Ottawa

Carol Anne Meehan apologizes for behaviour during police chief consultation

After some members of Ottawa's black community demanded an apology from Coun. Carol Anne Meehan for her behaviour during a consultation session about finding a new police chief, Meehan has written a letter saying she didn't intend to offend anyone.

Councillor says she 'mistakenly interrupted' someone she thought was done speaking, left because she was sick

Coun. Carol Anne Meehan, who represents Gloucester-South Nepean, is a member of the Ottawa Police Services Board. (CBC)

After some members of Ottawa's black community demanded an apology from Coun. Carol Anne Meehan for her behaviour during a consultation session about finding a new police chief, Meehan has written a letter saying she didn't intend to offend anyone.

The Ottawa Police Services Board held a town hall June 5 at the St. Elias Centre to let residents share their opinions about what qualities they'd like to see in Ottawa's next police chief, as a national search to replace former chief Charles Bordeleau gets underway.

Ewart Walters, who attended the meeting, filed a written complaint about Meehan's behaviour with the chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board on June 8, on behalf of the advocacy group Black Agenda Noir.

Community member Dahabo Ahmed Omer, who was asking what the city had done to generate interest in the poorly attended town hall, was interrupted by Meehan, who asked what the racialized community had done to bring out its members.

"Councillor Meehan's intervention was not placatory; it was aggressive and hostile. It raised the temperature in the room by several degrees," Walters wrote.

"[She] did not apologize but left the meeting. Perhaps she believes she does not represent the people that were in the room."

Walters wrote that Meehan violated four sections of the Ottawa Police Services Board's code of conduct, and that she should be made to appear before the board to be reprimanded.

Dahabo Ahmed Omer, a member of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, says Coun. Carol Anne Meehan's behaviour was insulting. Meehan has said her behaviour was 'neither rude nor aggressive.' 1:15

Meehan responded to Walters's complaint in a letter to board chair Coun. Diane Deans on Monday. She wrote she "mistakenly interrupted" Omer, thinking that Omer had finished speaking.

"My question was solely intended to gain a better understanding of the actions taken by the group to engage their community members. I sincerely apologize that my question offended those in attendance. That was not my intention," Meehan wrote.

To explain her departure from the meeting, Meehan wrote that it was "simply due to illness.

"I have been suffering from a persistent cold and cough, and once the meeting was well underway, I spoke to the chair about leaving, not wanting to be disruptive.

"I trust that those who were offended by my intervention will accept my sincere apology and that we can move forward in the spirit of collaboration and community," she wrote.

Full text

Chair Deans:

Thank you for notifying me of the complaint received by Black Agenda Noir. I feel it necessary to address this complaint promptly. Please forward my letter of apology below.

It has been brought to my attention that a letter of complaint has been received by the Chair concerning my conduct during last week's public consultation session, part of Ottawa's recruitment process for a new Police Chief.

Please accept this letter as an explanation and an apology.

At the meeting, I mistakenly interrupted a community member expressing her concerns with regard to the advertisement of the consultation session. I had believed that she had completed her statement. My question was solely intended to gain a better understanding of the actions taken by the group to engage their community members.

I sincerely apologize that my question offended those in attendance. That was not my intention.

As for why I left the meeting early, it was simply due to illness. I have been suffering from a persistent cold and cough, and once the meeting was well underway, I spoke to the Chair about leaving, not wanting to be disruptive.

As a member of the Police Services Board, I take my role and responsibility very seriously. I am deeply committed to community engagement. We are at a pivotal time in the history of the Ottawa Police Service. Ongoing and meaningful collaboration with all community groups is essential in order to grow together.

The important work done by the Police Services Board is a privilege, and I am fortunate to share in that work. I trust that those who were offended by my intervention will accept my sincere apology and that we can move forward in the spirit of collaboration and community.

Carol Anne Meehan