Convoy of Truckers: Use of Background Check Concerned at OPP | Commission of Inquiry into the State of Emergency

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Convoy of truckers: the use of background checks was a concern at the OPP | ;state of emergency

A passerby holds up a sign against the vaccine passport during the truckers' demonstration in Ottawa (archives).

The head of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Intelligence Bureau says he had “professional and ethical” concerns about requests he received from police and political leaders to check the background of some participants in the truckers protest who had not engaged in illegal activities.

In documents filed with the Commission on the State of Emergency – the Rouleau commission – we learn that Superintendent Pat Morris, commander of the intelligence office of the OPP, pushed back what he described such as background check requests that fell outside the legal mandate of his office.

Ethically, several requests do not relate to parameters that the state or the police should consider in intelligence operations, he wrote in a memo to OPP Deputy Commissioner Chuck Cox on Feb. 2.

The "targets" prospective customers are not engaged in criminal activity and we have no reasonable grounds to believe that they will be. They have the right to oppose government policy and to demonstrate.

Mr. Morris explained, in those documents, that he had professional concerns about the number of people and departments who were asking his section to dig into the backgrounds of protesters in the convoy.

There seems to be an incredibly increased appetite for any information about entities that interfere with the status quo – whether they are businesses, school boards, government authorities or political leaders. , Mr. Morris wrote. And this appetite is expressed irresponsibly – by identifying these requests as urgent.

Pat Morris is the Commanding Officer of the Provincial Operational Intelligence Bureau of the Ontario Provincial Police.

As the convoy of truckers paralyzed downtown Ottawa and blocked border crossings into the United States last winter, much of the intelligence that informed the police and government response came from of the OPP's Criminal Intelligence Bureau – Provincial Operations, which had been monitoring the individuals and groups behind protests such as Shut Down Canada, since late 2019, as part of Project Hendon.

Reports from the Hendon Project gave warning as early as mid-January that the protest could become larger and longer lasting than was expected at the time.

During this period, the Criminal Intelligence Bureau – Provincial Operations produced 87 profiles of persons of interest, according to a list provided to the Rouleau Commission.

Most of these reports were heavily redacted before being made public. They include information gleaned from open sources such as social media, criminal record checks, photos, biometrics such as height and weight, home addresses, phone numbers, employers, names of spouses, information on possession of firearms, driving records, address history, and photos of vehicles and homes.

Testifying before the Commission on October 19, Morris said his section also conducted surveillance and covert operations within the protest as part of its intelligence gathering.

In his Feb. 2 memo to Deputy Commissioner Cox, sent after the first weekend of the protest in Ottawa, Morris said inquiries from the Criminal Intelligence Bureau – Provincial Operations were on the rise.

Many of the targeted entities are social movements with perspectives that diverge from the majority – they may not be engaged in criminal activity, nor do we have reason to believe or suspect that x27; they are. These requests are coming from many clients inside and outside the OPP at an accelerating pace — and with great urgency.

In the memo, Mr. Morris explained that he was trying to control the flow of information requests.

I acted to prevent/slow down these requests and/or responses to them, he wrote. Often in times of social unrest, anxiety breeds fear and demands for information. I remember the massive demand for information on "terrorists" which succeeded 9/11.

Mr. Morris' memo also suggests that some of the requests for information about protesters came from political figures.

Perhaps my biggest concern is that police chiefs and municipal, state and federal government leaders are demanding/requesting information to satisfy a request without understanding why, he wrote.

< p class="e-p">During his testimony before the Commission, Mr. Morris explained that he has a strict rule for gathering information related to protests.

We do not profile persons of interest unless we have reasonable grounds to suspect, or reasonable grounds to believe, that such persons may be engaged in criminal or illegal activities that pose a security risk. public,” Morris said. I believe the public expects people like me in my position to consider these things as part of their duties.

A trucker with the slogan “Freedom Convoy” last winter in Ottawa (archive)

February 22, two days after a massive police operation evacuated protesters in downtown Ottawa, Mr. Morris expressed concern about how the protesters were being portrayed by some.

This is not an “extremist” movement, Mr. Morris wrote in a separate memo to Mr. Cox. It is not made up of Ideologically Driven Violent Extremists (EVCI). The current leaders [of the convoy] are not violent extremists with a history of violent crime – although events attract unpredictable and extreme elements. The absolute absence of criminal activity across Canada and the minimal number of violent crimes throughout the event proves this.

But now the public discourse is dominated by political figures and the media – and the commentary paints a very different picture than what law enforcement has collectively put together. It paints a very different picture – there is talk of extremism, parallels to terrorism, sedition.

Mr. Morris asked the OPP to continue to gather information and monitor any potential criminal activity.

A senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation, specializing in security and intelligence, Wesley Wark believes there are limits to the OPP's legal intelligence-gathering mandate. He explains that police must have reasonable grounds to believe that a person or group might be involved in criminal activity before they begin to search.

Mr. Wark believes Mr. Morris clearly tried to maintain safeguards and prevent the misuse of POI profiles.

He has really tried to avoid the misuse of these POI profiles and there was clearly a flood of requests for this which he felt went beyond what should have been allowed.< /p>

Mr. Wark believes it was legitimate for the OPP to gather information about convoy organizers to better understand them and decide whether they posed a risk to public safety or national security.

But extending those limits far beyond the convoy organizers, I think, was what really concerned Pat Morris.

Mr. Morris declined an interview request from CBC News, saying he could not speak to issues currently before the Commission.

With information from Elizabeth Thompson, CBC< em>News

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