Emergency survey: residents speak out on the impact of the protestsNews WAALI

OTTAWA-

An investigation into the federal government’s use of the State of Emergency Act gave a strident introduction to life in Ottawa at the Freedom Convoy protest today, as the deafening chorus of big horns caliber was playing for the commission.

The first witness, a legally blind resident of downtown Ottawa, grimaced as a recording of car horns sounded in the conference room for the benefit of the commissioner, lawyers, protest convoy organizers and the public.

Witness Victoria De La Ronde told the commission that the protest, which arrived in Ottawa in late January, was an “impairment to my hearing” that she relied on to navigate the city independently.

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“I found myself trapped,” said De La Ronde, who felt hopeless and unable to leave her home.

She became emotional when she told the commission that she ended up asking a friend to pick her up and help her out of the convoy area. A few days later, she and her friend contracted COVID-19.

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In the days after the protest ended, De La Ronde said she still heard phantom horns blaring in her head. Even now, the sound of a car horn reverberates through her body and tugs at her, she said.

The commission examines the development and goals of the protest, the impact of misinformation and disinformation on the convoy, and police efforts before and after the declaration of a state of emergency.

Zexi Li, a 22-year-old civil servant who filed an injunction to stop truckers constantly honking their horns during protests, also shared her experience with the commission.

“I didn’t feel safe, I was on my guard all the time,” Li said of her experience walking the streets of Ottawa during the protest.

Li filed a class action lawsuit against the convoy organizers on Feb. 3, and an Ontario court granted him an injunction to stop honking four days later.

On February 14, the federal Liberals invoked the Emergency Act for the first time as demonstrators protested public health measures related to COVID-19 and the Trudeau administration occupied downtown streets in Ottawa and blocking border crossings.

Invoking the law temporarily granted extraordinary powers to police and allowed banks to freeze accounts, which the government said was crucial to ending the protests.

Li and De La Ronde described how the constant street noise made them feel insomniac.

Evidence presented to the commission showed that noise levels outside their homes sometimes reached 100 decibels – about as loud as a lawn mower.

De La Ronde and Li are among 65 witnesses, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the convoy organizers, who are scheduled to testify before the commission.

Ottawa mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney and her colleague Mathieu Fleury are scheduled to appear today. Both represented neighborhoods heavily affected by the convoy of large trucks that blocked roads and forced many businesses to close their doors.

Fleury said before testifying that he was on daily calls with officials during the convoy rally and was often “quite disappointed with the lack of a plan and the lack of information being shared with us.”

“There wasn’t much more information than was made available to the public.”

Fleury, who has a young family, also said he faced threats, including people in vans coming to his house and yelling at him. “In the end, we just moved out and reported the incident.”

On the first day of Thursday’s commission hearings, a lawyer for the Ottawa Police Service said the force had little time to prepare for the protests and could not predict the resulting impact on the city.

David Migikovsky, legal counsel for the Ottawa Police Service, said there were established procedures for dealing with protesters, but they didn’t work during the “Freedom Convoy.”

He said none of the intelligence reports predicted the “level of communal violence and social trauma inflicted on the city and its residents”.


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 14, 2022.

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