Evaluation of CSIS | The “Liberty” movement has expanded in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis

(Ottawa) The loosely-knit collective that openly opposed health measures linked to the COVID-19 crisis has transformed into a movement leading a broader fight against alleged government irregularities, according to an assessment recently published by the Canadian intelligence agency.


The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) text traces the evolution of the “Freedom” movement that began to emerge following protests in early 2022 that paralyzed downtown Ottawa and major points Canadian-American border crossings.

In early February 2022, the streets surrounding Parliament Hill in Ottawa were crowded with protesters, many aboard large trucks that entered the capital beginning in late January. Initially billed as a protest against some of the COVID-19 health restrictions, the rally attracted people with various grievances against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government.

The Government of Canada responded by invoking the Emergencies Act, which authorized temporary measures including banning public gatherings, ordering banks to freeze certain assets, and prohibiting support from participants.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain the CSIS brief dated April 2023. Although a movement can collectively promote extreme views, only a small portion of those involved were willing to engage to serious violence, according to what CSIS wrote.

As many public health measures began to be lifted in the early spring of 2022, CSIS observed individuals expanding the scope of their grievances and identifying themselves as members of the Freedom movement. This movement built on the rhetoric of the anti-public health measures movement, including opposition to globalization and suspicion of pharmaceutical companies, with a particular focus on alleged violations of personal freedoms by the government , according to CSIS analysis.

“While this perception of tyranny is widespread throughout the movement, other narratives are becoming increasingly common among adherents,” the document states, citing opposition to:

— the LGBTQ+ community, particularly story times and the inclusion of materials in public school curricula;

— the perceived increase in global control exercised over Canada by international institutions such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum;

— to communism.

CSIS has studied the possibility that such speech could lead to disruption and violence. According to Barbara Perry, director of the Center on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. “They believe these are the kinds of grievances that are likely to bring people to the brink of violence.”

CSIS defines an ideologically motivated violent extremist movement as a loosely organized group of people, connected by virtual or non-virtual networks, who share a distinct identity. Such movements maintain conflictual relationships with clearly identified opponents and aim to achieve, resist or reverse social change, the intelligence document says.

A movement does not have a formal or legitimate leader, but rather is guided by the people who join it more or less spontaneously, adds CSIS.

According to Barbara Perry, the shift towards these movements focused on individuals is a worrying trend in some ways, because, she explains, it is “much more difficult to identify which of these hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people” will commit an act of extreme violence.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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