Conservative MPs Met With Anti-Vaccine Leaders Inside Parliament as Convoy Plans to Return to Ottawa

A leaked intelligence report says officials are worried about the so-called "freedom convoy" heading back to Canada's capital next week.

Canadian authorities are preparing for the imminent return of the anti-vaccine convoy, warning that increasingly violent rhetoric from extremist groups aligned with the movement could pose a threat to politicians, police, and civilians.

On Wednesday, these anti-vaccine groups kicked off a summer of planned protest with an event inside Canada’s Parliament buildings in Ottawa, supported by sitting Members of Parliament. Outside those buildings is where the so-called “freedom convoy” took over Canada’s capital for several weeks this past winter, setting off similar movements across the globe. 

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Protests planned for Canada Day, July 1, already have Canadian policing agencies worried, according to an intelligence assessment shared with VICE World News.

One convoy conspiracy influencer, an ex-stripper turned motivational speaker, has recently turned to telling crowds of cheering fans that the time for peaceful protest is over. “A massive plan is at play,” he vowed earlier this month—leading even some in the movement to worry that he could provoke violence with police.

While one element of the anti-vaccine movement exercises increased political influence, another arm is looking to get more radical. And that has intelligence agencies worried.

‘Aspirations to overthrow’

The Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre, an arm of the Canadian intelligence community that provides intel to local law enforcement agencies, warned in a special bulletin that they’re seeing mounting “aspirations to overthrow the federal government or to engage in mass violent resistance.” The bulletin was provided to VICE World News by a law enforcement source.

According to the intelligence assessment, the chance of an organized attack, a storming of Parliament, or another occupation of the city is “unlikely,” and Canadian intelligence and law enforcement believe the protests will most likely be peaceful and lawful.

An image from a leaked intelligence bulletin.

Yet, they warn, they’re increasingly witnessing “a culture in which individuals, including supporters of ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE), feel that they can threaten, incite, and celebrate violence online without consequence.”

Given that, “the threat of a violent attack cannot be fully discounted.” “IMVE-related violence are conducted by self-inspired individuals and small cells that may not have a direct affiliation with an IMVE group,” the bulletin reads. “These actors can mobilize quickly and often unpredictably.”

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While the violent rhetoric calling for violence remains “aspirational,” it “could still inspire an act of violence from individuals susceptible to violent extremist propaganda.”

The Centre notes that calls to bring weapons to Ottawa, or to perform “citizen’s arrests” of politicians are mounting online—but that they have not seen the “operational capacity” needed to carry out any real-world violence.

VICE World News is not naming the source of the bulletin because they were not authorized to share the material.

The constitutional sheriffs come to town

The occupation that snarled traffic and shut down the capital earlier this year caught both intelligence agents and local police off-guard. In the weeks that followed, various levels of government struggled to understand who was running the movement, and how to clear them out. It took the invocation of the Emergencies Act, and a never-before-used federal law, to enable police to begin clearing the streets, towing trucks, and making arrests.

Since then, the movement—which advocates against vaccines and COVID-19 public health measures, and is heavily influenced by the Great Reset conspiracy theory, which argues the World Economic Forum secretly runs Canada—has been holding smaller convoys, protests, and rallies across the country. Social media channels have attracted hundreds of thousands of followers.

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In recent months, Vancouver-based Marcus Ray has tried to make himself into the new voice of this self-styled “freedom movement,” criss-crossing the country giving speeches and doing interviews.

In recent years, Ray has popped up at motivational seminars, recounting his past life as a male exotic dancer—and how a car accident convinced him to quit stripping. More recently, Ray was part of the occupation of Ottawa earlier in 2022, but not a core figure. 

Since the occupation was cleared out, Ray’s speeches have taken a significantly more dour tone.

“It's time that we actually fight for our kids,” Ray told a crowd earlier this month. “It is time that we actually fight for Canada. I mean, we draw the line and we do not back up.”

