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Coutts blockaders collected firearms to use against police, RCMP documents allege

Click to play video: 'Alberta asked Ottawa for help with Coutts border blockade: letter'
Alberta asked Ottawa for help with Coutts border blockade: letter
WATCH: A letter obtained by Global News shows the Alberta government asked the federal government for help with the Coutts border blockade. The new details come as Premier Jason Kenney continues to insist publicly that Alberta had all the tools that it needed. Kim Smith reports – Feb 20, 2022

A faction that blockaded the Canada-U.S. border in Alberta last winter to protest COVID-19 health measures was stockpiling weapons to use against police, according to allegations unsealed on Wednesday.

The RCMP alleged in search warrant applications filed in court that anti-vaccine mandate demonstrators who six months ago gathered in Coutts, Alta., were “arming themselves for a standoff against police.”

The allegations were based partly on information collected by police through wiretaps and undercover officers who infiltrated a hangout where a group of protesters met in a basement.

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According to the RCMP allegations, Tony Olienick, Jerry Morin, and Chris Carbert “were part of a group that participated in the Coutts blockade and brought firearms into the Coutts blockade area with the intention of using those firearms against police.”

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“I further believe this group was organized and planned their involvement in the Coutts blockade, including obtaining supplies,” police alleged, adding Olienick “had imported accessories for handguns despite him not having any handguns registered to his name.”

The RCMP filed the account of its investigation in the Alberta court when it applied for warrants in the case. The warrants were sealed at the time, but parts have now been released at the request of news outlets.

Key parts of the warrant applications cannot be reported due to a court-imposed publication ban. The police allegations have not been proven in court.

Olienick, Morin, Carbert and Chris Lysak are charged with murder conspiracy, weapons offences and mischief.

A trial was scheduled to begin in June 2023.

Click to play video: 'Public safety minister links blockade protesters to far-right extremists'
Public safety minister links blockade protesters to far-right extremists

The Coutts blockade coincided with similar events against COVID-19 restrictions in Ottawa, Windsor and elsewhere. Federal authorities seemed particularly concerned about Coutts due to the suspected presence of firearms.

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In the days before the government imposed the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, officials warned the Cabinet about a heightened risk to public safety and police due to the presence of weapons at the Coutts blockade.

The protest at Alberta’s busiest border crossing ended after 18 days when police made arrests and seized more than a dozen rifles, handguns, a machete, ammunition and high-capacity magazines.

The newly released warrant applications show police believed organizers of the Coutts protest were meeting at the Smuggler’s Saloon, and sent undercover officers there to “learn the hierarchy of the group.”

One of the undercover officers (UCOs) spoke to a woman named Serana, who said she had been asked to sit on the “financial committee.”

The UCO also spoke to Olienick, police alleged.

Olienick, who brought a dump truck to the blockade, said he was involved in security and discussed having “access to hundreds of firearms and ammunition within Coutts,” the documents alleged.

He showed the undercovers how he was monitoring police with a live surveillance feed, and introduced them to another figure who “said that of all the wars he has fought this was the most important for the people of this country [Canada].”

Olienick said “he had a delivery coming that night” and asked if they could help.

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Key parts of the discussion about the delivery remain under a sealing order imposed by the court. But the documents allege that “neither Carbert nor Olienick denied it was guns in the bag.”

Police said they “believed that Olienick, Morin and Carbert were a sub-group with loose ties to the group’s leaders. I also believed that they were organized and were making plans.”

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The undercovers were advised by police they should not be involved in a gun exchange and did not see the hockey bag allegedly containing weapons, according to the police allegations.

The documents show police were seeking a warrant to seize papers related to the financing of the blockade. An undercover allegedly saw a man with an estimated 500 pages of documents described as financial records.

“Undercover Operators (UCOs) have spoken to protesters in the Smuggler’s Saloon and learned the protest organization has a finance committee and, as a result, a governance structure,” police wrote.

“I believe financial records will provide evidence of the organization and administration of the protest group by showing how finances and resources are allocated and the individual involved in managing the finances and resources.”

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Police also wrote that financial records will also provide evidence of individuals’ direct involvement in the blockade as well as individuals who supplied money and resources to facilitate and maintain the blockade, making them party to the named offence.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

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