Ottawa

Upheaval continues at police board as all 3 provincial appointees resign

The three provincially appointed members of the Ottawa Police Services Board have all resigned, meaning the board no longer has any members who were in place prior to the weeks-long protest that took over the city's downtown.

Province to announce replacement members in the coming days

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, speaks to reporters last month while interim police Chief Steve Bell looks on. The board's three provincial appointees have all resigned, the office of the Solicitor General of Ontario said Wednesday. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

The three provincially appointed members of the Ottawa Police Services Board have all resigned, meaning the board no longer has any members who were in place prior to the weeks-long protest that took over the city's downtown.

The office of the Solicitor General of Ontario announced Wednesday the appointees had resigned, following questions by CBC about reports that one of the board members, Robert Swaita, had attended the demonstrations as a supporter.

"We have been working with the City of Ottawa to support a governance transition of the Ottawa Police Services Board," a spokesperson for the office told CBC in an email. 

"It is important that the people of Ottawa have confidence in their police governance, and this will bring fresh perspectives as the board addresses recent events." 

Swaita, the owner of the KS on the Keys restaurant, was appointed to the board by the province in March 2020 for a term ending in 2023. 

His attendance at the protest was first reported by QP Briefing. CBC News made several attempts to contact Swaita on Wednesday, but was not immediately successful.

Mass resignations

The Ottawa Police Service was widely criticized for its inaction during the early days of the weeks-long occupation that devastated downtown Ottawa businesses and disturbed residents. 

The criticism led to the resignation of former police chief Peter Sloly. Then, the former southern Ontario police chief chosen to replace him stepped away from the job after two days, and former police board chair Diane Deans was ousted at a dramatic council meeting last month.

Robert Swaita was appointed by the province to the Ottawa Police Services Board in March 2020. (Ottawa Police Services Board)

The two remaining councillors on the board then resigned in protest of the politicking and criticism, while City of Ottawa appointee Sandy Smallwood resigned earlier that day, citing similar reasons

The civilian board of seven members sets the priorities and budgets of the police service and is responsible for hiring a police chief — of which the city is currently in need.

Until new members are appointed by the province, the board does not have a quorum and likely won't be able to meet.

The province said more details would be shared in the coming days as it moved forward with selecting new members. The other two members whose resignation was confirmed Wednesday were Dr. Beverly Johnson and Daljit Nirman.

Also on Wednesday, Ottawa-Vanier MPP Lucille Collard called for a review of the appointment process as part of a larger inquiry into how police handled the demonstrations.

"The reputation of the police has been under hardship. The police [force] is a very important institution in our communities and it needs to be addressed and needs to be taken seriously," Collard said, referring to Swaita's potential support of the truck convoy. 

Swaita ran against Deans and lost in the 2018 municipal election in the Gloucester-Southgate ward. Election debates in the ward at the time largely focused on what the city could do to prevent crime

Deans was replaced by Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who has held the position of chair in the past

With files from Shaamini Yogaretnam

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