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Ex-Ottawa police chief says force couldn’t change much about response to convoy



OTTAWA — The former chief of the Ottawa police says his officers couldn’t have done anything materially differently during the response to the “Freedom Convoy”.

A summary report of an interview with Peter Sloly has been submitted as evidence at the public inquiry investigating the federal government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act in February.

Much of what is found in the 61-page interview summary differs from what the inquiry has heard from other police officers so far.

“Chief Sloly does not believe that OPS could have done anything materially differently on a big-picture level given the unprecedented national security crisis,” the summary said.

The Emergencies Act, which was invoked on Feb. 14, granted temporary and extraordinary powers to police, banks and governments to end the demonstrations.

The Public Order Emergency Commission is tasked with investigating the Trudeau government’s decision to invoke the act. Its mandate also includes exploring what happened when protesters took over several streets around Parliament Hill for more than three weeks, and what was done to end the demonstrations.

Sloly told commission lawyers that he was operating in the midst of turmoil within Ottawa police ranks, the police services board and the city council as public pressure was mounting to end the demonstrations.

The commission has heard a great deal about that turmoil over 10 days of public hearings. Previous witnesses, including senior officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, have testified there was a lack of informed intelligence in the early days of the protest.

Steve Bell and Patricia Ferguson, who were Ottawa police deputy chiefs in February, also told the commission there was disorganization and confusion within the force’s command structure.

Sloly said the gaps in intelligence ahead of the protest show there is an excessive focus on Islamic extremism in Canada’s national security strategy at the expense of other threats.

Based on intelligence reports, he said he understood “Freedom Convoy” protesters’ intent shifted from an initial focus on ending federal vaccine mandates to include competing messages, including calls to overthrow the federal government or repeal laws.

An OPP intelligence unit was producing reports at the time warning the protesters could be staying long-term. One such report, submitted as evidence as part of the inquiry, flagged the “Freedom Convoy” as “high risk” for traffic disruptions and illegal activity.

Sloly said in the interview that he didn’t have any sense the occupation would last for months and would be able to defeat Ottawa police’s capabilities. He told commission staff deputy chief Bell did not brief him on the protest’s potential to be a national security crisis.

Bell, who is now interim chief, testified Monday that police expected the protesters to be peaceful and leave after three days — but that’s not what happened. He said the police did not properly prepare for the effect the demonstrations would have on local residents.

The former chief resigned on Feb. 15, a day after the Emergencies Act was invoked, citing a “growing lack of confidence” in his leadership, and a lack of trust in his work leading to a lag in resources arriving.

Sloly is set to testify in public hearings in Ottawa on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2022.


David Fraser, The Canadian Press


Court decision halts enforcement of Ottawa’s kosher slaughter rules



OTTAWA – A Federal Court decision has put a pause on enforcement of Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines for the ritual slaughter of animals.

The decision says there are serious issues with whether the guidelines are unreasonable and if they encroach on Charter rights to equality and freedom of religion.

A group of agencies that certify kosher meat took the government to court earlier this month to ask for an injunction.

The guidelines were posted in 2021 and outline how abattoirs must determine if an animal is unconscious and can no longer feel pain.

The group argued achieving the criteria is seriously slowing down production to the point abattoirs no longer want to provide the service, and has reduced access to kosher meat in Canada.

The decision says the government can’t enforce use of the three indicators of animal unconsciousness under the guidelines until the court makes a final decision on the merit of the court application.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Cooler temperatures on the way for B.C., as crews battle more than 400 wildfires



Forests Minister Bruce Ralston says it is “clear climate change is arriving faster than predicted” as British Columbia faces storms, wind, lightning and drought as crews battle hundreds of wildfires.

He says thousands of lightning strikes brought by recent summer storms led to the surging number of wildfires, although some relief is expected in the north part of the province where rain and cooler temperatures are forecast.

The BC Wildfire Service says in its report on Wednesday that much of the province is returning to more seasonable temperatures with the exception of the southeast where hot and dry conditions persist, but it notes that Thursday will bring the “coolest temperatures in over a month” across B.C.

There are more than 430 fires burning in the province and 80 per cent of them were started by a series of lightning storms that swept across the province in the last few weeks.

Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma says there are about 550 people under evacuation order and another 5,000 under evacuation alert as of Wednesday.

She says those numbers are currently “manageable” for the province and while that could change very quickly, it is seeing “nowhere near” the number of evacuations it did in 2023.

“However, for those individuals who are evacuated, the impacts are equally as harrowing when you are away from your home and you do not know whether your home and all of your prized possessions and your memories have survived,” she told a news conference Wednesday.

B.C. also saw an influx of travellers from Jasper, Alta., after a fire forced park visitors and 4,700 residents to escape from the town with little notice on Monday.

Ma noted that the only safe route for 25,000 evacuees was to travel along Highway 16 into B.C.

“Alberta has directed evacuees to three emergency reception centers, one in Grand Prairie, one in Calgary, and another in Edmonton,” she said, noting B.C. has worked closely with Alberta to assist them in their evacuation efforts.

In B.C., she noted the number of people under evacuation alert dropped by about 2,000 since Tuesday after the alert covering Williams Lake was lifted. That change came after crews were able to contain the River Valley Wildfire that crept into the city on Sunday. That blaze is currently “being held.”

There are currently four wildfires of note in B.C. including the “aggressive” Shetland Creek blaze that has already destroyed at least six homes.

