Public Safety Minister Doesn't Substantiate His Claim Ottawa Protest Tied to Extremist Group

Public Safety Minister Doesn't Substantiate His Claim Ottawa Protest Tied to Extremist Group
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino rises during Question Period in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino claimed today there are links between the individuals arrested on serious criminal charges in Coutts, Alberta, with the leaders of the protest in Ottawa, but when pressed on the nature of those ties he did not substantiate them.

“Several of the individuals at Coutts have strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa,” said Mendicino in a press conference on Feb. 16 alongside Justice Minister David Lametti and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair in Ottawa.

“We're talking about a group that is organized, agile, knowledgeable, and driven by an extremist ideology, where 'might makes right.' This is completely contrary to our democratic values.”

When pressed by reporters on the nature of the group in Coutts and the alleged ties to Ottawa, Mendicino responded these questions should be directed at law enforcement.

“All I can tell you is that what we're seeing is a very similar pattern of conduct," said Mendicino.

"The hallmarks of the ideology and the motivations of people who are operating in different parts of the country—who are trying to interrupt our borders, who are interrupting daily life here in our communities—they use similar rhetoric, they use similar rallying calls.”

When pressed further about the claim, Mendicino did not flesh out the alleged links but instead repeated his previous statement that similar rhetoric was being used between groups. He did not specify the messages of concern.

“I think the pattern that we're seeing here is in the rhetoric that is being used not only in Coutts, not only in Ottawa, but right across the country," he said.

"One I think can observe that very plainly in the similar messages that are being shared by those who are participating actively in the blockades. And so that unified and focused message is one of concern, and I think does shed light on the ideological motivations of those who are prepared to move beyond just, you know, demonstrations and crossing into different conduct which would be illegal,” said Mendicino.

When asked if this was the conclusion of law enforcement or his own, Mendicino said "It's certainly, I think, the conclusion of many individuals and Canadians who are taking a look at social media, and it's extremely concerning."

The organizers of the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa say their protest is peaceful.

“We will remain peaceful, but planted on Parliament Hill until the mandates are decisively ended," Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich said at a press conference on Feb. 14

The RMCP arrested 11 individuals at the Coutts border blockade on Feb. 14 and executed a search warrant that produced a number of firearms, ammunition, and tactical gear. Police said the group "was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade.”
The next day, four of these individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes, and mischief over $5,000. One of those four was also charged with uttering threats. The others were charged with possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes and mischief over $5,000.

The Coutts blockade, which lasted for two weeks, was brought to an end after the RCMP announced the arrests and protesters decided to leave peacefully in order to avoid being associated with the individuals charged.

“We want to wrap this up in a peaceful way,” said convoy organizer Marco Van Huigenbos in a video message, posted by Rebel News reporter Syd Fizzard on Twitter on Feb. 14.

“After the … news released that the RCMP made arrests and [came] forward with an arrest [that] resulted in long-arm firearms, handguns, and protective equipment being unearthed, we, as the Coutts convoy, have decided that as a peaceful protest, and to maintain that narrative, we will be rolling out tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.”

Blockades in other provinces have also come to an end, with the RCMP announcing on Feb. 16 that protesters blocking the border in Emerson, Manitoba, were moving out. Blockades in Windsor and Surrey, B.C. also ceased earlier this week through law enforcement action.

With the road blockades clear and the only protest group remaining in Ottawa, the ministers were asked at the press conference if the use of the Emergencies Act was justified.

Mendicino said the Act was needed to "assist police forces with new tools" to prevent future blockades and maintain the progress made.

Lametti echoed this message saying, “We want to prevent other opportunities. We hear rumours here and there of fresh blockades, and we want to be there to prevent them.”