Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating two police-involved incidents that occurred at the demonstrations in Ottawa – and is urging anyone who has information, including video, to come forward. One of the incidents involved a local woman from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
According to the SIU, preliminary information gathered suggests the following: “On Friday, Feb.18 at approximately 5:14 p.m. there was an interaction between a Toronto Police Service officer on a horse and a 49-year-old woman on Rideau Street and Mackenzie Avenue. The woman has a reported serious injury.”
The woman, Candice “Candy” Sero, of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, has since been identified on social media, but not before internet rumours and Fox News misidentified her as an “elderly woman” named “Roberta Paulsen” and claimed she had died.
Video, posted to Facebook by a woman who says she is Sero’s niece, shows Sero smiling in a wheelchair with a blanket around her shoulders while someone jokes, “are you alive?” and sings a line from the 1978 disco hit ‘Born to be alive.’
Other false information swirling around the internet included a report that Sero had somehow thrown a bicycle at the police horse. This appears to be a conglomeration of rumours, including one about an incident where a protestor used a bicycle to bump and trip up one of the horses further up the protest line from where Sero was knocked to the ground.
The collision between the horse and Sero is captured on video by multiple sources on social media, though not all agree on what they are seeing. We have included the footage from various angles below.
Police with Toronto’s Mounted Unit moved through the crowd in formation near the Chateau Laurier hotel in downtown Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, attempting to separate protesters from a line of police officers who were slowly advancing. Videos on social media show the operation from several different perspectives.
The above screenshot shows a man in a navy coat holding a bicycle between him and the horses as they round the corner. In the video, a man can be heard yelling, “Hey, are you gonna let horses trample people?” before the woman with the aqua hoodie pushes the bicycle toward a black horse with a white muzzle marking, tripping it up and causing it to fall out of step. It is unclear if the bike made contact with the horse or just scared it.
A second video shows Candy Sero in the crowd just before the horses round the aforementioned corner. She is holding what appears to be a window squeegee with a white sheet tied to it. The camera is filming her from her left. Another man, dressed in black with a big blue label on his toque, films Sero from her right.
The person making the video zooms in close as she says, “This is breaking my heart, this is peace, love, and happiness.” He pans away repeating her words “love and happiness”.
The cameraman wheels about and shouts, “Here we go!” and the horses appear in the top left of the frame. As the horses approach, and seconds before Sero’s collision with the horses, the man appears to say, “coming through… wow what is this lady doing?… Trampling, trampling horses …”
At this point, Sero appears in front of videographer at the bottom left of his frame. It is unclear whether Sero stepped up into the frame or whether the videographer has stepped behind her. At the 32-second mark of the video, a man wearing a brown coat gets between the horses and Sero. Just then, the black horse with the white muzzle marking jumps sideways into the crowd, between the man in brown and Sero, who both fall to the ground following the collision. In the footage, the crowd around the two people rush in to help them, however, the cameraman simply backs up, continues filming, and proclaims, “They just trampled this lady,” repeatedly.
A separate video, which starts slightly earlier, appears to be shot from the angle of the man in black from the footage discussed above. This clip shows Sero in the crowd just prior to that first video, asking someone about grandkids. A second man, wearing a brown fur hat (who is seemingly the first video’s cameraman), is filming her from the other angle. At the point where Sero says, “They are breaking my heart,” in this video, the camera turns to watch the horses approach.
The man in brown appears, putting his backside into the horses. From this angle, at the 35-second mark, a yellow plaid arm with a yellow gloved hand appears on Sero’s right shoulder, right before the horse collides with the crowd.
Why does Sero fall forward when the horse hits her from the front? Why does the fur-hatted man seem to predict “trampling, trampling,” seconds before anyone is trampled? Who is wearing the yellow plaid coat? Did the horse jump into the crowd because of its prior interaction with the man and woman with the bicycle? Did a police officer intentionally run into the crowd? Was the officer being negligent? These are just some of the questions the SIU will need to answer; six investigators and two forensic investigators have been assigned to the case. It is not clear how long the investigation will last, as the SIU’s mandate allows for 120 days.
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault, or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation and, depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid. They must report their findings publicly.
The SIU is urging anyone who may have information about these investigations, including video or photos, to contact the lead investigators at 1-800-787-8529 or online at: https://siu.on.ca/en/appeals.php.
From her niece’s Facebook posts, it appears that Sero suffered a broken clavicle and bruises. Several attempts to contact Candy Sero for an interview went unanswered prior to this publication. This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Full footage of the incident(s) can be viewed here: