Homeland security officials plan to restart ‘Freedom Convoy’ in 2023: PM adviser

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser says senior officials are planning ahead for the possibility of another “Freedom Convoy” protest in early 2023.

Jody Thomas told a parliamentary committee on Thursday night that deputy ministers, some of the government’s most senior civil servants, will meet to discuss the possible demonstration for the first time this week.

Thomas said Mike MacDonald, assistant cabinet secretary within the Privy Council Office, has already chaired meetings “to start to see how we’re going to respond.”

Earlier this month, James Bauder, the founder of the Canada Unity group and one of the original organizers of the protests that paralyzed downtown Ottawa for weeks last winter, announced that he is calling for a runoff this coming February.

Bauder posted on Facebook that he wants fans to mark their calendars for a four-day “olive branch edition” of the convoy from February 18-21, with plans to “get going” and return home from Ottawa on February 22. february.

Thomas and MacDonald appeared on a special committee of lawmakers and senators investigating the federal government’s decision in February to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to protests.

The committee’s study has been conducted separately from the Public Order Emergency Commission, a public inquiry investigating the same questions.

“We are absolutely learning from what has occurred and trying to make sure that we have incorporated where we saw deficiencies as we go forward,” Thomas said.

Part of that, he said, has been a focus on how to interpret open-source domestic intelligence collected from social networks while also ensuring privacy laws are followed.

MacDonald added that there have been opportunities to test the lessons learned from the protests in early 2022, including with the “Rolling Thunder” protest organized in Ottawa for the end of April and more demonstrations planned for Canada Day.

“Many of the lessons and some of the ideas were put into the governance and decision structures there,” he said.

He added that he is coordinating more directly with the police. “I have a deeper relationship with the Ottawa police and I directly sit down and talk to them about these issues, and that didn’t really happen before.”

Thomas said he believes that with a “proper understanding of intelligence and information,” the Emergencies Act will not be necessary in the future.

When asked about a possible “Convoy 2.0”, Thomas added that “different steps would be taken ahead of time to prevent it from settling to the extent that we saw it in January and February.”

He noted that sympathy protests in Quebec City and Montreal, where large trucks were not allowed to park, were different and shorter-lived.

“I am not a surveillance expert and the police are doing their own review. And the investigation will talk about the police aspects of this,” he said, referring to the commission, which will deliver a final report in early February. “But in cities where trucks weren’t allowed to stop, they didn’t have the same problem.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 1, 2022.

Leave a Comment