Ottawa’s interim police chief confirmed Thursday his force is investigating allegations that officers leaked intelligence to organizers of last winter’s “Freedom Convoy” protest.
Keith Wilson, a lawyer for some of the organizers, had alleged on Wednesday that the convoy regularly receive leaks from sympathetic officers about the operational plans of police.
He made the allegations while testifying at a public hearing of the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is tasked with assessing the federal government’s decision to invoke special emergency powers weeks into the protests.
Interim chief Steve Bell told a committee of MPs and senators that Wilson’s testimony contained “net new information” and the Ottawa Police Service initiated an internal investigation Wednesday evening.
Bell said the police service is planning to reach out to Wilson “to get more information so we can look to follow up on that.”
He was testifying at a special parliamentary committee that is pursuing its own investigation of the government’s use of the Emergencies Act. Both the commission inquiry and the committee study are legally required under the checks and balances laid out in the act.
At the commission hearing Wednesday, Wilson had described a “steady stream of information and leaks” coming from on-duty officers in the Ottawa police, Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP and security agencies.
“At all times, there was a high degree of situational awareness of what the operational plans were for the police,” he said.
The OPP responded to a request for a response saying that they can’t comment but take all allegations seriously. The RCMP did not respond to a similar request.
Asked whether the police service was already aware of any such leaks, Bell said that internal investigations and discipline related to officers’ conduct had already taken place, but that most of these were related to donations made in support of the convoy.
“Right from the very early days of the convoy, it was something we were concerned of,” he said. “At every turn, as we received information to initiate an investigation, we did.”
When asked how senior the officers were who had been investigated or disciplined, Bell said he can’t comment on the investigations and how they unfolded.