Freedom Convoy a 'relentless disturbance,' says people's commission

Members of the Ottawa People's Commission at its first public meeting. (CBC - image credit)
Members of the Ottawa People's Commission at its first public meeting. (CBC - image credit)

The people tasked with penning a report into how the Freedom Convoy impacted city residents met the public and media during the first day of the Ottawa People's Commission on Monday.

In the following months, three commissioners will hear from people impacted by protesters occupying downtown streets, and release a report near the one-year anniversary of the protests that arrived in Ottawa at the end of January and stayed for the first three weeks of February.

Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, a longtime social justice advocate and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, says the commission will bring healing and justice by allowing people to share their experiences of living in the city during the protests.

Several investigations and inquiries into the Freedom Convoy are taking place at different levels of government, including a federal committee looking into the use of the Emergencies Act, but organizers of the people's commission say those do not focus on the impact to residents.

Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press
Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

"What hasn't happened yet is that people-centred approach," Owusu-Akyeeah said, adding there continues to be anxiety and frustration stemming from February's protests even as further protests are being held and planned.

"It's that final report that is going to have recommendations from the community, that most likely, I can imagine will call for accountability."

Community advocates and Centretown residents said when access around the area during the winter's protests was restricted, it stopped prescriptions, food and personal support workers from getting to people.

"For residents of Ottawa, this so-called freedom was the exact opposite, instead it was a blockade, a relentless disturbance made of horns, fumes and hateful symbols," said Tim McSorley, a member of the commission's oversight committee.

Owusu-Akyeeah will work with two other commissioners and write a report of the findings. Leilani Farha is the global director of an international human rights organization and is the former UN special rapporteur on the right to housing. She will join Owusu-Akyeeah and Alex Neve, an adjunct professor in international human rights law at the University of Ottawa and Dalhousie University, as commissioners.

A website launched Monday with more details on the commissioners and the structure of the group.