The Ottawa Police Department confirmed that officers visited the former St. Brigid church building on Sunday to respond to community concerns about the future new owners and their intention to establish a “substantial private security force.”
Police made two “proactive” visits to the former Catholic Church, first on July 15 and again on Sunday, to speak with directors of The United People of Canada (TUPOC), a group that has been dismayed by some members of the community. . left to the ‘Freedom Convoy’.
Interim Police Chief Steve Bell sent a memo to police confirming “significant public concerns expressed in recent weeks over the purchase of the former St. Brigid’s Church in Lowertown.”
Officers “proactively contacted the new residents of the church,” Bell said, and during the latest meeting on Sunday “discussed recent reports of mischief and thefts at the property and TUPOC’s plan to set up a private security agency.” to target.”
In a recent post on TUPOC’s Facebook page, the group claims it has “ordered the first member of our private security forces” to guard the property called “The Embassy”.
Members of the public have expressed concern about connections between TUPOC’s backers and the “Freedom Convoy” protest. The group’s directors include William Komer, Diane Nolan and Kimberley Ward.
Komer previously told this newspaper that he was in O . used to bettawa for the protest because “as a documentary filmmaker I was reporting what happened there from an investigative perspective.”
Nolan posted regularly on Facebook about her presence at the “Freedom Convoy” and encouraged viewers of a live video to head downtown the day police moved in to clear protesters. “I don’t know if they’ll know what to do when there are so many people here, guys,” she said, noting later, “This is a protest, for our freedom. They will thank us later, they just haven’t figured it out yet.”
Ward has said she has served as an advisor to Dwayne Lich, husband of convoy organizer Tamara Lich, who was released from prison for the second time last month after a Supreme Court judge found errors in the decision to revoke her bail.
The pinned post on Dwayne Lich’s Facebook profile page is a link to the TUPOC website, and he’s been posting about the organization there since late March.
Komer said in an earlier interview with this newspaper: Tamara Lich is in no way involved with TUPOC and thatwe welcome support from all people of all backgrounds, beliefs, religions and creeds.”
Komer also said Dwayne Lich “Iis a supporter of our diverse and inclusive, intergenerational, interracial and interfaith, female-led and minority-led, federally incorporated social enterprise organization and its mission to restore and adaptively reuse redundant and underutilized institutional property in vibrant and inclusive community spaces.”
Now, Komer has confirmed in a telephone interview that the group is ordering “significant” security forces in response to what he said were incidents of theft, vandalism and death threats.
“We are developing a private security force to protect our legally occupied property, to protect our members and participants in various events and community conversations,” Komer said.
“There has been a lot of criminal activity against us… There has been shouting, some of our flagpoles have been broken, there has been theft of banners, theft of flags. We have received death threats,” Komer said.
He cited a recent incident at a community barbecue where a participant became “increasingly combative” when asked to leave, then continued “obscenities” against the group from the sidewalk.
“There has been no satisfactory response (from the Ottawa Police Department) and that has been a primary consideration in developing the sizeable private security force,” he said.
Police received four complaints from TUPOC relating to “a disruption, an online defamation and two incidents of theft,” Bell said in the memo.
Police visited the property and “discussed the rules and legalities of private security with residents,” Bell said. “Agents were advised that the intended security is to keep an eye on someone with a security permit 24/7.”
Sylvie Bigras, president of the Lowertown Community Association, said many residents were concerned about the group after her ties and sympathies with the convoy “became pretty clear.”
“The affiliation has increased concern in the community and many people are concerned,” Bigras said. “Lower town is already a vulnerable neighbourhood.”
Bigras said the idea of a private security force is “ridiculous” for the 130-year-old church with such a cherished history in the community.
“St. Brigid’s church has been there for over 100 years hosting many, many community events and services and all sorts of activities…the Irish Society turned it into a wonderful arts and cultural center and organized all sorts of activities, a bar, performances and plenty of events.
“There was never any talk of hiring a private security service,” Bigras said. “What makes a person say, ‘Why does your group need this?'”
Bigras said the “actions and messages” associated with TUPOC are “like reopening a wound” in the community.
“Having convoy trucks on your property is not a comforting sight for people, it brings back a lot of difficult moments for people,” Bigras said.
Komer acknowledged that police had spoken to TUPOC about rumors that the group was “developing a militia to patrol the streets or something like that,” he said. “That’s not what we do. We explained our plan to them and the officers agreed that everything was completely legal and they set off.”
Komer declined to define how “big” a force the group is planning.
“The nature of who was commissioned and what role is not something we reveal. Our private security force is private,” Komer said. “But the public should be aware that it is just a legitimate security force.”
Private security agencies are regulated by the province and agencies “must employ authorized security officers who are trained to be familiar with relevant laws and regulations,” according to the Attorney General’s Department.
A ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday that the solicitor general “has had no contact with (the TUPOC) group.”
With files from Taylor Blewett and Bruce Deachman