RCMP warned of ‘potential for violence’ from extremists amid convoy: memo

Click to play video: 'RCMP felt ‘pressure’ internally to end Ottawa convoy protest, but not from politicians: Lucki'
RCMP felt ‘pressure’ internally to end Ottawa convoy protest, but not from politicians: Lucki
Testifying on Tuesday at the inquiry probing the Canadian federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said the RCMP felt “pressure” internally to end the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests in Ottawa, but added she did not receive direction from politicians and felt no outside pressure – Nov 15, 2022

The RCMP issued an internal warning about the possibility of a “lone actor attack” during the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests earlier this year — one they said could be “inspired by ideologically motivated beliefs.”

The warning was part of an assessment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser Jody Thomas had requested from the RCMP on Feb. 14, the day the Emergencies Act was invoked.

“I need an assessment … about the threat of these blockades. The characters involved. The weapons. The motivation. Clearly this isn’t just COVID and is a threat to democracy and rule of law,” Thomas wrote in the email, which was released as evidence during the Emergencies Act inquiry.

Click to play video: 'RCMP was ‘caught off guard’ by Ottawa’s request for officers during convoy protest: Lucki'
RCMP was ‘caught off guard’ by Ottawa’s request for officers during convoy protest: Lucki
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In a follow up email, Thomas added that “this is about a national threat to national interest and institutions. By people who do not care about or understand democracy. Who are preparing to be violent. Who are motivated by anti government sentiment.”

The assessment, sent over email two hours later on Feb. 14, stated that the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest was “attracting individuals who may hold IMVE (Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism) beliefs and may feel emboldened in their views amid the movement’s popularity.”

“While the majority of the convoy protesters are peaceful and denounce violence, the possibility of a lone actor attack, inspired by ideologically motivated beliefs, cannot be discounted,” the assessment found.

Click to play video: 'Emergencies Act was a ‘measure of last resort,” says Trudeau'
Emergencies Act was a ‘measure of last resort,” says Trudeau

It added that the “presence” of people who are adherents to ideologically motivated violent extremism had been “noted” at the demonstrations in Ottawa. That included a truck displaying a “Three Percenters” flag, which is a far right group that was designated as a terrorist entity in Canada last year.

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The assessment also flagged the presence of members of Diagolon and Plaid Army, which it described as a group that shares “anti-government and anti-vaccine/mandate views under the guise of humour.” Finally, it said Canada First, which the RCMP memo called a “white nationalist group,” was also observed in Ottawa.

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“The potential for violence by a lone actor or fringe group cannot be discounted as protesters remain in Ottawa,” the RCMP assessment wrote.

RCMP 'caught off guard' by OPS request for more officers

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says the RCMP was caught off guard by the Ottawa Police Service’s request for hundreds more officers to help address the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests earlier this year.

Then-Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly publicly announced on Feb. 7 that he wanted 1800 additional officers to help clear out the demonstration, the Public Order Emergency Commission heard on Tuesday. But Lucki said the request was missing key details — and that a subsequent letter from then-Ottawa mayor Jim Watson echoing Sloly’s request was unhelpful without a concrete plan for how to use them.

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“A general request like this, it … in a way, caught us off guard because we didn’t have those discussions with Chief Sloly up to that time,” Lucki said.

“There was talk about increasing resources for enforcement, but we didn’t get into any specifics until this letter came out.”

Lucki made the comment while testifying Tuesday before the Emergencies Act inquiry as it continues to dig into the government’s decision to invoke the controversial legislation in February.

The commission counsel pressed Lucki on comments she had made during the protests, during which the RCMP commissioner told Parliament the RCMP had met all Ottawa Police Service requests — only for the OPS to turn around and ask for 1800 officers.

“Even though (the letter) was to the federal minister who … oversees the RCMP as part of his portfolio, we didn’t assume that we were being asked for 1,800,” Lucki explained.

“So did it mean that three-quarters of those resources would come from Ontario and (the rest) would come from RCMP? We needed to see a plan.”

Lucki’s description of this confusion is the latest evidence offered to the inquiry, which is exploring the government’s justification for using the Emergencies Act to clear out protracted demonstrations against COVID-19. The protests had snarled the streets of downtown Ottawa and blockaded important border crossings in Ontario and Alberta.

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Emails tabled as evidence at the Public Order Emergency Commission had suggested that before the emergency declaration, Lucki felt not “all available tools” had been exhausted in the police response to the protests.

Lucki is testifying alongside deputy commissioner for federal policing Mike Duheme in the morning, and Curtis Zablocki, the RCMP’s deputy commissioner in charge of Alberta, is set to speak later in the day.

Hearings in the public inquiry began in mid-October and are expected to conclude at the end of next week, with a final report due to Parliament in February.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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