THE OFFICIAL TRUTH IS NEVER ENOUGH. It never includes what it was, and is, like for the people who get caught in the middle of a catastrophe they could not escape. The Ottawa People’s Commission on the Convoy Occupation continues to work away to provide that part of the convoy truth.
Residents of the Ottawa streets occupied by the truckers came together to create their People’s Commission when it became clear their story would never be part of any official version of what happened. The commission’s goal is to contribute to community healing and justice, and to produce a report that will recognize and record the deep and lasting damage visited on the citizens of Ottawa by the truckers
Community takes action
The community chose four community leaders as commissioners to lead their efforts: Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (CCGSD); Alex Neve, former Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada; Leilani Farha, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, and award-winning author and human rights activist Monia Mazigh.
Owusu-Akyeeah said that people feel the fact “decision-makers wanted to move on as if this didn’t happen” is the chief failure in the official response to the occupation. She said that when the People’s Commission was first announced, “people’s response was, thank-you, because we can’t forget what we went through and this is an opportunity for us to do some kind of collective remembering.”
Owusu-Akyeeah said, “One of the things that really showed across all of the testimonies we’ve heard is how community was filling the gap of protection and support.”
Police response reconsidered
Another key focus of the commission’s work is the response to the occupation by the police.
Owusu-Akyeeah notes, “what has been an interesting thing to observe—and I’m speaking as someone who has lived experience as a Black queer person—is that some people who may have been indifferent to calls to look at policing from a critical lens have finally caught up and finally get it, based off what they experienced in not having the police respond to them when they were in a moment of crisis.
“And I don’t want to frame this as, like, an ‘aha, gotcha’ moment. But I do think there’s something to be said about people experiencing this for the first time, and that shifting their thought process, the way they they think about this particular institution….
The People’s Commission will continue with public hearings, and other methods of collecting testimony from the Ottawa public, into December. Work on producing a final report will begin in January. The report will include a detailed account of what residents endured during the occupation, as well as recommendations for all levels of government and other institutions on how to help prevent, understand and work with people to heal the damage done to them by such events.
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