Making our voices heard
Ottawa People’s Commission is a grassroots effort to promote healing and justice after the convoy occupation of Ottawa-Gatineau in 2022.
OPC is an initiative of the Centretown Community Health Centre.
OPC makes recommendations under eight calls for action; some are immediate and concrete, others more systemic and complex. Most are directed to the City, though some involve the provincial and federal governments. Many point to the vital need for the three orders of government to work together and coordinate their efforts in upholding human rights.
Taken together they are transformational and would offer Ottawa residents and businesses assurance that lessons have been learned and the debacle of the convoy occupation will not be repeated. Learn more about OPC’s 25 recommendations and timeline for action.
Ottawans have lost confidence in City Hall. To earn their trust, the City must convene town halls to hear directly from residents, provide meaningful apologies, redress harms and take concrete action to build credibility and collaboration.
The City and Province must commit to adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to respecting Indigenous leadership in times of crisis. Community groups too, have a role in advancing reconciliation.
The City must adopt a Human Rights Charter and develop a Human Rights Action Plan with targets, resources and enforcement mechanisms. As well, the Province must strengthen human rights protections, and all levels of government must act to protect journalists.
The City needs to develop a city-wide ‘needs map’ and crisis outreach plans to ensure access to essential services.
The City needs to develop a policy on protest and community safety, strengthen police oversight, launch an independent investigation into the failure to protect residents, and reduce or reallocate police budgets to increase funding for community safety and well-being.
The City should create an Emergency Advisory Committee, strengthen its Emergency Management Program, and coordinate emergency response across all orders of government.
All orders of government should collaborate to confront hate, implementing a comprehensive plan of action. Efforts to increase diversity among senior municipal officials must be redoubled and support for community initiatives promoting community well-being increased. And spaces for dialogue and community building should be supported.
All orders of government should consult publicly on their plans to implement recommendations arising from the different inquiries and reviews linked to the convoy occupation, including OPC, and report regularly on progress and outcomes.
There are a number of misconceptions about the make-up of the communities that were affected by the convoy occupation. Many people assume that a relatively small number of people live in central Ottawa and that the downtown is primarily composed of government and other office buildings. Another misplaced assumption is that those who do live downtown are primarily politicians, civil servants and diplomats, who are comfortably middle class and upper middle class, and reside principally in high-priced condominiums. That is not the case.
More than two-thirds of residents are renters. The affected neighbourhoods have more than twice the percentage of renters compared to national, provincial and Ottawa levels.
Median household income in the affected neighbourhoods is lower than average. Higher percentages of households are low income and, in particular, a higher percentage of seniors (65+). In Lowertown, Overbrook, and Vanier, the proportion of low-income households is twice the national and provincial average. For low-income seniors, the rate varies from three times higher (Lowertown) to five times higher (Overbrook).
The percentage of recent immigrants (admitted 2016 to 2021) and non-permanent residents in the affected neighbourhoods is higher than for Ottawa as a whole and generally higher compared to Ontario and Canada.
The percentage of visible minorities is higher in Overbrook (41%) compared to nationally (22.3%), provincially (29.3%) and city-wide (32.5%). Lowertown, Overbrook, and Vanier are home to a much larger Black population (15.6%, 19.3%, and 15.4%, respectively) compared to Canada (3.5%), Ontario (5.5%), and Ottawa (8.5%).
The affected neighbourhoods are home to a significant Indigenous population, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis residents and many Indigenous service organizations are located in the area, in particular in Vanier and Overbrook. In 2016, the total Indigenous population was 22,960, the highest concentration being in Overbrook (955), Centretown (860), and Vanier (790). The Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition estimates Ottawa is home to 40,000 Indigenous people and the largest Inuit population outside of the North.
A significant portion of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community live in the neighbourhoods most affected by the convoy occupation.
In the affected neighbourhoods, 32,875 people experience an activity limitation that always, often, or sometimes interferes with their ability in performing usual activities. 16,560 people experience a mental-health related activity limitation.
The percentage of seniors with disabilities is 18% higher in the affected neighbourhoods compared to the national level.
During the three-and-a-half week occupation and beyond, Ottawa residents relied on community sources, media coverage, and posts, photos and footage from social media to keep safe and stay informed.
Recognizing the value of creating a community archive of this footage, documenting the impact of the convoy from the perspective of local residents, workers, and businesses, OPC crowd-sourced this timeline.
A dynamic group of local residents with diverse backgrounds and politics came together to create OPC as a non-partisan response to the convoy occupation. Sharing their vision and commitment, Centretown Community Health Centre then adopted OPC as a program. OPC received support from a broad range of groups committed to promoting healing, building community and holding governments to account.
Though the autumn of 2022, OPC held 14 hearings, four in-person and ten online, inviting local residents to share their stories of the occupation and their views on what should be done to avoid a repeat. As well, eight community consultations were held with different groups, and meetings were held with community leaders and experts.
In addition, OPC received written submissions from local residents who shared their stories and digital evidence of the occupation’s impact.
OPC was a program of Centretown Community Health Centre. CCHC provided funding and administrative and logistics support – and helped ensure OPC activities were planned with an eye to reducing stress and relieving trauma.
The federal inquiries — parliamentary and judicial — focused on the Emergencies Act and covered the whole country. The City’s inquiry was conducted by the City’s Auditor General and was very narrow in scope. OPC put the community’s interests first, creating a space for residents to share their stories, name their concerns, identify solutions, and press for action. It was intended as an avenue to healing and to justice.
The Ottawa People’s Commission is no longer formally receiving submissions from the public but you are encouraged to work through community organizations and others to share your experience and your views, and to advocate for changes that will ensure Ottawa residents are never again abandoned in the face of violence and human rights violations.
OPC relied on the community for support. Donations were received from local and national foundations, unions, community agencies and generous individuals.
Many were traumatized by the occupation, and remain frustrated their story has not been heard and their opinion has not been sought. There has been no redress for their losses and no accountability for the failure of governments at all levels to protect their health or defend their rights.
Echoes of the occupation and threats of future disruptions continue. For that reason OPC came together to look at why people are subject to this violence and how best to bring it to an end.
For some, the experience of the convoy was the first time they had felt uncomfortable or intimidated in their own community. Others faced a heightened risk, but being targeted, taunted and trolled was and remains part of their daily reality.
OPC worked with leaders from diverse communities – in particular, those who face higher levels of hate, discrimination and violence – to ensure we captured their experience before, during and since the occupation, and recommended actions that create greater safety and respect for everyone.