Convoy protesters in Ottawa received leaked information from police and had former law-enforcement officers and ex-military personnel co-ordinating logistics, a lawyer representing key protest organizers told the Emergencies Act inquiry.
Keith Wilson shared the information about the leaks and the logistics assistance on Wednesday with the Public Order Emergency Commission. The commission has the task of assessing whether the federal government erred when it invoked the Emergencies Act last February in response to the protests in Ottawa and at several border crossings.
A document summarizing a previous Wilson interview with inquiry lawyers said: “Wilson is unaware of the sources, but the Freedom Convoy was receiving leaked information from law enforcement.”
The same document said that during the convoy, the group helping with logistics had radios, maps and aerial photos. “Many of these ex-service personnel were connected and brought in intel.”
Early on in the protests, Mr. Wilson, who was already retained by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, was asked by the centre to travel to Ottawa to represent some of the convoy organizers.
During cross-examination Wednesday, Paul Champ, a lawyer representing a coalition of Ottawa businesses and residents, asked Mr. Wilson directly: “You were getting information from sympathetic police, is that right?”
“That’s correct,” Mr. Wilson replied. He went on to say that everyone involved believed Canada was “badly off track” and that this was their opportunity to make a difference. “We had former police officers, military, navy, CSIS, airline pilots, doctors, nurses, teachers, carpenters, chiropractors – the whole breadth of society was there,” he said.
This risk appears to have been discussed during a meeting of Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP officers on Feb. 11, according to minutes tabled with the commission. “More information regarding break in the ranks with [Ottawa Police Service] – information is coming from sympathizers.” The minutes also said one person “maintained contact with active-duty officers.”
This week, the inquiry, led by Justice Paul Rouleau, is hearing from convoy organizers and others involved with the protests. On Wednesday, the commission heard from convoy leaders who maintained the protests were peaceful and rejected suggestions that they engaged in illegal activity or harmed residents. The commission has already heard from police officials, City of Ottawa leaders and residents.
Asked about the leaks on Wednesday, CSIS said they could not immediately provide a response, the OPP wouldn’t confirm if they were investigating the allegations but said they take them seriously, and the RCMP and Ottawa police did not reply to requests for comment.
A convoy supporter carrying a jerry can and wearing a tinfoil hat has been a regular presence outside the inquiry and was there again on Wednesday. In the hearing room, convoy organizers Chris Barber, Tamara Lich and Tom Marazzo were seated in the first row to watch the testimony from their lawyer, Mr. Wilson – who does not represent all of the organizers.
Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Mr. Wilson described the police leaks as “constant and extensive.” He said the leaks came from the Ottawa police, OPP, RCMP and CSIS but not the military.
Mr. Wilson said the leaks allowed the convoy to know what the police were going to do day to day and included operational details: “Who was going to do what, when and where.”
“There was a lot of police officers then, and now, that believed that what the government did was absolutely wrong,” Mr. Wilson said, referring to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates that the police were subjected to.
Mr. Marazzo, a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces, also testified Wednesday. He said that during the protests he was given the task of co-ordinating logistics. Mr. Marazzo said he had also heard about the police leaks but they did not come to him directly.
The final protest organizer to testify on Wednesday was Pat King, who gave the middle finger to photojournalists soon after his arrival at the public hearings. Outside the building, a counterprotester held a sign that said “FreeDumb CONvoy” on one side and “go home terrorists” on the other.
Inside the hearing room, Mr. King had a handful of supporters in the audience, including one man wearing a shirt that said “Free Pat King.” His responses to questions repeatedly prompted outbursts from his supporters, earning them a rebuke from Justice Rouleau that they risked being removed. “I don’t think you’re helping,” Justice Rouleau told Mr. King. “This isn’t a show.”
Mr. King was asked about his behaviour during the protests, and a commission lawyer played a video clip in which he says: “Trudeau, someone’s gonna make you catch a bullet one day.” Mr. King said he had just been kicked out of an airport and denied his flight because he wasn’t vaccinated. And what he meant is that some day someone will have a breakdown, especially if they are pushed too far. “I should never have said it but it was said.”
Mr. Wilson, who represented some of the convoy organizers, testified Wednesday that during the protests, he kept his distance from Mr. King. Mr. Wilson said he had heard about comments from Mr. King that included “innuendo of violence” and “it was completely unacceptable to me.”
In the interview summary tabled with the commission, Mr. Wilson described the competing intentions of different groups attached to the protests. He said there were those who came to support, those who tried to take it over and those who were seeking a piece of the $10-million raised by that point.
Mr. Wilson said he was concerned about certain people who’d gotten involved, such as then-provincial politician Randy Hillier, the anti-masker Chris Saccoccia, the conspiracy theorist Romana Didulo and Mr. King, according to the summary.
“The reason was that I had heard of his language at times – and maybe it was unfair to him, maybe I was duped by the media, I don’t know – but there was innuendo of violence,” he said.
Ms. Lich and two other key organizers, Benjamin Dichter and James Bauder, are scheduled to testify on Thursday.