The federal government is already preparing for what organizers are calling “Freedom Convoy 2.0.”

The federal government is already preparing for another convoy protest scheduled for February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser told a parliamentary committee on Thursday night.

Jody Thomas testified before a special committee of MPs and senators set up to study the government’s use of the emergency bill to stop protests that paralyzed downtown Ottawa and blocked several border crossings last winter. and her colleague Mike MacDonald, Assistant Cabinet Secretary for Security and Intelligence, has already begun preparations.

“Mr. MacDonald has already chaired meetings to see how we will respond,” Thomas said in response to a question from Senator Peter Harder. “DMs [deputy ministers] will meet about it for the first time this week.”

Her comments come a week after James Bauder, the founder of a group called Canada Unity and one of the organizers of last winter’s convoy protest, posted on social media calling for a Freedom Convoy 2.0 to head to Ottawa from February 17-21, 2023. to descend. .

Bauder, who was one of those arrested last February, faces several charges. One of his bail conditions is that he does not return to downtown Ottawa.

Lessons from last time

Thomas said the government has learned a number of lessons from last winter’s convoy protest – lessons it has already begun to apply.

Thomas said two issues emerged from the protest: the threat posed by some ideologically motivated violent extremists (IMVE) who took part in the protest and how the government understands open-source domestic intelligence.

“You can’t just sit on Twitter and understand what’s going on,” Thomas told the committee. “You have to use tools, artificial intelligence, things like that.”

National Security Adviser Jody Thomas told MPs lessons have been learned to deal with future convoy protests. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

While Twitter is public, there are still rights to privacy, so a legal framework is needed, she said.

“Understanding the information and the trends out there without associating it with individuals of no interest to law enforcement or intelligence agencies is a big, complex issue, and it’s something we’re putting a lot of work into, but we’ve yet to no answer.”

MacDonald said the lessons learned from the convoy protest helped officials deal with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle protest last spring and a Canada Day protest. Thomas said not allowing trucks to stop was another lesson learned.

The government has also learned that it needs to take ideologically motivated violent extremists in Canada more seriously, Thomas said.

“We underestimate and underestimate – probably no longer – the ideologically motivated extremists,” she told the committee. “This problem exists in Canada and it’s here to stay. We need to understand what it is and have the resources to do something about it.”

Threat of weapons

The hearing on Thursday night took place shortly after a search warrant was unsealed, which revealed that the number of firearms, ammunition and pipe bombs seized at the border crossing blockade in Coutts, Alta., was far greater than previously known.

Thomas said she was unaware of the size of the cache, but the presence of guns in Coutts influenced the federal government’s thinking about the Ottawa protest.

“We knew that Ottawa was far from clear and we started to hear the same language – guns in the oil rigs, guns in Ottawa, knowledge of guns… it would have been remiss not to make the same assumptions about the potential of guns in Ottawa .”

Thomas also told the committee that online threats against government officials were on the rise around the time of the protest. “It was a big concern.”

Thomas was also questioned, particularly by Conservative MPs, about the government’s use of the Emergency Act and the threshold used to invoke it.

Later, the committee heard from Jacob Wells, co-founder of the crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo, who said 59 percent of the money raised for the convoy came from Canada and 37 percent from the United States.

Wells also faced questions from the commission about some of the crowdfunding campaigns his site has organized, such as campaigns for members of the Proud Boys. When asked by NDP MP Matthew Green if he knew that the Proud Boys were listed as a terrorist organization in Canada, Wells pointed out that it was not in the US.

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