Trust 'Lost' the Moment Ottawa Police Seized Fuel From Freedom Convoy: OPP Senior Officer

Trust 'Lost' the Moment Ottawa Police Seized Fuel From Freedom Convoy: OPP Senior Officer
Ontario Provincial Police director Craig Abrams appears as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa on Oct. 20, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Isaac Teo

A senior officer with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) says that after Ottawa police seized fuel from a convoy protest site during February’s demonstration and arrested several people, the trust the convoy organizers had with the police liaison teams was damaged and further negotiations were hindered.

Testifying on Oct. 20 at the public inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, Craig Abrams, superintendent of operations for the east region of the OPP, said the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) thwarted the negotiation efforts of the police liaison teams (PLT) with convoy organizers to remove some of the fuel at Coventry Road in Ottawa, where the protesters had set up a fuel depot.
“Essentially, PLT had gone to the Coventry Road site to try and negotiate the removal of some gasoline, and [OPS Superintendent Mark] Patterson was aware of this and chose to use it as an enforcement opportunity,” Abrams said, referring to the seizure and arrest operation carried out on the evening of Feb. 6.

“When the gas was being driven away, [Patterson’s] members pulled the vehicles over, seized the gas, and charged the [truckers]," he explained.

“That caused extreme stress amongst the PLT team, both our police service and OPP PLT members, to the point where the Ottawa police PLT members just said: You folks, you should go home. We've lost—any goodwill we were able to reach for some of the organizers or operators was now lost because there’s no way they could not have seen the connection between them trying to negotiate or move out gas and then get arrested. It was too obvious."


Abrams said he first learned about the seizure operation during a video call with former police chief Peter Sloly and the Ottawa command team on the evening after the operation.

He said Sloly had heard a rumour that the OPP PLT “was leaving” to which he explained it was actually the OPS liaison officers who suggested that the OPP liaison team leave.

"I explained that it was in fact the OPS PLT members who suggested our PLT folks leave because the Coventry road fuel arrests had made their jobs untenable, and there seemed to be no use trying any longer using PLT tactics since the trust was broken," Abrams said in his testimony.

During the video call, he said, he found out that "Staff Sergeant [John] Ferguson, who’s in charge of Ottawa police PLT, didn’t know that that was Superintendent Patterson’s plan all along [to raid the fuel storage site]—they hadn’t communicated. It was a shock. It was as much of a shock to him as anybody else.”

An email Abrams sent to senior OPP command after the video call and presented at the inquiry stated that Sloly wanted police liaison teams to be “embedded and engaged” in Ottawa’s operations and that it was “mission critical” that they be.

"I sensed however that they just do not understand how best to utilize PLT," Abrams said in his email of the OPP's approach. "They miss the engagement and relationship building and helping to form an exit strategies etc."

‘No Discussions’

Though Abrams assured Sloly that the OPP PLT team would remain throughout the mission as stated in the email, he was concerned about “two major” upcoming operations that would see “dynamic arrests and takedown of the Rideau and Sussex intersection” and “planned arrests and extractions” of “a few” top convoy organizers and influencers.

His email included records of him contacting Patterson and expressing his concerns that there was "no consultation, engagement or dialogue with the OPP” related to the plan to arrest and charge people possessing fuel with “Aiding and Abetting Mischief.”

“There were no discussions about legal authorities or the lawlessness of such arrests etc.,” he wrote.

“As a result I advised him that until I was provided the legal opinion and information about this arrest plan, NO OPP members would be advised to engage in any arrests for fuel possession until that permission comes from Senior OPP Command.”

When asked at the inquiry what could have been improved in preparing for the arrival of the trucks in Ottawa, Abrams said on the whole the arrival was “very smooth."

“Overall, we had no assaults, we had no criminality, and weren't aware of any charges being laid,” he said, adding the convoy didn’t damage any highways.

“They said what they would do. They kept to one lane. They entered the city of Ottawa in an orderly fashion.”