The “Freedom Convoy” was getting information from “sympathetic police” and “security agencies” throughout their three-week demonstration in downtown Ottawa, a lawyer for the protesters said on Wednesday.
Keith Wilson, who was testifying before the Emergencies Act inquiry on Wednesday, said the convoy received information from the Ottawa Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service — which is Canada’s spy agency.
Speaking under oath during the commission’s hearing, Wilson said sympathetic officers provided the convoy with information “throughout” the protests.
The individuals leaking the information, he claimed, were “deeply troubled about the government’s policies and actions” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made them sympathetic to the protesters’ cause.”
“As a result, when information was known to them about some of the activities, it was regularly filtered down through various protesters and those within the leadership group of the Freedom Convoy,” Wilson said in a scrum with reporters after his testimony.
“So at all times there was a high degree of situational awareness of what the operational plans were for the police.”
He referred to the leaks as a “steady stream of information” coming from “police officers and security officials.”
While Wilson was under oath during his testimony to the commission, he was not under oath in his scrum with reporters afterwards.
The information would come from someone who was “obviously … in a room or got a memo” about law enforcement operations, Wilson said. The sympathetic officer would then reach out to the protesters to inform them about the plans.
“It was always multi-layered, so you never knew exactly who the source was. But the police know of this,” Wilson added.
“They’ve testified and (there) are notes in their documents (showing) that they understood that there was wide-scale leaking within the service, that there was low morale in many areas because of the impact that the mandates and the restrictions were having even on their own forces.”
When protesters would be informed in advance about “when certain raids were planned,” they would be able to “anticipate how they would respond,” Wilson told reporters. For example, protesters with families would leave the area with their children and stay at homes of sympathetic Ottawa residents, he said.
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After being pressed by reporters for a specific example of such a leak, Wilson said he once saw an email from a person he described as “a senior command officer to all of the people assigned to the protest.”
“We saw it in real time when the OPP were upset at the tactic of the Ottawa police announcing they were going to arrest any resident who brought food, fuel or supplies to the truckers,” he said.
“The direction was given that the OPP were not to assist in those arrests, that the OPP disagreed with that strongly and thought that was a bad idea. So we got that in real time. So we knew, we knew that the … Ottawa Police Service would be restricted in their ability to carry that out, because they didn’t have the support of the OPP.”
The decision to invoke the Emergencies Act came after weeks of what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an “illegal occupation” of downtown Ottawa, and tales of frustration from people living in the area, many of whom were critical of the police response.
The commission is tasked with determining whether the government was justified in triggering the never-before-used legislation. It is holding public hearings in Ottawa until Nov. 25.
— with files from The Canadian Press