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Sloly says he's 'almost completely vindicated' by convoy report

Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, pictured here while appearing as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, says he's 'almost completely vindicated' by the commission's final report. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, pictured here while appearing as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, says he's 'almost completely vindicated' by the commission's final report. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly says he's been "almost completely vindicated" by the final report into last year's use of the Emergencies Act to help end the truck convoy protest in the capital.

"I was almost completely vindicated by the review that Justice [Paul] Rouleau put through," Sloly said Tuesday. "A lot of what were scapegoating, nasty, nasty attacks on me have been put to rest."

Sloly's comments came at a discussion called "Leadership in Critical Times" at Massey College in Toronto, where he's currently a visiting fellow.

He was police chief in Ottawa from October 2019 until he resigned in February 2022 during the protest-turned-occupation against COVID-19 rules and the governments that put them in place.

While the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC)'s final report did recognize the significant pressures Sloly faced, it also criticized many of his leadership decisions throughout the protest in January and February 2022.

Rouleau, a justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, mentioned Sloly by name more than 100 times in just the summary of his report that concluded the federal government met the threshold to use the Emergencies Act.

In the report, Rouleau wrote that in the days leading up to the protest, Ottawa politicians found Sloly's briefings left them unclear about key details of the protests, including the number of vehicles involved.

Rouleau wrote he believed the intelligence available to Sloly and Ottawa police at the time "should have raised greater concerns" than it did.

Once it became clear that protestors would not be leaving downtown Ottawa as quickly as police initially expected, Sloly began taking on a larger role in planning and decisions, according to the report.

"Multiple witnesses testified that this was counterproductive because it eroded the authority of the event commander and created more confusion about who was in charge," Rouleau wrote.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

That same dysfunction and lack of trust continued to plague police during operational planning later in the protest, Rouleau found.

In addition, Rouleau wrote that an "unhealthy dynamic" between Sloly and his team worsened the former chief's involvement in operational matters.

In addition to these and other criticisms, however, the report found it would be unfair to attribute to Sloly all the deficiencies in the police response.

Rouleau wrote that any leadership errors should be viewed within the context of the "unprecedented" event and that some of Sloly's errors were "unduly enlarged by others to a degree that suggests scapegoating."

Lack of sleep affected judgment, Sloly says

Speaking Tuesday to about 10 people in person and about six more virtually, Sloly said one thing he would have done differently during the protests would be to get more sleep.

WATCH | Part of Sloly's talk:

He said he worked for 24 consecutive days on about three hours of sleep each night. He added he's since read up on the body's physiological response to sleep deprivation.

"Less than five hours sleep for an adult — you're operating on a Grade 6 level," he said. "Do you want the chief of police anywhere, on any day, working on a Grade 6 level?"

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

Former Ottawa city councillor and police board chair Diane Deans testified that as the protest and occupation wore on, she became concerned for Sloly's well-being and would call him almost daily for what she called "wellness checks."

She said during one of those conversations prior to his resignation on Feb. 15, Sloly told her "Cut me a cheque and I'll be out of here."