Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis by June 3

Goal: $100k

The Ontario Provincial Police warned last winter that support for the "Freedom Convoy" from Canadian political figures was likely to embolden protesters in the streets of downtown Ottawa.

The assessment was in a report compiled Feb. 6, more than a week after demonstrators first arrived in the National Capital Region, many of them driving large, honking semi-trucks.

"The apparent support from Canadian political figures is certain to further embolden those organizing and participating in the blockade, lending credibility and validating their tactics," the report read.

"Any such validation may also motivate further blockades elsewhere in the country, such as those in Alberta."

The intelligence, which was presented as evidence to the public inquiry examining the federal Liberal government's use of the Emergencies Act, did not mention any political figures by name, but did, however, mention the federal Tories.

It pointed out that "some federally elected officials from the Conservative Party of Canada have visited the protest, had their picture taken with protest organizers, and made public statements of support for the blockade."

On Feb. 2, a group of Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan, including former party leader Andrew Scheer, posed for a photo with protesters on Ottawa's streets, which Saskatoon representative Kevin Waugh shared on Twitter.

"It's great to see Canadians championing freedom on Parliament Hill," Waugh tweeted. He later said he was there to listen to protesters' concerns.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson slammed the move by the MPs as an "absolute disgrace" and asked for an apology.

Politicians' support of 'Freedom Convoy' in #Ottawa risked emboldening organizers: #OPP. #CDNPoli #FreedomConvoy #EmergenciesAct

Jeremy Patzer, who represents a Saskatchewan riding and supported the truckers' protests, declined to comment on the OPP's assessment Thursday, saying he wouldn't while the inquiry is underway.

During the blockade, Candice Bergen, a Manitoba representative who was then serving as the Conservative's interim leader, told protesters it was time to leave on Feb.10, four days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act.

By then, many Ottawa residents, critics of the protesters' cause and local leaders were calling the blockades an occupation and characterizing the situation as a crisis.

Besides the many Conservative MPs who supported the Ottawa protests — including the party's now-leader Pierre Poilievre — others who expressed support include Randy Hillier, who was at the time an Independent member of the Ontario legislature, and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

In the report, police also said the blockade in Ottawa "appears to have significant support from ultra-conservative religious and political entities in the United States."

It included the names of prominent U.S. Republicans such as former president Donald Trump and Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.

"The blockade has received positive publicity from controversial, but very influential, ultra-conservative public figures in the United States, including government officials whose rhetoric could increase anti-government sentiment in Canada," the report said.

"Support for the blockade from public officials or other influential figures is likely to nurture and embolden ideologically motivated extremists in Canada."

It added that the blockade would continue to attract individuals "hoping to capitalize on the protest for their own ends."

The Feb. 6 police assessment concluded by saying that officers couldn't identify a credible threat regarding the protest, but that "a lone actor or a group of individuals could enact a threat with little or no warning."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2022.

Keep reading