‘No escape’: Emergencies Act inquiry hears Ottawans describe loss of hearing, trauma


Ottawa residents who lived through the convoy blockade in late January and February told the inquiry probing the invocation of the Emergencies Act that they felt “terrified” and felt they had “no escape” from the blaring horns, diesel fumes and fireworks pinging off their windows.

Victoria De La Ronde, a resident of the Centretown neighbourhood — one of the most densely occupied areas of the protest — said the impact on her physical wellbeing caused by the protest was “quite extensive.”

“I certainly, during the experience, had difficulty sleeping. I had an effect on my lungs and my throat because of the fumes and other smells. And I also have long term effects,” she said.

“The long term effects are loss of hearing, loss of balance, some vertigo. (I’m) triggered by the sound of any horn now.”

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The experience, she said, was one of extreme helplessness.

“The horn blowing was so loud and continuous, there was absolutely no place for me to go in my own unit. There was no place that had any less sound,” she said.

“I checked different rooms to see, well, maybe I can sleep on the floor here. There was no place at that had a diminished sound.”

She said she felt “trapped” in her own home, particularly as fireworks pinged off the windows in the middle of the night.

“During the fireworks, when the debris from the fireworks sprayed against my windows, I was just terrified that they would break any minute,” she said, adding the consequences of broken windows during the bitterly cold Ottawa winter would have been difficult.

The inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act heard first-hand testimony on Friday about the impact February’s “Freedom Convoy’” protest had on the people and businesses in downtown Ottawa.

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Six witnesses are scheduled to speak, including De La Ronde, and Zexi Li,the 21-year-old public servant who filed a class-action lawsuit against Freedom Convoy organizers and participants on behalf of her fellow downtown Ottawa residents.

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Li sought and was granted an injunction to stop protesters from using vehicle horns downtown after days of deafening honking from big-rig trucks parked in residential areas and the parliamentary precinct.

Her day to day situation during what she described as an “occupation” was one of “living in fear.”

“Oftentimes I was harassed for wearing a mask,” she said.

“They would blast their horns at me with a smile on their faces, and then they would cheer in unison and almost take joy in the in my flinching, my recoiling from the noise that I had been essentially experiencing nonstop for the entire duration of the events that occurred.”

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Li is represented in that class action by Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, who is also representing downtown Ottawa community associations and business improvement areas throughout the hearings.

Following Li and De La Ronde’s testimony, Nathalie Carrier will provide her account of the experience. She is the executive director at ZAC Quartier Vanier Business Improvement Area, which represents the neighbourhood east of the parliamentary precinct.

Kevin McHale is also set to appear. He the executive director of the Sparks Street Business Improvement Area, which represents the pedestrian-only shopping and dining district just south of the Parliament buildings.

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Catherine McKenney, the city councillor who represented the downtown core of the city during the protest, will testify later in the day. The councillor, and now mayoral candidate, was a vocal opponent of the convoy protest because of the fear and disturbance it caused people who live and work in the area.

McKenney attended a virtual meeting of city council live from the protest site to confront their colleagues with the noise, chaos and “sense of lawlessness.”

Mathieu Fleury, city councillor for Rideau-Vanier, a community just east of the parliamentary precinct, will also appear. He convened daily briefings between city officials and members of the local community and business groups during the convoy.

He, like many of his council colleagues, received threats to his safety throughout the protest.

The hearings are expected to run for six weeks, with testimony from 65 witnesses representing all levels of government, various police agencies, as well as organizers of the convoy.

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— With files from The Canadian Press.

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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