OTTAWA — The RCMP worried that after arriving in Ottawa, participants in the "Freedom Convoy" would try to pinpoint Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's location, documents suggest — just as demonstrators had tried to do during last year's election campaign.
The concerns are outlined in assessments by the national police force's intelligence personnel that were tabled as part of evidence presented at a public inquiry probing the Trudeau government's use of the Emergencies Act in response to last winter's protests.
The weeks-long demonstrations, which blockaded downtown Ottawa and several border crossings, were driven by opposition to COVID-19 restrictions such as mask and vaccine requirements. Many participants voiced their opposition to the federal government in general and Trudeau himself.
Flags and signs bearing Trudeau's name alongside an expletive were frequently seen across different protest sites.
At the time, Trudeau said those protesting federal and provincial COVID-19 health rules in Ottawa were a "fringe minority" who held "unacceptable views." He is set to testify at the Public Order Emergency Commission on Friday.
According to a threat assessment prepared Jan. 26 — just days before thousands of protesters, many of them in heavy trucks, began descendingon downtown Ottawa — RCMP analysts warned that Trudeau's residence might be a target for demonstrators.
"It is possible protesters will seek to identify where the prime minister is, based on his itinerary or any open source information posting his location," the document says.
"The potential for some individuals involved in the convoy to attend the prime minister's location, should it be a reasonable distance to travel, is possible should his location be publicized."
Once protesters arrived in large numbers, Trudeau and his family were ultimately moved to an undisclosed location for security reasons.
On Jan. 27, Trudeau announced he would begin isolating for five days after testing positive for COVID-19.
"This news may increase frustrations of individuals associated with the convoy, fuelling perceptions that the government is ignoring Canadians and may result in an increase of threats directed towards the PM," said an RCMP report the same day.
"It is also possible this may prolong the protest until the PM emerges from isolation."
Word that Trudeau was isolating due to the virus had "resulted in an increase of conversation attempting to determine his location and claiming that he is at Harrington Lake," the prime minister's all-season retreat just across the Quebec border, read a report Jan. 31.
Conversations speculating about Trudeau's location "continue to circulate on social media," the report said.
A series of separate reports that RCMP intelligence analysts prepared during the 2021 federal election campaign, which detail threats against Trudeau, have also been tabled with the commission.
During the election, Trudeau was repeatedly followed by protesters decrying vaccine requirements and hurling obscenities at him.
At one point, he was pelted with gravel. On another occasion, a rally planned in Bolton, Ont., was cancelled, with Trudeau citing the intensity of the anger in the crowd of protesters who attended the event.
During the campaign, the RCMP said it observed an increase in "hostile" behavior towards Trudeau, who was the main target of threats.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press