Just hours before cabinet invoked the Emergencies Act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser sent an email to the RCMP asking for a Freedom Convoy threat assessment and called the protesters “a threat to democracy.”
The email was tabled with the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) on Nov. 15. The ongoing public inquiry is assessing whether the federal government met the legal threshold to invoke the act to clear Convoy protestors in Ottawa last winter.
“I need an assessment … about the threat of these blockades. The characters involved. The weapons. The motivation,” wrote national security adviser Jody Thomas in an email to RCMP risk management advisor Mike MacDonald on Feb. 14.
Thomas sent the email around 11:45 a.m on Feb. 14. Cabinet invoked the Emergencies Act around 4 p.m. the same day.
“Clearly this isn’t just about COVID and is a threat to democracy and rule of law,” Thomas wrote, before reiterating her request for an urgent RCMP assessment of the protests.
“This is about a national threat to national interests 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,” Thomas said in a subsequent email sent about 20 minutes later.
The RCMP responded about two hours later with an assessment, which stated that “the majority of convoy protesters are peaceful and denounce violence,” but added that there was “the possibility of a lone actor attack, inspired by ideologically motivated beliefs.”
“We continue to track and analyze these developments,” wrote RCMP executive director of intelligence and international policing Adrianna Poloz in an email.
Thomas responded on the same day asking, “How do we know that the majority are peaceful?”
“They are determined to harm individuals to achieve their goals,” she wrote. “Honking and diesel fumes as one example, harassment and threats as another.”
The federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act lasted for nine days, being revoked on Feb. 23.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault recently told the POEC in an interview preceding his testimony that CSIS did not consider the Freedom Convoy to be a national security threat.
“At no point did the Service assess that the protests in Ottawa or elsewhere [those referred to as the ‘Freedom Convoy’ and related protests and blockades in January-February 2022] constituted a threat to the security of Canada as defined by section 2 of the CSIS Act, and that CSIS cannot investigate activity constituting lawful protest,” reads Vigneault’s POEC interview summary.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified before the POEC on Nov. 15 and called the Convoy protests “a national event,” and that it “wasn’t a national security threat.”
“There was some snippets of information on open source, and that came through intelligence—things that were similar to the storming of the Parliament—but none of it manifested itself, so it wasn’t a national security threat, it was a national event,” Lucki said on Nov. 15.
One lawyer asked Lucki if she had perceived the Windsor Ambassador Bridge blockade as a “significant national security threat.”
“I wouldn’t define it as a national security threat,” she replied.
The Canadian Press and Noé Chartier contributed to this report.