Trudeau’s Intelligence Adviser Differs From CSIS, RCMP on Whether Convoy Protests Were a National Security Threat

Trudeau’s Intelligence Adviser Differs From CSIS, RCMP on Whether Convoy Protests Were a National Security Threat
National Security Adviser Jody Thomas appears as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa on Nov. 17, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier
11/18/2022
Updated:
11/23/2022
0:00

The prime minister’s adviser on intelligence matters told the Public Order Emergency Commission on Nov. 17 that she believed the protests and blockades of last winter represented a national security threat, taking a different position than the heads of CSIS and the RCMP.

“The public order emergency is assigned meaning by the CSIS Act but is not restricted by the CSIS Act,” said National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA) Jody Thomas, adding that a broader definition can be used to invoke the Emergencies Act.

The act defines a public order emergency as an “emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency,” and those threats are defined by section 2 of the CSIS Act.

Thomas told the inquiry she had recommended to the prime minister that the act be invoked.

CSIS Director David Vigneault’s interview summary with the commission indicates his agency assessed that the protests did not meet the threshold under those definitions, which include espionage or sabotage, foreign influence activities, terrorism, and attempts to violently overthrow the government.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified this week that she did not assess the threat based on the CSIS Act criteria, but nonetheless said that the protests and blockades did not constitute a threat to national security.
The Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to deal with the protests demanding the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. The commission is currently examining the circumstances surrounding the invocation and whether the threshold was met.

CSIS Act

Rob Kittredge, counsel for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, asked Thomas what she believed constituted a threat to the security of Canada if she wasn’t relying on the CSIS Act definition.

“Economic security, the threat of IMVE [Ideologically-Motivated Violent Extremism], the rhetoric of threats against public figures,” Thomas enumerated.

“The inability to conduct a livelihood in the city of Ottawa, as an example, at the Coutts border blockade, ... the threat to public institutions, and the undermining of the confidence in public institutions, those things all constitute a threat.”

Thomas had also responded to Kittredge earlier that foreign interference is a threat to Canada, but it doesn’t fall under the CSIS Act.

Phil Gurski, a 32-year veteran of Canada’s two spy agencies, CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), disputes that claim, noting that foreign interference is in fact captured under section 2b of the CSIS Act.

“The inquiry is showing that Jody Thomas is seeking post facto justification for the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act,” says Gurski, who now runs Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting.

“Her qualifications as NSIA are now in question.”

Commenting on the specific “threats” to national security that Thomas said should be considered, Gurski said that IMVE and rhetoric advocating violence are already captured under section 2c of the CSIS act.

The other issues she mentioned do not constitute national security threats, he said.

“'The inability to conduct livelihood’ is not a national security threat. If it were, the CUPE [teachers’ union] strike in Ontario would be a national security threat, with parents not being able to go to work because kids are at home.”

On the issue of “undermining institutions,” Gurski said Canadians constantly express a lack of confidence in government. “It’s what we call democracy and why we hold elections every four years.”

Thomas was appointed NSIA on Jan. 11, a few weeks before the trucker-led Freedom Convoy protesters arrived in Ottawa. She was previously deputy minister of National Defence.

Thomas told the commission that she had no previous experience within the intelligence community.

‘Continual Violence’

Thomas also said there had been “continual violence” in Ottawa during the Freedom Convoy protest, due to allegations of harassment, of people being intimidated, and the noise and pollution.

When asked if she could point to an example of “serious violence,” she said it had not taken place.

Commission counsel pointed to minutes of an Incident Response Group meeting of Feb. 12, where Thomas said there had been a “significant escalation in the boldness of protesters.”

When asked to elaborate, she said protesters had “bouncy castles,” which indicated that they were entrenched.

“The view that they were here to stay, that they had zero regard for the citizens of Ottawa, that social media was talking more and more about aggressive action to stay, holding the line. ... It was just a change in tone,” she said.

Noé Chartier is a senior reporter with the Canadian edition of The Epoch Times. Twitter: @NChartierET
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