The RCMP say they will not launch an investigation into forged government records that falsely suggest the federal police force and the Canada Revenue Agency are paying informants within the Muslim Association of Canada to build a terrorist-funding case against the charity.
Instead, the Mounties say, MAC should take its concerns to other authorities, even though the records include faked RCMP search warrants and phony records of payments to informants. The CRA was sufficiently concerned about the forgeries that it referred the matter to the RCMP to investigate.
Last week, after The Globe and Mail reported on the forged files, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters the RCMP had assured him they would find out what had happened. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “very concerned about these reports of Islamophobic forged documents,” and did not rule out an independent investigation.
But this week, RCMP spokesperson Camille Boily-Lavoie said the force was not investigating, and that it had confirmed The Globe’s reporting that the documents, including the search warrants, were fake. She suggested MAC file reports with local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Mr. Mendicino’s office appeared to be taken aback by the RCMP decision.
“Our government has zero tolerance for any form of Islamophobia, and we are very concerned by these allegations,” communications director Alexander Cohen told The Globe on Wednesday. “While decisions around investigations are made independently by law enforcement agencies, we expect they will both take this seriously and take appropriate action when necessary.”
MAC’s president in charge of strategy, Sharaf Sharafeldin, said in a statement that the RCMP’s inaction “does not meet community expectations, and falls short of the level of thoroughness required under these circumstances.”
Although the evidence that the records are fake is overwhelming, MAC remains skeptical that they didn’t originate inside the government, and is calling for an independent inquiry.
“The Muslim Association of Canada once again calls on the Government to determine if any of the documents or their contents are genuine, which can only be done after a thorough, transparent and independent investigation,” Mr. Sharafeldin added.
The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said RCMP inaction on this matter bolsters the case for an independent investigation into possible government targeting of MAC.
“The Minister of Public Safety promised last week a transparent investigation. The RCMP statement is anything but that,” said the group’s national co-ordinator, Tim McSorley. “At the heart of this issue is addressing concerns of systemic racism and Islamophobia and must be taken seriously.”
In his comments to reporters last week, Mr. Mendicino said his office had been in touch with law enforcement. “I understand they are conducting their investigation to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
He told reporters the Mountie investigation needed to be done with great care, and he promised that the government would be transparent once it was 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.”
Mr. Trudeau told reporters: ”We will pursue an investigation if that is necessary.”
MAC began receiving the forged documents from an anonymous sender more than a year ago. The records falsely suggest that law enforcement and tax collection authorities are trying to entrap the organization by creating the appearance that it is funneling money to extremist groups. MAC operates mosques and community centres across the country.
In total, the trove of documents amounts to hundreds of pages sent in 11 packages from April, 2021, to late November of this year. In addition to the fake search warrants and phony records of SWIFT money transfer payments to informants, the documents include 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 supposed authors of some of the e-mails have sworn in affidavits that they didn’t write them.
The Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (CMPA) said The Globe’s reporting raises serious concerns that there has been an attempt either to undermine confidence in government agencies or to disrupt MAC.
“Given the gravity of the allegations, it is disturbing that the RCMP appears ready to dismiss the entire matter so quickly,” CMPA said in a statement Wednesday. “A thorough and transparent investigation by a government oversight body is required to restore public confidence.”
The fake records sent to MAC 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.
The purported SWIFT 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.
The forged records sent to MAC portray the CRA as being under pressure from its leadership to nail the Muslim charity for wrongdoing, and the documents make investigators appear willing to bend or break the rules in order to do so.