Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly told the Emergencies Act inquiry Friday that he felt "significant pressure" to resign in the midst of last winter's convoy protest, contradicting earlier testimony from the former chair of the city's police oversight board.
Sloly testified Friday at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14. That gave police extraordinary powers to end the protest, which had by then turned into an occupation of several downtown streets near Parliament Hill.
Under questioning from commission counsel Natalia Rodriguez, Sloly said his decision to resign on Feb. 15 was "ultimately" his, but that there had been "a lot of factors" involved.
He explained that one of those factors was a phone call from Coun. Diane Deans, then chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, around 9:30 p.m. on Feb 14.
"On the evening of Feb. 14, I received a phone call from the board chair essentially asking would I consider a resignation," Sloly testified late Friday afternoon.
"I told her that I'd put my heart and soul into this organization, the mandate that she'd given me, and that I'd be seeing this thing through, and that at 9:30 at night it was a very inappropriate conversation to be having with me. I wasn't going to be giving it any more consideration."
Sloly resigned morning after call
The following morning, however, Sloly tendered his resignation.
"To get a phone call from your chair discussing rumours and then pivoting into, 'have you thought about resigning' conversation, for me is a pretty clear indication that I no longer had the confidence of the chair," Sloly testified,
"It was clear to me that the board, specifically chair Deans, had lost confidence in my position, and that was a factor in my decision."
Sloly's version of events appears to contradict earlier testimony from Deans, who appeared before the commission last week.
On Oct. 19, Deans testified that she had become increasingly concerned about Sloly's mental health, and routinely called him to perform "wellness checks."
"I was, you know, checking to make sure he was OK, because he's a human being and he was under intense stress, and I felt that that was important to do," she testified.
She said the week before Sloly resigned, she'd mentioned to him during one of those calls that "there's a lot of people in this city that want your head." According to Deans, Sloly replied, "Cut me a check and I'll be out of here."
'I want to leave'
Deans testified she was aware that some of her city council colleagues wanted to demand Sloly's resignation, but that the move wasn't coming from members of the police board, and that she was "very opposed" to the idea.
On the evening of Feb. 14, Deans said she called Sloly again.
"I said, 'Chief Sloly, last week when I spoke to you, you said if we cut you a cheque that you would be out of here. And I just wanted to ask you if you meant that or not, or if you wanted to stay,'" Deans testified.
She said Sloly informed her he planned to remain at the helm of Ottawa police to see things through.
"I just left him with saying, 'If you sleep on it and change your mind, let me know.' And the next morning, I think it was about 8:30 in the morning, he called me and he said, 'I want to leave,'" Deans said.
She testified that while the board did discuss Sloly's leadership during the convoy crisis, its members concluded they had the authority to suspend the chief, but not to fire him.
Pressure from '3 levels of government'
Asked on Friday whether he was aware of any additional political pressure on him to resign, Sloly said he felt "significant pressure" from all three levels of government.
"I had direct experiences with three levels of government over the course of … these events that left me with a clear sense that I had little to no support from elements at those three levels," he testified.
Sloly also testified Friday that he only became aware this week of what he called "a very alarming text" between RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique.
In the text message exchange, entered into evidence at the commission on Thursday, Lucki confided she was "worried" following a noon meeting on Feb. 8.
"Peter spoke about a lot of things except for enforcement," Lucki texted.
Five days later, she texted Carrique to tell him she was considering sending Sloly a message to nudge him to sign off on an integrated plan to end the protest.
Sloly will appear at the inquiry again on Monday for cross-examination.