Army faces ‘exceptional’ situation determining role in convoy: experts – National

The Canadian military faced an ‘exceptional’ and ‘unprecedented’ challenge to determine what role – if any – it could play in disengaging the so-called ‘freedom convoy’ earlier this year, according to reports. defense experts.

It comes after Global News first reported on Wednesday documents shedding more light on how senior defense officials assessed the risks and the role of the Canadian Forces in what is now widely described by law enforcement. and political leaders as an occupation of the nation’s capital.

One such document was a legal memo prepared by the Army’s Deputy Judge Advocate General for the Chief of the Defense Staff, General Wayne Eyre, describing a “lack of precedent” for the situation, which saw several members of the Canadian Forces under surveillance for participation.

“The military are planners. They want to anticipate what is going to happen and have a plan to deal with things. And so it’s not a question of whether they would have liked to act in this case, it’s that they were worried or expected to be asked, “said Steve Saideman, an expert. of Defense and Director of the Canadian Defense and Security Network at Carleton University.

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“This situation being very unusual, something very exceptional, there is no doubt that they expected to be asked.”

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Several military and law enforcement sources told Global News in February that the government and RCMP had inquired about the possibility of military assistance, primarily the use of military vehicles capable of towing the camped trucks, as well as the possibility to use a space belonging to the army to store them. .

The sources, who spoke in the background because they were not authorized to speak publicly on security matters, said senior military officials were unwilling to get involved given that the he army is not a police force.

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Documents obtained by Global News, although heavily redacted, refer in this legal memo to both the powers conferred by the National Defense Act, which sets out the duties and powers of the military, as well as to the uncertainty about invoking emergencies. Act would mean.

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At the time, the protest clogged the streets of the nation’s capital for three weeks and resulted in hundreds of calls to police and social media posts from residents describing the harassing, intimidating, threatening and abusive of the members of the convoy towards the public.

“You had an unprecedented situation,” said Christian Leuprecht, a defense expert working with the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University.

“The fact that the Judge Advocate General provided this advice within minutes to the Chief of the Defense Staff and the Deputy Minister suggests that the Judge Advocate General had already worked on this possibility and was exercising due diligence .”

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Former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly mused on Feb. 2 that there might not be a “police solution” to the convoy blockade. A day later, Defense Minister Anita Anand ruled out the military’s role in ending the protest.

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“The Canadian Forces are not a police force,” she tweeted on February 3. “As such, the Canadian Armed Forces are not expected to be involved in the current situation in Ottawa as law enforcement.”

Leuprecht added that even without using the military as a “police force,” involvement in other support areas such as intelligence or surge capability might have been on the table.

“Just because you call it the armed forces doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking to have uniformed members on the streets to help police enforce the law,” he said.

The soldiers among the convoy show a “real problem”

Other considerations detailed in these documents included the involvement of certain military personnel – including at least two members of Canada’s elite special forces – in the convoy blockades.

Department of National Defense officials privately warned of the need for a strategy as reporters began asking about members attending the activities.

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“This will likely become an institutional issue rather than just CANSOF and we will need a unified strategic approach in how we deal with it,” an assistant deputy minister from the Department of National Defense wrote in an email to Eyre. and the Deputy Minister. Minister Bill Matthews on February 10, 2022.

Just two months later, a highly publicized and damning federal report warned of the growing number of extremists within the ranks of the Canadian Forces, particularly white supremacist and ideologically motivated violent extremism.

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The latter is a phrase used by national security agencies in Canada to describe the spectrum of extremist and, in some cases, terrorist ideologies that often share similar themes of anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant viewpoints. women, many of them rooted in white supremacy.

“When you have an organization or a protest movement that goes to Ottawa and occupies it for a period of time, that receives help from active members of the military, that is a real problem,” Saideman said. .

“The stakes are higher. It makes it more real that there are people within the military who may not have the values ​​that the military would like to adopt.

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The implications for the future of the military, he added, are clear.

“It’s bad because it means these people can disobey orders and it’s bad because it can hurt other people to join the army or stay in the army because they don’t want to work. with these people.”

The National Security Intelligence and Review Agency warned in December 2021 that white supremacists in the Canadian Forces posed an “active counterintelligence threat.”

As Global News previously reported, some – but not all – of the convoy organizers have ties to white nationalism and other racist ideologies.

– with files from Mercedes Stephenson and David Baxter of Global

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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