FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE: Horizon Ottawa condemns last minute Police Board Chair appointment and limits to public participation
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is condemning yesterday’s decision to appoint Interim Chair Suzanne Valiquet as permanent Chair of the Police Services Board in a rushed, four-minute board meeting, where no notice was given to the public and no clear process was made or followed.
The decision came after the Board similarly tried to appoint Valiquet as Chair in a meeting during the holiday season.
The new Board also moved to further limit public participation by making a decision, without any public consultation or meeting, to limit the total time all delegates can speak at meetings to just 60 minutes. This means only 12 delegates in total can speak at a Police Services Board meeting.
Under former Board Chair, Diane Deans, virtual participation was provided, allowing all members of the public who wished to speak, the opportunity to do so. Extra sessions were added if there were too many delegates for one sitting. In the November 2020 budget meeting, there were over 100 delegates registered to speak. The new rule being imposed by Board Chair Valiquet would have denied most of these delegates the right to speak.
Since the events of last year’s so-called “Freedom Convoy”, the Ottawa Police have been under increased public scrutiny for their actions in allowing the far-right to occupy the downtown core. However since then, the response from the Board has been to clamp down on legitimate criticism rather than listen to calls to open up the process, and this is yet another example of that.
“This is an abhorrent violation of the public trust that further erodes the relationship this Board is seemingly trying to fix between the police and community members,” said Sam Hersh, Board Member of Horizon Ottawa. “In no way are we surprised by these decisions, but this is not the way to run a body that is supposed to be accountable to the public. It’s anti-democratic.”
The move to appoint Valiquet comes under even more scrutiny after City Council passed a motion wherein the Chair of the Police Services Board would be granted an extra $50,000 honorarium, which remains heavily criticized by residents. This is something we have not seen in other Board or Committee positions.
Also concerning is that Valiquet was a member of the Board that unceremoniously unseated the former Police Services Board Chair, Diane Deans, during the convoy and has continued to contribute to a loss of public trust. Valiquet is also the co-founder of the firm, Momentum Planning, which was involved in the mass tenant evictions at Heron Gate by Timbercreek, one of the largest mass evictions of mostly racialized immigrants in Canadian history.
“If Valiquet wants to be Chair, she should be subject to a more open and democratic process, rather than a last-minute meeting behind closed doors,” said Hersh. “What we want is transparency and accountability around this Police Services Board, like other Boards and committees in this City have. Ottawa residents deserve transparency from their institutions.”
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