FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is demanding that the Ottawa Police Services Board maintain the option for public delegates to speak at meetings virtually in light of the recent decision by Police Board Chair, Eli El-Chantiry to hold meetings solely in-person.
Horizon Ottawa also argues that given the situation around the pandemic and the significant risk that in-person meetings would cause for disabled and immunocompromised residents that this decision is a breach of the Board’s own Accessibility Policy.
The policy states that the Board “is committed to meeting the accessibility needs of people with disabilities in a timely and proactive manner and will use reasonable efforts to provide equitable access to programs, services, goods and facilities provided by the Board.”
“Our City Council just met this Wednesday in a hybrid model for both in-person and virtual participants in the exact same room the Police Services Board will be taking place so it makes absolutely no sense why the Board can’t do the same thing,” said Sam Hersh, a Board Member of Horizon Ottawa. “Not only does this decision breach the Board’s own Accessibility Policy but it is clearly a further attempt at stifling the mass movement we have seen in this city around police accountability.”
The Board has not heard from public delegates since January. Chair El-Chantiry canceled the meeting in February using the convoy as an excuse, despite close to 100 delegates signing up to speak to Ottawa Police mismanagement and complicity around the convoy. Many saw this move as an attempt to stifle democracy and avoid criticism. The decision today to force this meeting in-person can be seen as an extension of this undemocratic behaviour.
Virtual meetings have been pivotal in increasing public participation at meetings throughout the city, making it easier for residents across Ottawa to attend and this is especially true of the OPSB meetings where dozens of delegates attend regularly. Police boards in other cities have recognized this and are still keeping meetings virtual, such as the City of Winnipeg, whose police board met both virtually and in-person earlier this month.
“Moving forward with this decision means that the Board is actively and knowingly pushing people out of the democratic process,” said Hersh. “We are asking the Board to make this incredibly easy yet important decision to follow their own Accessibility Policy and maintain hybrid meetings for those who cannot attend in-person.”
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