Convoy lawyer says protesters were receiving a 'steady stream' of leaked police information

Freedom Convoy organizer Tom Marazzo, right, and lawyer Keith Wilson speak to people in the gallery before the start of the day's hearings at the Public Order Emergency Commission, where they will appear as witnesses, in Ottawa, on Wednesday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Freedom Convoy organizer Tom Marazzo, right, and lawyer Keith Wilson speak to people in the gallery before the start of the day's hearings at the Public Order Emergency Commission, where they will appear as witnesses, in Ottawa, on Wednesday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Some of the main convoy organizers were receiving leaks from police officers sympathetic to their protest against anti-COVID-19 restrictions, their lawyer told the Emergencies Act inquiry Wednesday.

Keith Wilson, who represents convoy organizers — including Tamara Lich and Chris Barber — testified Wednesday in front of the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is reviewing the federal government's decision to invoke emergency powers to clear the crowds and vehicles that gridlocked the capital for more than three weeks last winter.

"There was a steady stream of of information and leaks coming from all of the different police forces and security agencies," he said.

"There were numerous times where information would come into the operation centre from various police sources that a raid was imminent. And it happened many times."

WATCH | Wilson said protest organizers received  leaks from multiple sources 

Wilson told reporters outside the inquiry room that information was coming from the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the RCMP and even Canada's spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"People would be careful to not reveal themselves, but they were very concerned about what they saw happening and and were very supportive of the effort to bring attention to the harms of the government lockdowns and mandates," he said.

Wilson said sometimes the leaks were structured to obscure the leaker's identity.

"Someone would have been in a room or got a memo or an email saying, 'This is what we're doing Friday night,' and then they would call someone and say, 'Hey, phone so and so and let them know," he said.

"It allowed the leadership to anticipate how they would respond."

At least once, the organizers were leaked an OPP memo. Wilson said it outlined concerns the provincial police had with the Ottawa Police Service's plan to arrest people bringing food, fuel and other supplies to the protesters.

"So we got that in real time. So we knew we knew that the Ottawa Police Service would be restricted in their ability to carry that out because they didn't have the support of the OPP," Wilson said.

Wilson said he recalled the source of the memo as a senior command officer but did not remember the name.

RCMP says it found no active 'insider threats'

The OPS has said it's investigating a small number of officers who may have supported the convoy protest since the early days of its illegal occupation of the downtown core. To date, only one Ottawa police officer has faced any formal prosecution for involvement in the convoy or the occupation — and that was for donating money. 

Last week, OPS Supt. Robert Drummond told the inquiry there were concerns within the service about leaks but he wasn't aware of the status of the investigation.

WATCH | Lawyer says protest organizers were receiving leaked police information

"There was one member that I was aware of and we shut down his access to his corporate accounts," he said.

"As a precaution, we shut down. He wasn't currently working — he was on a leave of absence."

According to documents previously released to CBC through an access to information request, the RCMP feared that serving Mounties could be sympathetic to the protests against pandemic restrictions.

"The potential exists for serious insider threats," says a Feb. 10 advisory from the RCMP unit investigating ideologically motivated criminal intelligence.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

"Those who have not lost their jobs but are sympathetic to the movement and their former colleagues may be in a position to share law enforcement or military information to the convoy protests."

The RCMP said on Sept. 12 it did not identify any "active insider threats within the RCMP that could have negatively impacted the organization's ability to execute its mandate in relation to the Freedom Convoy."

Tom Marazzo says OPS warning wasn't clear

Wilson told the commission that former law enforcement officers, ex-military and ex-CSIS personnel were involved in the logistics of the protests and had access to radios, maps and aerial photos.

"Many of these ex-service personnel were connected and brought in intel," said the interview summary.

Wilson said they were co-ordinating fuel distribution and waste removal, managing the stage and dealing with problematic protesters.

Wilson said he became involved with the movement because of his concerns about the federal government's pandemic policies and never imagined it would use force against what he saw as "non-violent" protesting Canadians.

WATCH | 'We were desperate' — Marazzo on protest organizers demanding a meeting with government officials

The commission also heard Wednesday from Tom Marazzo, one of Wilson's clients and a former military member who joined the convoy once it arrived in Ottawa to assist with logistics.

Both Marazzo and Wilson testified that they felt they could could stay within the "red zone" around Parliament Hill after the Emergencies Act was invoked on Feb. 14, despite police warnings to stay away.

"That any Canadian citizen was no longer allowed to walk in downtown Ottawa or hold a sign in front of their Parliament was not legally accurate and was against the [Charter of Rights]," Wilson testified Wednesday.

Marazzo said that when he was shown a Feb. 17 notice from the Ottawa police warning protesters they would face legal consequences for entering the red zone, it didn't feel credible.

"If it was so important to them, I would have thought that any one of those police liaison officers would have walked up and handed it to me and explained it to me with either a puppet show or a box of crayons so that I could understand it," he said.

"But that was never the case. It was just posted on a wall."

Marazzo tried to distance himself from comments he made about a week into the protests about participating in a coalition of opposition parties with the Governor General.

"I did misspeak," he said Wednesday.  "We wanted no part of being government."

Marazzo said he made no effort to contact media outlets that reported those comments.

Some unlawfulness is normal in big crowds, says Wilson

Both men were defensive about the makeup of the protest, arguing their contingent was peacefully protesting and that they weren't aligned with more nefarious elements.

Wilson told the commission Wednesday that multiple groups attached themselves to the self-described Freedom Convoy — including those who supported the movement, those who wanted to take it over and those who wanted a piece of the millions of dollars raised by organizers.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

He said some strange groups — including a coven of witches — were attracted to the movement "like moths to a flame."

"It's a peaceful protest. Were there are some people within a large crowd of 5,00 or 8,000 or 10,000 people as there were on the weekends that engaged in criminality? That's called normal," said Wilson said.

Marazzo said he once compared prominent protester Pat King to a "hand grenade going off" and called him a "wild card."

On Tuesday, as King waited to testify, the inquiry heard other participants had concerns about King's involvement after he posted a video suggesting violence against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A lawyer for the commission showed King videos of his other comments, including one in which he said "Trudeau is going to catch a bullet" and the only way the protest would end is "with bullets."

King said many of the comments attributed to him have been taken out of context, although he did say he regrets the "catch a bullet" comment.

"I absolutely regret saying that. I was mad," he said.

"I was denied my flight after being told I can fly. And I got stuck in Toronto Pearson International Airport."

WATCH | King is questioned about his 'Trudeau is going to catch a bullet' video

King is facing charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, mischief and intimidation for his role in the protest, and was released on bail in July. He's also scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

During cross-examination, Marazzo was shown a May 4 video of himself on stage for an event during which he gestures to Jeremy MacKenzie — a founder of the controversial movement Diagolon — in acknowledgement. The crowd gives MacKenzie a round of applause.

Members of Diagolon have been tied to the convoy protests and two Diagolon patches were found on body armour seized during the execution of RCMP search warrants in Coutts, Alta.

Mackenzie and his followers have scoffed at the suggestion that their group is some sort of American-style militia organization. They claim they're simply trolling gullible media outlets.

The RCMP confirmed it was looking into a threat MacKenzie made about raping Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre's wife.

"I have seen Jeremy say things I don't like and I've seen Jeremy say things that I thought were brilliant," said Marazzo on Wednesday.

Saskatchewan RCMP arrested Mackenzie on a Canada-wide warrant in September on charges of assault and pointing a firearm. He is scheduled to testify Friday via videoconference.