Jeff Walsh, an incident commander with the BC Wildfire Service, says crews were using heavy equipment on the mountain slopes above Spences Bridge to prevent fire from burning downslope toward the southern Interior community.

The homes lost were in the Venables Valley, near Spences Bridge. Colton Davies with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District says they were among 20 buildings destroyed by the nearly 200-square-kilometre Shetland Creek fire.

Ma said during the news conference that the province is focused on the wildfire fight and returning people safely to their communities. Until then, she said, the province won’t be able to assess the damage, but regional districts may release their own information.

Several communities are in the path of wildfires in B.C. as crews fight the most threatening active blazes. Sixty per cent of the current wildfires remain out of control.

Walsh says in a video update that hot and dry conditions coupled with gusty winds have fuelled erratic and aggressive fire behaviour at the Shetland Creek blaze, driving its spread to the north.

The wildfire service says people using bodies of water near out-of-control fires, such as Shawnigan Lake adjacent to the Old Man Lake wildfire on Vancouver Island, have been told to “keep well away” from aircraft either skimming water or operating in the area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Woman tells court Nygard’s actions ‘tainted’ her life as sentencing hearing underway



TORONTO – One of the women sexually assaulted by former fashion mogul Peter Nygard teared up in court Wednesday as she described how the attack decades ago “tainted” her life, eroding her mental health, interfering with her career and deterring her from forming long-term relationships.

The woman, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, said she started having panic attacks and anxiety after Nygard raped her in his former company’s Toronto headquarters in the late 1980s.

After that, the woman “couldn’t bear being seen,” which hampered her previously successful acting career, nor could she trust men or develop deeper relationships, she told a Toronto court as Nygard’s sentencing hearing began.

“This rape has tainted my life,” she said. “I did not live up to my full potential.”

“I’m now a 63-year-old woman and I’m deeply saddened by the lack of love in my life,” she added. “In retrospect, I realize it’s the direct result of the violation.”

Nygard, 83, was found guilty on four counts of sexual assault last November, but was acquitted of a fifth count, as well as a charge of forcible confinement.

The charges relate to allegations dating from the 1980s until the mid-2000s.

Two other complainants, neither of whom can be identified, also laid bare Wednesday the lasting emotional and mental impact of the sexual assaults.

“The damage caused by my sexual assault is endless,” one of them said in a statement read in court by the prosecution.

“The nightmares are never-ending, not to mention the hurt and shame,” she said, adding the court proceedings — and the delays at the sentencing stage — have made her relive the trauma and have prolonged the healing process.

Another complainant said her life was derailed by Nygard’s actions, and that she now lives “in a veil of sadness.”

“I am still frail, I am still fragile,” she said.

The mother of one of the complainants also described her ongoing guilt in a written statement read by the Crown, saying she was misled into taking her daughter “into a trap where she was raped.”

Prosecutors said Wednesday that while a sentence of 19 years would be appropriate, they are asking the judge to sentence Nygard to 15 years to account for his age and health.

The Crown is also asking that Nygard be given one day of credit for each of the more than 1,000 days he has spent in custody so far, rather than 1.5 days.

Among the aggravating factors are premeditation and the fact that Nygard used his wealth, power and position in society to exploit young women for his own gratification, Crown attorney Neville Golwalla argued.

“This pattern should be understood for what it is. Simply put: predatory,” Golwalla said.

Nygard’s violations of consent were “deliberate and overt,” he said, noting the complainants testified they repeatedly said no and the verdict suggests the jury accepted their account.

“Consent was not on Mr. Nygard’s mind. Entitlement was what fed his actions,” Golwalla said.

Nygard’s age and his health are mitigating factors, his defence lawyer said.

Gerri Wiebe said her client is not simply dealing with health challenges due to aging, but requires “enhanced care and treatment” in order to live.

She listed a number of conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, which she said he was previously able to manage partly through his diet before being detained. He is continuously being served “inappropriate food” and has lost a significant amount of weight in custody, she said.

Nygard also has deteriorating vision, chronic pain and multiple allergies, as well as mobility issues and incontinence due to an enlarged prostate, she said.

Wiebe also disputed some of the aggravating factors listed by the Crown.

Golwalla argued it’s up to Nygard to demonstrate that his medical needs can’t be addressed in a correctional facility.

Nygard sat in a wheelchair for part of Wednesday’s hearing, wearing a winter jacket over a hoodie and what appeared to be a visor.

The sentencing hearing that began Wednesday was pushed back multiple times, in part because Nygard’s two previous defence lawyers, Brian Greenspan and Megan Savard, asked to withdraw from the case earlier this year.

Nygard, who once led a multimillion-dollar clothing empire, has also faced health challenges throughout the case.

Aside from the Toronto case, he is also facing charges in two other provinces and the United States.

His Manitoba trial on sexual assault-related charges has been delayed in part due to Greenspan’s resignation as his defence lawyer in that case as well as the Toronto one.

Nygard also faces one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in Quebec.

He was first arrested in Winnipeg in 2020 under the Extradition Act after he was charged with nine counts in New York, including sex trafficking and racketeering charges.

In May, Manitoba’s highest court dismissed Nygard’s application for a judicial review of his extradition order, finding there was no reason to interfere with the order issued by then-justice minister David Lametti.

None of the criminal charges against Nygard in Quebec, Manitoba or the U.S. have been tested in court, and he has denied all allegations against him.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version carried incorrect details for the sentence sought by the Crown.

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