He has singled out police for their response in clearing the occupation in February.

“We watched the way that they committed violence against Canadian citizens,” he told a crowd. “And we knew the peaceful protests one day, one day, were going to come to an end. Sooner or later, you've got to stand. And you got to stand and not back up, no matter what they said.”

Amid cheers, Ray added: “When it happens, those people are putting themselves at risk — huge, massive risk, but they're willing to do it. And what we need to back us up is you…We need witnesses.”

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In a video addressed to police officers, Ray told them: “You're serving the elites and you're protecting the pedophile leaders of our country.”

Ray has told audiences that he’ll be heading to Ottawa for July 1, and he has big plans for what happens when he arrives. Alongside another organizer, Christopher James, Ray has claimed there’s a huge movement behind him.

“There is a lot of people involved in this — and every large group that has thought we need to do something now is involved,” he said at a speech in British Columbia earlier in June. “The groups are all waiting to get their orders. And we are forming a mass that they will not be able to push.”

While there is little evidence for this army of faithful, Ray and James are no small figures in the movement—Ray has spoken at large rallies affiliated with the convoy, he has nearly 100,000 TikTok followers, and he has appeared on dozens of podcasts and livestreams popular in this conspiracy space, including explicitly QAnon shows. James runs a 20,000-person Telegram group and runs a sovereign citizen resource page which has been relied on by a number of people to try and exempt themselves from Canadian law.

In an interview with a hugely influential anti-vaccine activist earlier this month, James ranted that COVID-19 “does not exist, full stop.” Instead, he says, the elites have been releasing “biological weapons.” The culprits are “not just the government of Canada…which is controlled by a much higher element, be it the World Economic Forum, or if you want to go right up to the Pope.”

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The pair have hinted that their big plan, upon arriving in Ottawa, involves heading to an unspecified courthouse to present their case.

Ray has deputized himself and a raft of others as “constitutional sheriffs.”

On a QAnon podcast, Ray said, “We have a lot of sheriffs, people signing up for sheriff that are ex-police, and ex-military, which makes me very happy because they're experienced people.”

The idea of a “constitutional sheriff” has no basis in Canadian law, and seems to be lifted from a movement of American sheriffs who, incorrectly, assert that they are the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn’t constitutional.

“If we get 55 percent of the eligible voters in Canada to say that the constitutional sheriffs are accepted as the protectors of the people, guess what happens?” Ray said. “We become the protectors of the people.”

Conservative MPs hosted a event inside a House of Commons meeting room. Centre is ex-reservist James Topp; left is ex-Trump advisor Paul Alexander, right is former occupation spokesperson Tom Marazzo.

Ray and James have frequently espoused junk legal theories tied to the sovereign citizen movement. James, in particular, has insisted that Canada’s laws do not govern people or nature—they can only apply to property or contracts. (This legal theory has been roundly debunked and has no serious proponents.)

They believe that once they present their case before the court, the legal system will have no choice but to bend to their will.

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“Finally, law enforcement can start to arrest all of these people that have been committing this massive genocide that's occurring right now,” James explained in an interview. Ray has said he expects to arrest “Justin Trudeau and all the premiers and all the health ministers.”

On a broadcast earlier this year, James made clear what the end result of those arrests would be. He insisted that politicians and public health figures from every level, from the executives of Pfizer “right down to the municipal level,” should be put on trial. “I have no doubt that the jury is going to find them guilty. And I have no doubt that those that jury is going to see to them that they are put to death. And that's what needs to happen.”

Ray and James’ rhetoric has alarmed others in the movement. A number of organizers from the previous convoy have denounced the pair as dangerous and pleaded with their followers to avoid whatever plan is set to unfold outside the courthouse. Tom Quiggin, a conspiracy theorist in his own right who served as an adviser to the previous occupation, suggested Ray may be a plant installed by the Canadian government.

