Ottawa Police Officer Accused of Donating to Freedom Convoy Facing 'Discreditable Conduct' Charge

Ottawa Police Officer Accused of Donating to Freedom Convoy Facing 'Discreditable Conduct' Charge
Trucks participating in a cross-country convoy protesting Canada's COVID-19 vaccine mandates, dubbed Freedom Convoy 2022, are parked on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 28, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Rachel Emmanuel

An Ottawa police officer is facing a charge of discreditable conduct for allegedly donating money to the Freedom Convoy.

In February, truckers and demonstrators from across Canada descended on Ottawa to demand an end to federal vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions. The group used crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and GiveSendGo to collect donations for gas, food, and accommodations. A hacker group eventually gained access to and published the donor list, releasing the personal details of over 92,000 donors.

Now, Const. Kristina Neilson is being investigated for allegedly appearing on that list, CTV News reports.

Neilson had a disciplinary hearing on Sept. 15 to face the misconduct charge under the Police Services Act. The investigation was initiated following a Chief's complaint.

The Ottawa Police Service Professional Standards investigators allege Neilson donated money to the Freedom Convoy through GiveSendGo on Feb. 5—about a week after demonstrators arrived in Ottawa.

The notice of disciplinary hearing alleges Neilson acted in a "disorderly manner, or in a manner prejudicial to discipline or likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Ottawa Police Service by donating money to the 'Freedom Convoy Fund' on a website called 'GiveSendGo.'"

The notice goes on to say Neilson "knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that the money was being raised for the illegal occupation known as the 'Freedom Convoy.'"

The protesters, largely made up of cross-border truckers after a federal vaccine mandate for their industry came into effect, planted themselves in Ottawa’s downtown streets for over three weeks. The federal government refused to meet with protesters or hear their concerns while they were in the capital.

Eventually, the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act to forcibly remove protesters from Parliament Hill. The powers granted in the act allowed banks to freeze Freedom Convoy organizers’ and demonstrators’ bank accounts and crypto wallets.

'Zero Tolerance'

In June, Interim Chief Steve Bell said police were investigating whether any member of the Ottawa Police Service donated to the Freedom Convoy.

"I was very clear at the time about the fact I had zero tolerance for anyone internally who would support any sort of illegal activity," Bell said on June 27.

But Bell didn’t become the interim police chief until February 15—nearly two weeks after Neilson’s donation—after former chief Peter Sloly resigned due to controversy over his handling of the convoy. It’s unclear if Bell’s policy was communicated to staff before he took the top job.

The Ontario Provincial Police said in February that the Professional Standards Unit was looking into allegations some of their officers donated to the protest.

Meanwhile, a former senior Ontario government spokeswoman is suing the government and two newspapers after she was fired for donating to the convoy. Marion Isabeau Ringuette donated $100 to the Freedom Convoy, also on Feb. 5.

Her lawsuit says there was no government policy against the protest when she made her donation. The province didn’t take a position against the convoy protest until Feb. 10, making her private donation legal and not against government policy, according to her claim.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.