Whereas the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) intelligence arm assessed at one point that the Freedom Convoy of last winter had the potential to become a “national security threat,” the OPP Intelligence chief Supt. Pat Morris says CSIS and the RCMP did not see it meeting that threshold.
“I spoke about that with colleagues from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and with the [RCMP] Integrated National Security Enforcement Team [INSET], and they did not see things that reached their threshold in terms of what would be deemed a threat to the security of Canada,” Morris told the Public Order Emergency Commission on Oct. 19.
The commission is conducting a review and public hearings related to the government invoking the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to deal with cross-country blockades and protests demanding the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
Morris addressed the topic while being questioned by a commission counsel about a Feb. 7 situation report produced by his outfit, the OPP’s Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau (POIB).
“The situation in Ottawa remains volatile and represents a public safety threat; an officer safety threat; and, potentially, a national security threat,” says the report filed under the OPP’s “Project HENDON,” which tracks protest movements with a public safety impact.
Morris said they had raised it as a potential national security threat due to actions such as border blockades, including the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, and the capacity of protesters to remain in Ottawa for a long time.
Pointing to CSIS and the RCMP-INSET not deeming it a national security threat, Morris said “we were an anomaly in that regard. But we’ve raised that as a potential.”
The day after the POIB published that assessment, Morris wrote to his team members and shared that he was uncomfortable with the wording surrounding national security, according to an email of his entered as evidence before the commission.
“In terms of national security, the wording in HENDON assessment concerned me slightly,” wrote Morris.
“I agree with the potential for officer safety and public safety but INSET and CSIS concur that there are no national security concerns. Confirmed today. If we have access to something they don’t, we can meet them to discuss, but I am not aware of it.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is expected to testify before the commission at a later date, and so is CSIS Director David Vigneault.
A briefing given by Vigneault to government officials from different levels on Feb. 6 during a teleconference was entered as evidence earlier this week.
Vigneault said there was no foreign component or support to the protests, calling them “primarily a domestic issue.”
No Credible Threats
Along with addressing the issue of threats to national security, Morris also touched on the topic of criminality.
He said that as the Freedom Convoy was rolling across the country in January before reaching Ottawa, “it was conspicuous for the absolute lack of criminal activity.”
The counsel representing the Government of Canada asked Morris about threats of violence mentioned in a document prepared by the OPP but not by Morris’ team, and whether they related to the Ottawa occupation or the movement as a whole.
Morris said it related to the movement as a whole and acknowledged there were threats of violence.
“In terms of producing intelligence, we found no credible intelligence of threats,” said Morris.
Prompted by the counsel about threats made against individuals, Morris said “if there was an actual threat, then there would have been an investigation. And if there was an actual threat, I assume the Ottawa Police Service would have laid a charge for uttering threats.”
Morris said the lack of violent crime surrounding last winter’s events was “shocking.”
“Even the arrests and charges, considering the whole thing in totality—I think there were 10 charges for violent crimes, six of which were against police officers,” he said.