“Our collective view is that Marcus Ray is either a front for an individual or a group that has considerable assets, or he is perhaps an agent of the state,” Quiggin said on a podcast earlier this month.

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Notorious anti-vaccine activist Chris Sky has denounced Ray as well, telling his followers that Ray’s plans could lead to violence and discredit their movement. Sky uploaded a video of a phone conversation between himself and Ray.

“They're gonna have to kill us, they're literally gonna have to kill every one of us,” Ray told Sky. “That's the 5,000 we've got. It took months to get them, months, to get those people from across Canada. Ex-police, ex-military, ready to die on the front line of a fucking courthouse. Ready to die, with no weapons in their hands.” 

While Ray has insisted that they will not be armed, he said they have purchased protective equipment to protect them from rubber bullets and batons. “Those shields we bought, they cost a fucking lot of money,” he said.

Anti-Hate Canada has previously reported on Ray and James’ increasingly confrontational rhetoric and their vague plan to occupy a courthouse.

4,592 kilometers

While Ray and James expect to leverage the protests to dissolve the Canadian government on July 1, most of the organizations that contributed to the original convoy are rallying around James Topp.

Topp is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who’s been running across the country in protest of the vaccine mandates—starting in British Columbia some three months ago. A press release claims he has logged 4,592 kilometers. A reservist and Afghan war veteran, Topp was charged under military law for recording a video supporting the Ottawa occupation while in uniform.

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Topp arrived in Ottawa Wednesday and is slated to headline a three-day event entitled “Reclaiming Our Voice,” put on by anti-vaccine groups Veterans4Freedom; Police On Guard for Three; Canadian Frontline Nurses (whose members spoke at a Jan. 6 event in Washington, D.C.); and Taking Back Our Freedoms.

The latter group hosted an event during the occupation where the idea of a tribunal to prosecute doctors and public health officials was roundly endorsed. The idea was proposed by disgraced White House advisor Paul Alexander, who is also slated to speak at Topp’s event later this month.

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Topp joined Alexander, former occupation spokesperson Tom Marazzo, and more than a half-dozen Conservative Members of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, including Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis. (One Conservative source told VICE News some MPs arrived to meet Topp and had no idea that Alexander would be speaking. Some MPs left before the event, with others walking out during the speeches.)

The Conservatives snagged a meeting room inside Parliament in order to host the event. One of the organizers behind Topp’s event said 17 members of Parliament had originally agreed to show up.

Addressing those politicians, Alexander made clear that their position goes well beyond just vaccine mandates.

“You can’t, carte blanche, mass-vaccinate a population with a vaccine where you’ve not done the proper safety follow-up,” he said. He went on to insist that vaccinated individuals are becoming more severely ill, and even dying, at a higher rate than unvaccinated individuals. (None of this is true, and is contradicted by the overwhelming body of data and scientific research.) 

As Alexander went on, delivering a long pseudo-scientific tangent, several MPs got up and left the room.

Topp, along with a number of anti-vaccine groups, have announced the creation of the “Canadian Citizens Coalition.” That umbrella group intends on holding a rally at the National War Memorial on June 30 — “this is not a protest, I am not occupying the city,” Topp said Wednesday.

Organizers with this coalition have previously been involved in the blockade of the Windsor-Detroit bridge.

Topp’s message has, generally, been less anti-vaccine and less severe than some of his backers. Anti-fascist group Horizons Ottawa has compiled a number of times where Topp has appeared on extremist podcasts, including one affiliated with Diagolon—members of which are facing charges under an alleged plot to kill RCMP officers.

“James has been to a civil war,” Marazzo warned at the end of the presentation. “I’m not saying that that’s what’s going to happen here, but there’s a lot of similarities.”

“You have allies. You’ve had allies all long,” Conservative MP Jeremy Patzer told the three men afterwards.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter.

Tagged:

Parliament, Canada, Ottawa, Canadian News, canadian politics, worldnews, freedom convoy, trucker convoy

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