Ottawa·CITY ELECTIONS 2022

Mayoral candidates call for investigation of police services board

Mayoral candidates Bob Chiarelli and Catherine McKenney have sent a joint letter asking the civilian police oversight body to investigate "a potential conflict of interest" related to an opponent's campaign.

Chiarelli and McKenney ask police oversight body to investigate a potential conflict

Mayoral candidates Bob Chiarelli and Catherine McKenney have told a civilian police oversight body they believe there's a 'real and potential conflict' related to Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, being invovled in the campaign of candidate Mark Sutcliffe. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Mayoral candidates Bob Chiarelli and Catherine McKenney have sent a joint letter asking the civilian police oversight body to investigate "a potential conflict of interest" related to an opponent's campaign.

The current chair of the police services board, Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, has stated the board intends to make the important hire of a new police chief before the new city council takes office on Nov. 15. El-Chantiry is also one of two dozen honorary co-chairs for Mark Sutcliffe's mayoral campaign.

Former police chief Peter Sloly resigned eight months ago at the height of the convoy protests that occupied the city's downtown last winter. El-Chantiry took over as chair of the police services board the following day — after a high-profile overhaul of the board

McKenney and Chiarelli wrote to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission on Tuesday asking that the independent, quasi-judicial agency investigate whether the current board overseeing the Ottawa Police Service is "exercising its mandate appropriately" in hiring Sloly's replacement.

They called it a "pressing concern."

The two candidates point out Sutcliffe is the only leading candidate who is in favour of a new chief being named before the next term of council, and El-Chantiry's participation in his campaign is a problem.

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"This represents a real and perceived conflict," Chiarelli and McKenney wrote. "This risks further eroding public trust, as Mr. Sutcliffe is perceived to have influence over the chief's selection process while running as a perceived candidate for mayor."

Nour Kadri didn't sign the letter, but told CBC he agrees the chief's hiring should be put on hold. He compared naming a new chief "in the 11th hour" of the board to former U.S. president Donald Trump naming a Supreme Court judge in his last days in office.

"That type of approach probably works with Trump, but it shouldn't be working in Ottawa," said Kadri.

El-Chantiry has not responded to request for comment.

How can Ottawa’s next mayor rebuild trust in the city’s police service?

1 year ago
Duration 6:04
Amid the public inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act during last winter’s convoy protest, several Ottawa mayoral candidates weighed in on how to restore trust in the city’s police service.

Don't politicize policing: Sutcliffe

Sutcliffe told CBC that he doesn't want to further delay the naming of a new police chief, as the position hasn't been filled permanently for eight months. And he points out that's it's not council that chooses the chief.

"We have to respect the process," he said. "It's very easy to say, 'oh let's wait for the new council'. But it's not city council who chooses the police chief it's the police services board … they're there for a reason, to maintain that independence so the decision doesn't get politicized."

He also said he's not in conflict with El-Chantiry.

"I haven't had any conversations with Eli El-Chantiry about the hiring process at the police services board. 

Three politicians sit at a table. The left one is speaking on a microphone.
Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe, left, is the only leading mayoral candidate who supports hiring a new police chief before Nov. 15, say candidates Catherine McKenney and Bob Chiarelli. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

Wait for inquiry results, new council: letter

The call for an investigation comes not only in the final days of an increasingly embattled mayoral race, but amid dramatic testimony at the public inquiry into the convoy protests. In coming days, the public will hear from a number of current police leaders and from Sloly. 

Chiarelli and McKenney argue that the hiring of a new chief should wait until the public inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act is completed, as "the findings of the inquiry will be pertinent to the deliberation of the board, including the selection of a new permanent chief."

They also point out that a majority of city council and the police board will be replaced when the new term of council is sworn in on Nov. 15. 

"Taking this decision in the next term of council would allow the board to fulfil its mandate by ensuring policing services are aligned with the Ontario Police Service Act, the needs and aspirations of residents and based on the vision of the new council.

"This is common sense. In a matter of days, Ottawa will have a newmMayor and a minimum of 12 new councillors."

Finally, Chiarelli and McKenney charge that the board-led public consultations on the hiring of a new chief "were inherently flawed" and "poorly attended."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joanne Chianello

City affairs analyst

Joanne Chianello was CBC Ottawa's city affairs analyst.

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