Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly has resigned after weeks of criticism for his handling of anti-vaccine mandate protests that have paralysed the city.
Protesters have occupied the downtown core of Canada’s capital for 19 days, halting traffic and enraging residents.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday invoked the Emergencies Act as a “last resort” in response to the protests.
The Ottawa Police Services Board confirmed Mr Sloly’s resignation at a public meeting on Tuesday.
Ottawa city councillor Diane Deans thanked Mr Sloly, 55, for his service and said the former chief and the city had come to a “mutually agreeable separation”. She provided no further comment on the resignation, calling it a “labour relations matter”.
The Ottawa Police Service plans to appoint a new chief immediately, Ms Deans said.
A former Canadian men’s soccer player, Mr Sloly took over at the Ottawa Police Service in 2019, more than three decades after joining the Toronto police. His contract in Ottawa was due to end in 2024.
Throughout his career, he gained a reputation as a progressive reformer, dedicated to improving police-community relations.
However, he has been criticised by Ottawans for what has been seen an anaemic response to the “Freedom Convoy” protests. The city of Ottawa declared a state of emergency over a week ago in attempt to quell the protests.
As of last week Mr Sloly stood by his response, telling Newstalk 580 he had “absolutely no” intention to step down.
“I came here to do a job and I’m going to get that job done all the way through,” he said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau took the unprecedented step of evoking the Emergencies Act, which he said would give local police “more tools” to deal with protesters. Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be deployed to assist.
Chief Sloly’s resignation comes amid significant criticism from Ottawa residents who feel the police have not done their job at enforcing the law and containing the demonstrators.
Residents have described seeing police fist-bump demonstrators, ignore by-law infractions and allow fuel and other supplies to make it to their encampments.
Critics say protesters have been allowed to throw what at times resembled a party in the streets of Ottawa with minimal repercussion, complete with bouncy castles, barbeques and even a hot tub.
To be fair, police have issued thousands of tickets and made dozens of arrests. But there is a growing sense among residents that their hearts might not be in it, especially after a video showed an OPP officer saying he supports the demonstrators “100%”.
The OPP is not a part of Ottawa Police, but Ottawa Police have jurisdictional authority for the city and have been coordinating efforts of several police forces to contain the demonstrators.
Media reports have also hinted at tensions between Chief Sloly and the leadership on other forces, namely the OPP and RCMP.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who historically invoked emergency powers yesterday, has made it clear he does not want to send in the military or have the federal government take over the uphill battle of restoring order to Ottawa’s downtown.
With Chief Sloly now gone, the question is: who will?
Protests are ongoing in various parts of the country.
In Ottawa, between 400 to 500 trucks remain parked in the city centre.
The RCMP on Tuesday said it had once again cleared a border crossing at Coutts, Alberta. Protesters have blockaded traffic in the area several times since late January.
Weekend protests have also taken place in cities across Canada, including Toronto and Winnipeg.