Man Charged With Arson in Ottawa Apartment Not Connected to Freedom Convoy, Police Say

Man Charged With Arson in Ottawa Apartment Not Connected to Freedom Convoy, Police Say
A person enters an apartment on Lisgar Street, where police said two men attempted to start a fire in the building’s lobby in Ottawa, on Feb. 7, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)
Andrew Chen

Ottawa police say a man charged with arson in relation to a fire deliberately set in a downtown Ottawa apartment building on Feb. 6 was not connected with the “Freedom Convoy” protest occurring at the time. Comments by the city's mayor and several Liberal and NDP MPs had previously linked the incident to the protest that was initiated in January in opposition to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.

Connor Russell McDonald, 21, has been charged with arson causing property damage, arson disregard for human life, mischief to property endangering life, mischief to property, and possession of incendiary material, according to the police.

"There is no information indicating MCDONALD was involved in any way with the Convoy protest which was going on when this arson took place," the Ottawa Police Service noted in a news release on March 21.
In a Twitter post on Feb. 7, the police shared photos of two "persons of interest" in their arson investigation of the incident that occurred at the Lisgar Street building.
In their Feb. 7 news release, the police said it's believed that "one or more persons entered the building and started a fire using undisclosed materials."

In both cases the police asked the public for help to identify the two individuals but did not state that they were linked to the protest.

The building's security footage of the early-morning incident shows two men entering the building and appearing to set a fire near the ground-floor elevators, with one of the men appearing to tape the front doors shut.

McDonald is scheduled to appear in court on April 21, 2022.

The police said they are still looking for the second suspect and encourage anyone with relevant information to contact the Ottawa Police Service Arson Unit.

The incident took place about a week after the large-scale demonstration dubbed Freedom Convoy began in the national capital, with trucks and other vehicles parked in the downtown core for over three weeks.

The convoy began as a protest by truckers and their supporters opposed to the federal COVID-19 mandate that requires truck drivers returning to Canada from the United States to be fully vaccinated in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine. It soon evolved into a national movement as truckers made their way to Ottawa for the demonstration scheduled to begin on Jan. 29, with many supporters joining the call for an end to all pandemic-related restrictions.

While the police made no mention of the suspects being connected with the convoy when they sought the public's help on Feb. 7, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson brought up the arson investigation during a special council meeting that day and linked it to the convoy protest.

“Yesterday we learned of a horrific story that clearly demonstrates the malicious intent of the protesters occupying our city,” Watson said.

“On Sunday morning, two young men entered the lobby of a building on Lisgar Street, where they proceeded to light fire-starter bricks near the elevators before taping up the door handles so residents would struggle to get out during a fire.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the mayor's office for a comment but didn't immediately hear back.

Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, who represents the riding of Ottawa Centre where the incident took place, also linked it to the convoy during a Feb. 7 House of Commons emergency debate about the COVID-19 protests.

"These people from the convoy have stolen from homeless shelters, vandalize and damaged houses and businesses that display pride flags, assaulted and harassed residents for wearing masks during the pandemic, desecrated our memorials, launched illegal fireworks, and most recently have been caught attempting to set an apartment building on fire while taping the doors close," Naqvi said.

Several other Liberal and NDP MPs also repeated these allegations in the House of Commons.