The creator of a far-right, anti-government group called Diagolon told the Emergencies Act inquiry on Friday that he received operational information from a Mountie during the convoy protests in Ottawa last winter.
Jeremy MacKenzie testified to the inquiry that a self-identified member of the RCMP told him that public-order units were being sent to Ottawa, where anti-government, anti-vaccine-mandate protests had taken root. Mr. MacKenzie said he attended the protests with a number of Diagolon supporters.
Police and senior federal government officials describe Diagolon as an extremist group. Mr. MacKenzie rejected this categorization in his testimony. Documents tabled at the inquiry show that law-enforcement agencies and CSIS were monitoring Diagolon members’ involvement in the protests.
Mr. MacKenzie told the inquiry that the RCMP leaker also provided screenshots from a group chat that appeared to show the conversation of several RCMP officers. However, he conceded that he never verified if the source was indeed from the RCMP.
The Public Order Emergency Commission, which is led by Justice Paul Rouleau, has been given the task of determining whether the federal government erred in invoking the Emergencies Act. Friday was the final day of testimony from convoy organizers and others connected to the Ottawa protests. Their testimony and documents presented at the inquiry this week revealed contradictory views on the nature of the protests and the tactics and goals of the demonstrators.
In his testimony, Mr. MacKenzie played down his connection to Chris Lysak, who is charged in relation to an alleged plot to kill police officers at a border blockade near Coutts, Alta., which was taking place at the same time as the protests in Ottawa and also focused on COVID-19 restrictions. Yet he said that Mr. Lysak called him twice from jail after his arrest. “I just tried to offer some encouragement to him,” Mr. MacKenzie said.
Mr. MacKenzie presented his comments as joking, ironic or tongue in cheek. When asked about comments that could be construed as inciting violence, he said they had no nefarious meaning. Despite acknowledging Mr. Lysak’s connection to Diagolon, he suggested that a Diagolon flag patch seized as part of the arrests near Coutts – which the RCMP believed belonged to Mr. Lysak, a document shows – was potentially planted by the force.
Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP sniper and onetime member of the Prime Minister’s security team, also testified on Friday. After a 15-year career, Mr. Bulford said he resigned in December, after speaking out against COVID-19 mandates. He said he was a volunteer security co-ordinator during the convoy protests and also liaised with police.
On Wednesday, Keith Wilson, a lawyer representing a number of convoy organizers, told the inquiry that the organizers received leaks from police officers. Mr. Bulford said active-duty officers never leaked him any sensitive information, but he said a number of former police officers and former members of the military, as well as “officers that were on leave for various reasons,” helped him with various security tasks.
An OPP person-of-interest profile about Mr. Bulford, dated Jan. 30, suggested that Mr. Bulford may have leaked Mr. Trudeau’s schedule some months before the convoy. Mr. Bulford categorically denied that in a witness statement tabled with the commission.
Mr. Bulford repeatedly told the inquiry that he had hoped police would not follow the orders of their commanders when the final police operation began on Feb. 18. He said he felt that the COVID-19 mandates were so damaging, the “right thing” would have been for police to not take part in the operation.
During the protests, the OPP also had their intelligence apparatus trained on Diagolon and those believed to be members.
In a detailed profile, dated Feb. 10, the OPP outlined that Diagolon members are encouraged to possess firearms and ammunition and that the group’s online forums discuss topics such as “tactics, training, preparing for self-sufficient communities, group tactical training, acquiring PALs, etc,” referring to firearm licences in Canada.
Someone police believe is linked to Diagolon was charged with assault for throwing gravel at Mr. Trudeau several months before the protests, the profile of the group says. A separate individual profile, which appears to correspond to that same person, warned that the man was marked as “violent” in a national police database.
A Feb. 21 brief compiled about Diagolon by CSIS includes a number of Mr. MacKenzie’s comments about the protests. “This is the good guys versus the bad guys [Canadian government],” the document quotes him as saying. It also indicates that he said the “showdown” has finally begun, and as well that “This is the beach, get yourself out there.“ The document, which was tabled with the commission, says that “the beach” is a Diagolon reference to the Second World War and D-Day.
“I certainly didn’t mean it in any kind of violent context, or D-Day invasion-type scenario. I just simply meant it as an encouraging call to the community at large,” Mr. MacKenzie testified about the comments.
A section of the brief titled “The Violent Rhetoric of Diagolon” is redacted, but a graphic included next to it says “all justice will be non-binary” and shows a gun, a noose and the word “both?”
The CSIS document says that while there were calls from Diagolon for a peaceful protest at the beginning of the convoy, the tone changed, turning to focus on criticisms of law enforcement. “There have been more overt calls for members of Diagolon to travel to Ottawa and ‘hold the line,’ ” it says.
Mr. MacKenzie testified from Saskatoon Correctional Centre. He is facing a litany of criminal charges in three provinces, including criminal harassment, uttering threats, assault, pointing a firearm at someone, and 10 counts of possessing restricted firearms or prohibited magazines.
His charges in Saskatchewan involve “an alleged domestic-related incident with a prior romantic partner as well as an acquaintance,” according to an application brought by one of his lawyers. The charges are not linked to the convoy protests. (The application argued for Mr. MacKenzie’s testimony to be delivered in camera but Justice Rouleau denied it.)
Two days after the arrests, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said at a news conference that several of the individuals at Coutts “have strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa.” The minister’s spokesperson later confirmed that Mr. Mendicino was referring to Diagolon.
In his testimony, Mr. MacKenzie said he would not characterize the link as “strong ties.”