Simon Little – Global news
Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared two Vancouver police officers of any wrongdoing after they fired “less lethal” firearms at demonstrators during the anti-COVID-19 mandate protests in Ottawa in February.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit opened the probe after the officers with the Vancouver Police Department’s emergency response team fired the Anti-riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) and a 40-millimetre Penn Arms launcher (L140-4) during efforts to clear the protests on Feb. 19.
The SIU said no injuries had been reported. However, unlike British Columbia’s civilian police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, Ontario’s SIU is mandated to investigate all firearm discharges, including less-lethal weapons.
The SIU’s report cited statements from several witnesses, along with two people struck by the officers’ projectiles, drone footage, and surveillance footage from several sources.
Neither of the VPD officers was legally required to be interviewed. Both declined an interview, but one submitted a written statement.
According to the report, the officers were supporting Public Safety Units officers attempting to push a crowd of protesters south on Bank Street, so that police could erect a fence on the roadway.
“The atmosphere was tense as the parties physically engaged and pushed back against each other. A number of arrests were made,” the report states.
The report states that three men climbed onto a concrete barrier on the east side of the street, one of whom began to shine a bright flashlight in officers’ faces. The VPD officer with the L140-4 fired several times at the men, striking the man with the flashlight in the face and knocking him into the crowd, and striking other two men who climbed down, according to the report.