In the News
One Explanation for Why the Ottawa “Freedom Convoy”
Is Treated with Kid Gloves
Much of Ottawa, the nation’s capital, continues to be disrupted by the “Freedom Convoy” occupation which is demanding an end to all mandates, masks, rapid tests, and other measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the border crossings between Canada and the U.S. at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, at Coutts, Alberta and Emerson, Manitoba, have been blocked by Convoy organizers interrupting the trade in goods worth hundreds of millions of dollars a day.
At every step of the way, all three levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal — have been noticeably outmanoeuvred. Thus, the occupation continues as do the border blockades. The other thing that has become very noticeable is that the convoy, occupation and blockades bear the stamp of military-style organization. It has been revealed that some of the main organizers have a knowledge of military tactics and police procedures.
Michael Kempa, a University of Ottawa criminology professor, points out that the protesters have some sort “of military or police or at least survivalist training. Look at the sophistication,” he says, “of what they’re setting up in terms of an encampment in downtown Ottawa.” He also points to the logistics camp that the protesters constructed six kilometres away with supplies of food, water, and fuel, as well as the organizing of tents, toilets, fundraising, supply chains, and so on.
The leadership team of the protesters includes Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer; Tom Quiggin, a former military intelligence officer who has worked with Canada’s spy agency CSIS; and Tom Marazzo, also an ex-military officer. According to news reports, Bulford has bragged “about his close relationship with RCMP, the Parliamentary Protective Services, Ottawa Police and Gatineau Police.”
There are other examples of a close intersection between the protesters and certain police and military personnel as well. A staunch supporter of the Convoy is a group called Mounties For Freedom which is made up of active and retired RCMP officers, as well as individuals from other police forces, fire departments, and government bodies across Canada. In an Open Letter to the Governor General of Canada, the group argues that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government are “divisive, deceitful and criminal in nature,” and that the Governor General should “execute your powers and dissolve parliament” to send a message to political leaders “that the antagonistic behavior displayed by Trudeau and his government will not be tolerated in Canada.” Interestingly enough, this latter point is similar to one made by a far right organization involved in the Convoy (called Canada Unity), which in effect called for the overthrow of the government.
In another Open Letter, this time to the RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Mounties For Freedom states that “We are not against vaccinations, but as law enforcement officers, we cannot in good conscience willingly participate in enforcing mandates that we believe go against the best interests of the people we protect.”
For its part, the national police group “Police on Guard For Thee,” which also has active and retired officers as members, has endorsed the Ottawa occupation and claims that a number of its members have participated in the protest. The group has more than 150 police officers and 50 former Canadian soldiers in its ranks. In a news release, it states: “If Canada is a democratic nation, then we call on our duly elected members of government to engage in meaningful dialogue consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unjustly labelling those protesting the unconstitutional public health orders as terrorists, racists and misogynists is unacceptable and creates further divide.”
In addition, the Canadian military intelligence network, which is tasked with identifying security threats to infrastructure in the country and activities aimed at overthrowing the government of Canada, has dismissed calls to investigate the convoy protest in Ottawa. It has stated that the Canadian Forces National Counter-Intelligence Unit (CFNCIU) is not “monitoring the ongoing trucker convoy protest, nor are they conducting any related investigation as there is no security threat.”
In this regard, a large number of observers have noted that the convoy protesters receive much better treatment from the police than Indigenous protesters or striking workers have received in the past. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has commented that “if this blockade had been organized by Indigenous people, we have no doubt that authorities would respond quickly to remove the blockade and utilize the law that has been created to do so.”
This hands-off attitude is in sharp contrast to CFNCIU’s activity spanning many years of spying on Indigenous protests and organizations, including Idle No More and protests in Caledonia. Criminology professor Jeffrey Monaghan argues that “policing organizations across the country, and DND [Department of National Defence] is part of this characterization, have for years underemphasized and ignored the violence of neo-Nazi groups and of white supremacists.”
Given the magnitude of what the convoy protesters have done, i.e. shutting down much of the capital city and several of the main border crossings in the country, it is quite astonishing to witness the kid glove treatment they have received thus far. The fact that the convoy’s key organizers include police and military personnel is not only very worrisome to Canadians but also provides at least one explanation as to why the protests have been allowed to continue in the way they have.
Chief Allan Adam was referring to the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act – Bill 1 – which was enacted in Alberta in 2020 as a direct attack on Indigenous people standing as one with the Wet’suwet’en. In introducing Bill 1, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made it clear that the legislation was specifically in response to that month’s countrywide actions in support of the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders’ fight against the energy monopoly Coastal GasLink’s pipeline that crosses their traditional territory in northern BC, without the consent of hereditary chiefs. Adam said that laws which are to be used only against Indigenous peoples should be repealed.
(TML Daily, posted February 11, 2022. With files from CBC, Mounties for Freedom, Police on Guard for Thee, APTN)