Lucki was ready to go to Trudeau over Ottawa police handling of "Freedom Convoy"

OTTAWA — Brenda Lucki not only lost confidence in the leadership of former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly over the "Freedom Convoy" protests, the RCMP commissioner was so concerned she was prepared to go directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a public inquiry learned Thursday.

Lucki's comments were released in the form of notes taken during a Feb. 15 meeting between her and several high-ranking Ontario Provincial Police officers.

It's unclear what time the meeting took place, but Feb. 15 was also the day Sloly resigned, and one day after the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act, which brought in temporary and extraordinary powers aimed at restoring order.

Hundreds of protesters had blockaded the streets around Parliament Hill with their vehicles for three weeks at that point, calling for an end to COVID-19 mandates, and in some cases, an end to the Trudeau government.

The Emergencies Act is meant to be used when an urgent, critical and temporary situation threatens the lives, health or safety of Canadians, the provinces are thought to lack the capacity or authority to handle the situation and the crisis cannot be handled effectively with existing laws.

The Public Order Emergency Commission is tasked with determining whether the government was justified in triggering the never-before-used legislation. It is holding public hearings in Ottawa until Nov. 25.

On Thursday, the commission was given some insight into Lucki's private feelings about the protests, and her assessment of the Ottawa police's ability to handle the blockades.

Notes taken at the Feb. 15 meeting show Lucki wanted the OPP to take over from Ottawa police.

The documents say Lucki commented that the police needed a communications strategy and rules of engagement for enforcing a law prohibiting people from joining the blockades. "Reputation of policing at stake here," she said, according to the notes.

The document says OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique, who testified at the inquiry Thursday, told Lucki during the Feb. 15 meeting they needed to speak with Sloly, "on what is not working and expectations" as well as the operational objectives.

Lucki responded by saying she does "not trust his leadership anymore — or that this will get done."

She added that she will "personally go to the PM if I need to, to have this changed," telling Carrique he had the RCMP's full support to take over.

"We've told Peter that he needs to succeed, as his failure empowers the protesters," Lucki said.

Sloly resigned amid widespread criticism over the police service's handling of the protests. He is expected to testify on Friday, and Lucki is also expected to be a witness in the coming weeks.

The commission heard earlier Thursday that on Feb. 5, Lucki told Carrique the federal cabinet was already highly concerned, according to text messages between the two that were also entered into evidence.

That was a week after the protest around Parliament Hill officially began on Jan. 29.

"Between you and I only, (Government of Canada) is losing (or) lost confidence in OPS … we gotta get to safe action (or) enforcement," Lucki texted. "Cause if they go the Emergency Measures Act, you or (I) may be brought into lead … not something I want."

Lucki then said she was on a call with cabinet ministers, whom she did not name.

"Trying to calm them down," she wrote. "Not easy when they see cranes, structures, horses, bouncing castles in downtown Ottawa. Any suggesting for calming them?"

On Thursday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was asked outside the House of Commons whether he lost confidence in the Ottawa police back in February. He did not say yes or no, instead commenting that the government supported police as much as it could during the "illegal occupation."

On Wednesday it was revealed at the inquiry that Lucki emailed Mendicino's office just hours before the Emergencies Act was invoked, saying she did not believe police had exhausted all existing options under the Criminal Code and a provincial state of emergency to end the blockade.

Carrique, when asked what he thought of the email, said "I would agree with that sentiment."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2022

Stephanie Taylor and David Fraser, The Canadian Press