Public Order highlights: Friday, November 4

Day 17 continued with testimony from one of the convoy organizers, Tamara Lich.

On cross-examination by the lawyer for the city of Ottawa, Ms. Lich stated that she is not a national security threat.  She agreed that she was financially responsible for the funds raised. She stated that by coming to Ottawa, she wanted to send a message to the government and bring Canadians together.

She recalled the text messages of the grid-locking of Ottawa and stated that the strategy was not something she advocated for personally. She said the convoy never wanted to gridlock the city and that safety was the number one priority. She said even the horns were too much for her at times. In the first few days, she said it was “music to her ears.” She said she did not notice the horn honking. In response to a statement that the noise would be bothersome to Ottawa residents, she said she lived on-site in an oil and gas industry and had to endure days of truck noise and diesel fuel.

She was not aware of the term in the February 7, 2022, injunction requiring her to post notice of it but she said it was a busy time. She was not sure if her lawyer brought it to her attention. She did not have a lot of time to read the news.

When asked if she thought it might be time to leave, she referenced the stories she heard across Canada. She wanted to be respectful to the people of Ottawa. She was often approached by the people of Ottawa and government officials who gave her support.

When she realized it was time to leave, she would tell people in person but did not do so on social media. When she was arrested, she said “hold the line.” She did not know if it would cause people to stay in Ottawa. She was charged with mischief but not with any offence under the Emergencies Act

On cross-examination by the government of Canada, Ms. Lich said she did not know that government officials were receiving threats. She noted that she, also, received death threats. She said she was constantly online advising people to remain peaceful, and obey the laws and law enforcement officers.

She recalls the OPS suggesting that she leave. She did not investigate each trucker as that was not within her capabilities. She said the number of protesters wildly exceeded her expectations, and neither she nor the road captains had an accurate count. She said she reviewed the messages left by supporters in their fundraising and said the donations were a form of political expression. She agreed that the donations to the truckers exceeded the donations to the federal Liberal party for the year.

Ms. Lich was shown a copy of the injunction that included language allowing for peaceful, lawful and safe protesting. She said she understood that the protests could continue on those terms. She was shown a chart that showed only 4 violent offences during the protest. She said she did not know the individuals charged. She witnessed violence only from the police crackdown.

She elaborated on the threats she, other truckers or legal counsel she received. She noted that Arc hotel staff received threats. She noted that she received messages threatening her and other truckers. She noted that her criminal lawyer, Mr. Wilson received death threats.

Before the next witnesses, counsel for the convoy protesters sought to provide evidence of police brutality during arrests. Counsel for the police objected to its introduction. The commission allowed the testimony but only as it pertains to the mandate of the commission. He said there may be unfairness to the police forces, but that may be addressed by hearing further evidence. 

Christopher Deering and Maggie Braun gave evidence about their experiences during the protest. Mr. Deering is a decorated military veteran. He served in Afghanistan and suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle was hit by an IED. Ms. Braun is a graduate of environmental studies and a mother of 2 children. Mr. Deering came to Ottawa to protest the mandates: the mandates prevented him from taking his children out and visiting a cemetery to grieve for his comrades. Ms. Braun came to Ottawa to protest the mandates after attempting to communicate with the government about her concerns. She described her experience in the protests as positive and supportive. Mr. Deering described his experience during the protests to remove the fence around the war memorial and a demonstration of "true Canadian spirit.” Mr. Deering wanted to attend the protest after the invocation of the Emergencies Act to protect Canadians from what might happen. 

Mr. Deering was in front of Parliament during the protests. He was in a line and had linked arms with other protesters, but was not moving or resisting. He was not given the option to go to another part of Ottawa to continue to protest. He conversed with police to tell them of his injuries and told them if he was going to be arrested to be aware. He was kicked and punched by police during the arrest.

Mr. Deering was pulled down and beaten. He denied that he refused to move. He said an officer told him to “hide.” He said he was ready to be beaten in place of civilians. He and Ms. Braun both stated that they were obstructing a roadway. A video was shown of the police abuse. Ms. Braun said she was kneed in the back and had a long rifle pointed at her head by one of the officers during her arrest. They added that they did not see racist flags or hear racist comments at the protest and that none of the comments made during the protest called for violence or the overthrow of the government.

Jeremy MacKenzie testified in the afternoon before the commission. He described himself as a podcaster and comedian. He had perhaps 10,000-12,000 YouTube followers. On his telegram account, he had around 14,000 followers. He was opposed to the vaccine mandates in general and had been critical of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). He explained that Diagolon is a fictional country that originated in his imagination. In the summer of 2021, he organized a meet-and-greet barbecue for like-minded people to alleviate the effects of the lockdowns. There are some other members of the Canadian forces who are members of Diagolon. Some members refer to themselves as “bigots” in a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic manner. He said he referred to members as the “plaid army.” This was consistent with the comedic sensibility of his podcast. 

He was told that the RCMP has described Diagolon as a militia group: he denied these allegations. His personal belief is that the RCMP has targeted him because of his critical views. He disagreed that Diagolon is an extremist group with extremist views. He attended the protest in Ottawa with other members of his group. He said he and many people were discontent and wanted to exercise their right to protest. He encouraged peaceful protest while in Ottawa. He knew the actions of his group members would reflect on him; he knew that the RCMP and police would be watching. He did not want to give anyone an excuse to accuse him of bad conduct since this would undermine the goal of the protest. He had no communication with most of the convoy organizers, except for Tom Marazzo who he spoke to briefly. 

