’t cooperate and will demand to be arrested. If that is case, once all other avenues have been exhausted, then give them their wish and make sure it is recorded so Canadians can see the authorities had no other choice.

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    Washington Irving says:

    What are you talking about, “lack of planning”? Ottawa Police Services has the best DIE (Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity) planning system of any police force in the country. Our internal promotion system is second to none in finding the most DIE qualified rookies and ensuring their are promoted as quickly as possible into positions of authority.

    Our Chief was a major, major DIE win. We snatched him from several other competing police forces that were circling with multi-million dollar salary and pension packages. We could not be happier with the outcome, just look at our city!

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    Joseph says:

    So if I read this column correctly the meme you are trying to get everyone to push is that there is a way out of this and the current Prime Minister isn’t following this ten step process.
    Have I got that right or was it a different message?

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    John B says:

    Trudeau Sr. and Jean Cretien would have been out there in the thick of it creating some manner of dialogue. No Shawinigan Handshakes from the Dauphin though – just more scorn and derision from an emperor who lost his clothes around year 2.. (long before he took office for me 😉 )

    I wonder Mr. Kinsella, the knives were quick to come out for Dion and Ignatieff for a lot less (metaphorically speaking), what do you think stays their hand this time?

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    Bob says:

    This can be reduced to one thing that can be done to fix the mess in Ottawa;

    1. Get rid of Trudeau. Period. End of discussion

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