OPP intelligence main noted ‘ethical’ qualms about calls for track record checks on some convoy protesters


The head of the Ontario Provincial Law enforcement intelligence bureau said he experienced “specialist and moral” fears about requests he was having from police and political leaders for track record checks on contributors in the past winter’s convoy protest who experienced not engaged in unlawful exercise.

In paperwork tabled with the public inquiry researching the federal government’s managing of the convoy protest, Supt. Pat Morris, commander of the OPP intelligence bureau, pushed again at what he described as requests for qualifications checks that fell exterior his bureau’s lawful mandate.

“On the moral front, many requests do not relate to the parameters that the state/police need to look at in intelligence functions,” Morris wrote in a memo to OPP Deputy Commissioner Chuck Cox on Feb. 2.

“The likely ‘targets’ are not engaged in legal action nor do we have acceptable grounds to believe that they will be. They may well oppose govt coverage and have interaction in protest.”

‘Discomfort to the position quo’

Morris said in the documents he experienced specialist problems about the range of different people and federal government departments that had been inquiring his portion to dig into the backgrounds of convoy protesters.

“There seems to be an exceptionally heightened urge for food for any/all info on entities that result in irritation to the status quo — be they firms, university boards, federal government authorities or political leaders.” Morris wrote. “And this urge for food is remaining articulated in irresponsible means — attaching urgency to requests.”

As the convoy protest paralyzed downtown Ottawa and blocked border crossings to the US past winter, a lot of the intelligence that educated the response by law enforcement and governments was coming from the OPP’s Provincial Functions Intelligence Bureau (POIB), which experienced been the people today and teams powering protests these types of as Shut Down Canada since late 2019 as component of the Hendon Undertaking.

The Hendon Project studies warned in mid-January that the convoy protest that ended up tying downtown Ottawa in knots for a few weeks could end up becoming more substantial and far more resilient than any individual was expecting at the time.

In the program of its do the job on the convoy protest, the POIB produced 87 “individual of desire profiles,” in accordance to a listing supplied to the inquiry.

Most of those reports have been greatly redacted right before getting introduced by the inquiry. They contain data gleaned from open up sources these as social media, legal history checks, images, biometric info these as top and bodyweight, dwelling addresses, cellular phone quantities, companies, names of spouses, details on firearm possession, driving documents, address historical past and photographs of cars and residences.

Supt. Pat Morris of the OPP waits to surface as a witness at the Public Order Crisis Fee in Ottawa on Oct. 19, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Testifying prior to the inquiry on Oct, 19, Morris claimed his section also executed surveillance and covert operations on the convoy protest as aspect of its intelligence collecting.

In his Feb. 2 memo to Deputy Commissioner Cox, which arrived just after the to start with weekend of the convoy protest in Ottawa, Morris said requests for POIB intelligence were being on the rise.

“POIB is increasingly receiving requests for data, intelligence, open up source scrapes, background checks etc. on a wide array of social actors,” Morris wrote.

“Lots of of these entities are social actions that have perspectives that diverge from the mainstream — they might not be engaged in felony action, nor do we have grounds to think or suspect that they are. These requests are emanating from quite a few shoppers inner and external to the OPP at an escalating level — and with fantastic urgency.”

In the memo, Morris mentioned he was trying to command the stream of facts requests.

“I have acted to prevent/sluggish down these requests and/or the responses to them,” he wrote. “Generally, in situations of social turmoil, anxiousness breeds concern and requires for details. I am reminded, and cognizant, of the mass need for facts on ‘terrorists’ that succeeded 9/11.”

No profiles with no a general public security risk: Morris

Morris’s memo also implies that some of the requests for background on protesters were coming from political “leaders.”

“Maybe my largest concern is police leaders and municipal, provincial and nationwide federal government leaders demanding/requesting facts to fulfill a request with out comprehension the wherefore or the why,” he wrote.

In his testimony in advance of the inquiry, Morris said he experienced a tough-and-rapid rule for intelligence accumulating linked to protests.

“We never do POI, man or woman of fascination profiles, unless of course we have fair grounds to suspect, or sensible grounds to believe that, that individuals people today will be engaged in prison activity or unlawful activity that will current a community basic safety chance,” Morris instructed the inquiry.

“I consider that the community expects people today like me in my place to contemplate those matters in the study course of my duties.”

On Feb. 22, two times soon after a substantial law enforcement procedure cleared from downtown Ottawa, Morris voiced problems about how the protesters ended up becoming portrayed by some.

Police transfer in to distinct downtown Ottawa around Parliament hill of protesters following months of demonstrations on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. (The Canadian Push)

“It is not an ‘extremist’ motion,” Morris wrote in a different memo to Cox. “It is not comprised of Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremists (IMVE’s). The real leaders are not violent extremists with histories of violent felony functions — although occasions do catch the attention of unpredictable and intense aspects. The absolute lack of legal exercise throughout Canada and the nominal violent criminal offense throughout the occasion illustrate this.

“But now the general public discourse is dominated by political figures and the media — and the commentary is supplying a really various picture than what regulation enforcement collectively collected. It is painting a unique photo — it speaks to extremism, it features parallels to terrorism, it speaks of sedition.”

Morris called for the OPP to proceed collecting info and monitoring for criminal action.

Retaining the ‘guardrails’

Wesley Wark, a senior fellow at the Centre for Intercontinental Governance Innovation who specializes in protection and intelligence, stated there are limits to the OPP’s authorized mandate for amassing intelligence. He explained law enforcement must have realistic grounds to feel that a man or woman or group may be engaged in legal action ahead of they start out digging into another person.

Wark claimed Morris plainly was striving to sustain the “lawful guardrails” and protect against the poor use of particular person of desire profiles.

“I imagine his issue was that other people, who didn’t comprehend anything about intelligence and did not know how these man or woman of curiosity profiles had been remaining set collectively and how they may well be made use of, didn’t get that,” he mentioned.

“And so he was actually striving to hold the gate versus incorrect use of these individual of curiosity profiles and clearly there was a flood of demand for them that, as significantly as he was anxious, went beyond where it should really have absent.”

Wark explained it was authentic for the OPP to get background on convoy organizers to greater have an understanding of them and make your mind up irrespective of whether they posed a threat to community basic safety or countrywide safety.

“But to distribute the boundaries of that hard work much past convoy organizers, I believe was the point that really was about to Pat Morris,” he claimed.

Morris declined an job interview request from CBC Information, stating he couldn’t discuss about matters that are prior to the inquiry.

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