Toronto Police are refusing to confirm media reports that they had ramped up their presence in the city on Thursday in response to threats of a “potential vehicle ramming attack" — but one van rental company confirmed to VICE News it was asked by police to remain "vigilant".
“We will not release any specific details of the information we have received,” a spokesperson for the Toronto Police told VICE News.
According to a document cited by various media outlets, the Toronto Police received on Wednesday “credible information regarding a potential vehicle ramming attack in the area of the CN Tower” the following day.
“Intelligence Services has not received any information regarding a specific criminal extremist threat to the City of Toronto,” the document, which appears to be an internal police briefing, says.
Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray told VICE News that document is of a “draft operational plan” that was “never approved.”
“Our officers were provided with the most up to date and accurate information this morning, so was the public,” Gray continued, refusing to comment on the veracity of the threat mentioned in the document.
A number of businesses were contacted by the Ontario Provincial Police on Wednesday and advised to remain “vigilant,” a U-Haul spokesperson told VICE News in an email on Thursday.
"U-Haul was one of many companies contacted by the Ontario Provincial Police on July 11 with a request to remain vigilant in reporting suspicious activity in the Toronto area,” U-Haul vice president of communications Sebastien Reyes told VICE News in a statement. “As a result, and at the request of the police, U-Haul issued a reminder to our Ontario Team Members to continue being mindful of suspicious behavior and reiterated instructions on how to report such behavior to police."
A photo of an email chain published on the website The Post Millennial, which the site says is an internal U-Haul email, says the company received a call from Ontario Provincial Police. “Right now the information is very limited but basically they had (sic) a informant provide a tip regarding an upcoming attack using a rental vehicle in the next couple days in Toronto," the email states.
A spokesperson for the OPP told VICE News in an email that "the OPP Provincial Anti-Terrorism Section (PATS) is aware of the incident and is currently engaged with both Toronto Police Service and York Regional Police Service to determine the circumstances surrounding this incident."
Toronto Police announced on Thursday it had deployed teams of officers to patrol the streets of Toronto in response to an “unconfirmed, uncorroborated piece of information” regarding a “potential risk to public safety.”
Police had declined to provide further specifics about the threat, but told reporters during a press conference that civilians should carry on with their day as normal, and that major tourist attractions such as the CN Tower would remain open for business.
"The police presence in this area is to ensure that the public can enjoy and come down to this area unimpeded and without any worry,” said Acting Supt. Michael Barksy.
York Regional Police deployed officers to patrol the area around Canada’s Wonderland, a roller coaster theme park in Vaughan.
In April, A Ryder rental van mounted a curb and plowed into pedestrians along Yonge Street in northern Toronto, killing 10 people, most of whom were women, and injuring 16 others. Alek Minassian, 25, has been accused of carrying out the attack and is being held in jail on 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
Cover image: Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press