Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is open to pursuing an independent investigation into forged government documents that falsely suggest the RCMP and the Canada Revenue Agency are paying informants within the Muslim Association of Canada to build a terrorist-funding case against the grassroots charity.
Although the evidence that the documents are fake is overwhelming, MAC remains skeptical that they didn’t originate inside the government, and is calling for an independent inquiry. Mr. Trudeau was asked by reporters whether he would heed that call.
“We are obviously very concerned about these reports of Islamophobic forged documents,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We are following up right now in understanding the situation. We will pursue an investigation if that is necessary.”
MAC operates mosques and community centres across the country. The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that, for more than year, the organization has been receiving documents from an anonymous sender that allege law enforcement and tax collection authorities are trying to entrap it by creating the appearance that it is funnelling money to extremist groups.
A Globe investigation found that the trove of documents – hundreds of pages sent in 11 packages from April, 2021, to late November of this year – are not authentic. They include fake RCMP search warrants, phony records of SWIFT money transfer payments to informants and printouts that look like internal government e-mails between RCMP personnel and CRA investigators. The CRA, the RCMP and the Bank of Canada have all said the documents are fake, and the authors of some of the supposed e-mails have sworn in affidavits that they didn’t write them.
The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group weighed in on Thursday, saying the “troubling allegations” of possible government targeting of MAC require further investigation by an independent party.
“Whether this is a hoax or not, the unfortunate reality is that we know Muslim Canadians and Muslim organizations have been targets for surveillance and criminalization under the guise of counterterrorism driven by systemic Islamophobia and racism. It is important that the government take this issue seriously and act on it quickly,” TICLMG national co-ordinator Tim McSorley said in a statement.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, whose responsibilities include the RCMP, said the federal police force has assured him it will find out what happened. A police investigation would not satisfy calls from MAC and others for an independent probe.
“We have been in touch with law enforcement and I understand they are conducting their investigation to get to the bottom of this,” Mr. Mendicino told reporters.
He said the Mountie investigation must be done with great care, and he promised that the government will be transparent once it is completed.
”With the history of the community’s interactions with the RCMP and other institutions, it’s very important that there’s transparency about exactly what happened here. And obviously, if anyone broke the law in a way to target this organization … there should be an investigation and appropriate consequences that would follow from that.”
He also noted that the Liberals have tabled Bill C-20, which would create a public complaints commission that would provide independent civilian review of the RCMP.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, whose riding includes the part of Mississauga where MAC is based, called the allegations that the organization had been targeted “extremely troubling and serious.”
“I am going to let the RCMP do its investigation,” he said. “The way our system works is that politicians should not be directing the authorities – police and law enforcement – to influence their investigation.”
Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, declined to comment. He said he is staying silent because the matter is before the courts. (The purported targeting of MAC is not before the courts, although the charity is suing to stop an unrelated audit by the CRA.)
Four major Canadian Muslim organizations – the Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council, Human Concern International, Justice for All Canada and Dawa Net – issued a joint statement saying the contents of the documents are “consistent with the experience of Canadian Muslims” over many years.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the statement said, national security agencies in Canada have increased their “surveillances and intimidation” of Muslims, eroding confidence in law enforcement.
“It is the government’s responsibility to thoroughly and transparently investigate these leaked documents,” the statement said. “The investigation must be independent, the results must be made public and those responsible must be held accountable.”
The Canadian Council of Imams issued a separate statement also urging the Prime Minister to order an “independent and transparent investigation to determine if these documents or their content are authentic and hold those involved in this unethical approach accountable.”
The fake records sent to MAC, which were obtained by The Globe, make it seem as if the charity is riddled with informants supplying the RCMP and the CRA with details of its operations. A purported Mountie “Informant Manifest” lists six informants who are supposedly working with the National Security Joint Operations Centre, as well as 18 “secondary asset” informants.
Perhaps the most explosive documents sent to MAC are purported records of cash payments and SWIFT wire transfers to RCMP and CRA informants who are supposedly supplying investigators with information on the organization.
The purported transfers show 13 payments into offshore bank accounts, supposedly for the benefit of three informants. All but one list the Bank of Canada as the sender. The documents show the equivalent of more than $320,000 being deposited into accounts in the British dependency of Guernsey.
But the Bank of Canada, in a statement to The Globe earlier this week, said the SWIFT transfer documents bearing its name are forgeries.
“We can confirm that the documents purporting to be SWIFT transfer records are not genuine,” the bank said.
The fake records sent to MAC portray the CRA as being under pressure from its leadership to nail the Muslim charity for wrongdoing. The documents make investigators appear willing to bend or break the rules in order to do so.
An e-mail dated March, 2022, and purportedly sent by Wayne Welch, an investigator with the CRA’s criminal investigation division in Mississauga, mentions the “urgency that the chief has placed on breaking ground on having a smoking gun on MAC.” It continues by saying: “We need to be more creative if not downright dirty in roping these bad actors in.”
One e-mail purports to show CRA leadership trying to use sex as bait. “It is agreed that scandal is the best leverage here. Please put our girl in play. He’s married. Let’s see if he bites,” the e-mail says. It’s not clear who the supposed target at MAC is.