When in Ottawa he did not speak directly to the police. He did receive some reports of police operations from a self-identified RCMP officer. This person said the riot police were being activated and sent Whatsapp screenshots of RCMP officers celebrating violence against protesters. 

He did not object to the Coutts, Alberta protest enforcement until the police became violent. He did not travel to Coutts but knew some people who attended, including two comedians. He encouraged his followers to protest but did not call for violence. He heard from the media that some people in Coutts were arrested and charged with various offences. He understands that the charges have not been proven in court and denounces violent conduct.  During the seizure of weapons at Coutts, a tactical vest was shown with a Diagolon patch on it: Mr. Mackenzie did not know the origin of the patch.

On cross-examination by the government, he agreed that he had no formal authority over anyone in Diagolon. There were no uniforms or hierarchy. He agreed that he was a central figure in Diagolon. He used his platform to try his best to put forward responsible messaging.

He made it clear that people should not bring firearms and to remain peaceful lest the goal of the protest be undermined. He agreed that social media can influence people but stated that so can movies, music and television. He noted that the Anti-Hate Network had, itself, spread misinformation regarding anti-Semitic flyers in Ottawa. He said that legacy media has an extreme bias and has been weaponized to push state and government messaging.

Several videos were shown wherein Mr. Mackenzie told his followers to leave if they saw something strange and to “not even speed.” He said that, while in Ottawa, he did not engage in any unlawful behaviour. He parked his vehicle on the farm outside Ottawa where he stayed, in the hotel parking lot or a public parking lot: each time he did so he paid for parking. He was not charged with any offences relating to the protest. He believes that his political commentary has drawn the ire of officials. He reported that the “Vice President” of Diagolon is a time travelling goat with a drug addiction. He does not believe that his group could be considered a serious threat. 

Danny Bulford was the final witness to provide testimony on Day 17. He is a former RCMP officer. He testified that the mandates prevented him from living a normal life. He lost neighbours and friends when the vaccine passport came into effect. He said he did not know how much further the situation in Canada would deteriorate, and added that a dehumanization effort had begun against the unvaccinated. 

He was asked to provide volunteer security for convoy organizers after they received threats. While in Ottawa, he had regular communications with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and RCMP. He would forward any information he believed to be important to them. 

The biggest concern for him was the potential for a violent lone wolf or small group when there is a large crowd.

He said the protest had a very festive atmosphere. He described the crowd as “humongous and incredible.” As soon as he arrived, he gave a speech on the stage that was set up. He said that the rally of support and the convoy restored his faith in Canada. He thanked the first responders and police. He asked everyone to remain peaceful and lawful to avoid more derogatory comments from the media and government. He wanted everyone to understand that when there is a crowd of this size, it’s normal to have a large police presence and snipers on the roof. Mr. Bulford assuaged the protesters’ concerns as this was a former role of his as an RCMP sniper.

He had further concerns about following a police services board meeting following which the police rhetoric changed. This new rhetoric included “extremism and domestic terrorism” when referencing the protesters.

Police denied protesters access to basic services, including portable toilets. Police also made threats regarding the involvement of the Children’s Aid Society. He said that he believed these were tactics used by the government to bully the protesters.

He testified that he walked through the intersection of Rideau and Sussex at least twice per day. The protesters were primarily made up of Quebecois truckers and an eastern European contingent. At this intersection, on weekends there would be a stage and dance party in the evenings. During the week there were a lot of food tents and barbecues preparing food for people. 

He testified that he never had any active officers leaking him any sensitive information. He had former service members assist him with security tasks. There were officers on leave for various reasons who were also helping with some security tasks he was coordinating. He maintained contact with PLT throughout the entire protest. He believed that the OPS was overwhelmed by the size of the convoy. He recalled that an officer told him “I can’t believe the size of this.” He came to learn that Chief Sloly had requested 1800 police officers and concluded that police were preparing for mass mobilization. 

On February 18, 2022, his wife advised him that he would be arrested. He walked to Rideau and Sussex, and spotted a line of RCMP, he approached the line, presented himself and was arrested. He was not charged, but his bank accounts were frozen. He realized they had been frozen when he tried to access online banking and saw a blank dash instead of an account balance. He was advised that his mortgage payments would not be made. His accounts were frozen on February 17, 2022, and they were unfrozen on February 23, 2022, after the Emergencies Act had been revoked. He received help from his family to pay the bills. He was never notified by the police that his accounts were frozen.

He testified that he wanted to take pressure off of Chief Sloly through negotiations.

Mr. Bulford stated that he was concerned about collusion between the federal government and legacy media outlets to control narratives. With respect to a notice provided to him by PLT teams, Mr. Bulford stated that he believed he was complying with the notice because he was engaging in lawful protests.

It is important to recall that, in order to justify its declaration of a public order emergency under the Emergencies Act, the government must establish, on reasonable grounds, that a public order emergency exists and necessitates the taking of special, temporary measures for dealing with the emergency. The situation must be so dire that it cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.

The definition of a public order emergency is an emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency.

Threats to the security of Canada is defined, in the Canadian Security Intelligence Services Act as: (a) espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage, (b) foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person, (c) activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state, and (d) activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of, the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

*All quotes are subject to revision as Commission video and transcripts become available.

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