Government won’t elaborate on claims that ‘foreign interference’ played a role in Freedom Convoy protests

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“That’s a hell of an accusation to make,” says a security consultant. “It’s a pretty alarming accusation that what started out as a protest…is actually a threat to our sovereignty”

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The Trudeau government has yet to elaborate on claims made earlier this week that suggest the Freedom Convoy-related occupations and blockades are the work of foreign actors seeking to subvert Canadian sovereignty.

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On Wednesday, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair described the protest actions – which saw hundreds take part in a week-long occupation of downtown Ottawa and shut down international trade by blocking major border crossings – as a clear attempt to disrupt both economy and democracy.

“We have seen strong evidence that this was the intention of those who blocked our entry points in a largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack,” Blair said, accusing the movement of intentionally shutting down factories, stopping trade and sabotaging our already fragile supply chain.

“We will not allow any foreign entity that seeks to harm Canada or Canadians to erode confidence in our democratic institutions or question the legitimacy of our democracy.

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These statements left Phil Gurski, a security consultant and former CSIS and CSE intelligence analyst, with more questions than answers.

“That’s a hell of an accusation to make,” he said.

“It’s a pretty alarming accusation that what started out as a protest – whether you believe it or not is irrelevant, people have the right to protest under the charter – is actually a threat to our sovereignty. as a nation.”

  1. From left, Justice Minister David Lametti, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino during a press conference Wednesday, February 16, 2022 in Ottawa.

    Liberal ministers call blockades a foreign attempt to overthrow Canada’s democracy and economy

  2. Any

    Trudeau wants ‘foreign money’ funding illegal protests in Canada to end

Although he said it’s clear that donations from outside Canada ended up in the coffers of the Freedom Convoy, Gurski isn’t so clear about how occupations or blockades have undermined democracy. Canadian.

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“It’s affecting our economy, especially the blocking of the Ambassador Bridge due to the amount of trade that goes through Detroit and Windsor, but how does that undermine our sovereignty as a nation?” He asked.

“How is Canada less sovereign because of the protests? »

With today’s ease of moving money – whether through online crowdfunding or using cryptocurrency – the specter of antagonistic or controversial moves benefiting from “foreign funding” has become a moot point these these days, especially when it comes to organizations relocating to Canada from the United States. or elsewhere.

The leak of last Sunday’s donor list on the hacked website of the Freedom Convoy’s crowdfunding site cast doubt on claims that the movement was inundated with foreign money.

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Although a good portion of the $8 million in the leak came from outside the country, the bulk of the money raised was donated by Canadians.

“I don’t doubt there are foreign actors involved, I don’t doubt there is money coming from the United States,” Gurski said.

“But if they suggest that there are other players who have somehow directed – not just financed – and are pulling the strings from abroad, that would mean we have a problem of ‘foreign interference’.

He also wonders why the government would so casually drop such a startling revelation without providing more information.

“In the past, they weren’t shy about saying ‘the Russians did this’ or ‘the North Koreans did that’ or ‘the Chinese did that’,” Gurski said.

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“So why so much reluctance to know who the foreign actors are in this case?”

While inquiries with Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino went unacknowledged, a spokesperson for Blair responded to requests for clarity from the National Post with details of the tools the invocation Wednesday of the Emergencies Act would provide law enforcement.

It’s a lot of things, but it’s not terrorism

While the government’s ability to cite sources is understandably limited if the intelligence came from CSIS, Gurksi concedes the real message is buried somewhere beneath the political spin and narrative.

“Governments use intelligence in interesting ways,” he said.

“They choose to release certain details based on what they’re trying to get across.”

Foreign interference in Canadian affairs is nothing new, Gurski said, citing reports released last year by CSIS that China and Russia are responsible for levels of espionage and interference never before seen. seen since the end of the cold war.

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“It’s made up of so many disparate elements, some of which I agree are problematic in that they may be members of groups that could, potentially in certain situations, resort to violence,” Gurski said.

He also dismissed allegations describing the situation as “domestic terrorism”.

“It’s a lot of things, but it’s not terrorism,” said Gurski, who specialized in grassroots terrorism and radicalization during his intelligence career.

Thursday’s violent attack on workers at a Coastal GasLink job site in northern British Columbia, he said, fits the definition of domestic terrorism far better than anything he’s seen with the Freedom. Convoy.

Blair’s comments came as no surprise to Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University, who recalls being ridiculed early on for questioning the influence of foreign interference in the Freedom Convoy.

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“No one in Canada raises $10 million as a hobbyist in a few days,” he said.

“The government hasn’t disclosed what their sources are, but clearly the minister has stated that unequivocally, FINTRAC and CSIS have pretty strong evidence.”

Leuprecht said the government had no excuse to feign surprise at the Freedom Convoy’s turn.

“This is only news for a government that has sat idly by since 2013 and done nothing about it,” he said.

“They either decided it wasn’t a priority or decided it was too controversial.”

As the UK Guardian reported on Thursday, intelligence from Canada’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Center (ITAC) suggests officials were warned long before the Freedom Convoy arrived in Ottawa that extremists were entrenched in the movement and that they were prepared to use “rudimentary capabilities” including trucks, fuel and cargo and fuel to disrupt infrastructure.

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While occupations and extremism were expected, the ITAC determined that a Jan. 6-style siege against Canada’s chambers of government was unlikely.

Leuprecht said Blair’s comments — and the Trudeau government’s response to the crisis — point to bigger institutional issues that the convoy laid bare.

“Our national security is being strained by a few thousand externally funded occupiers and is totally collapsing in on itself,” he said.

“This suggests that our entire national security process is not fit for 21st century goals.”

“The Liberal government has no one to blame but itself.”

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