OTTAWA — Crown attorneys are lining up a wide range of senators – including some who have not previously been named in RCMP court documents – to be witnesses at the fraud trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy.
The law clerk for the upper chamber warned several senators over the winter break that subpoenas would soon be delivered calling on them to appear at the trial. As well, the outgoing clerk of the Senate, Gary O’Brien, is also to be subpoenaed, along with members of the Senate administration.
The subpoenaed senators will then have to decide whether to invoke their rights as parliamentarians not to testify at trial.
Mr. Duffy faces 31 criminal charges, stemming from his Senate expenses claims and a $90,000 payment from the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, that is the source of two bribery charges.
The suspended senator has long maintained his innocence in the face of allegations from the RCMP that he filed inappropriate housing claims, gave $65,000 in contracts to a former colleague for little in return and redirected some of the money to paying a makeup artist for a photo shoot and a personal trainer.
It is also alleged that Mr. Duffy improperly expensed the Senate for personal travel to funerals and for days when he was campaigning for the Conservatives.
Some of the key senators in the Duffy expense drama have either been warned, or expect to be called by the Crown as witnesses in the case, including former government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton; Sen. David Tkachuk, former chairman of the internal economy committee; and Sen. George Furey, the committee’s deputy chairman.
Postmedia News has also learned that a small number of senators not named in the RCMP court documents – which outlines the case police were building against Mr. Duffy – are to be subpoenaed because they were with Mr. Duffy at a public or private event that is the subject of one of the allegedly fraudulent expense claims.
Those senators were also interviewed by the RCMP as part of its investigation, but did not have their names used in court documents filed by investigators.
Once the subpoenas are delivered, senators will have to decide whether to invoke parliamentary privilege as a reason for not testifying at the trial. That privilege means sitting MPs and senators do not have to unwillingly testify at a trial if it would interfere with their role as parliamentarians. (It doesn’t prevent them from testifying at trial if they are personally subject to criminal charges, however.)
- Published in National Post
MONTREAL – In the mid-2000s, Robert Vanier cut an impressive figure when he rolled into Rimouski, Que. Usually he was in his chauffeur-driven Bentley; at least once he landed in a private jet. He dropped names of the former premiers and business executives with whom he golfed, and a high-ranking provincial police officer was occasionally at his side.
A business professor from the local university introduced Mr. Vanier as he pitched investors on his plan to make a fortune from untapped oil-and-gas deposits in southwestern Ontario. And the people of Rimouski — by the hundreds — dug into their savings to finance what sounded like a sure thing.
“Any time he came here, or we met him in London, [Ont.], there were always serious people with him,” Marius Parent, who sold most of his rental properties to invest “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in Mr. Vanier’s Onco Petroleum Inc., said in a recent interview.
What the people of Rimouski did not know – but police did – was that the smooth-talking Mr. Vanier was in fact Carl Gagnon, a Quebecer with a lengthy criminal record who had been granted a new identity a few years earlier after agreeing to inform against members of the Hells Angels. Some $30-million that people in Quebec, Ontario and beyond invested in Onco has vanished, and this week Mr. Vanier, 59, was in an Ontario court to face charges of perjury and submitting a false prospectus on behalf of Onco. His wife, Terry Beattie, 55, who went by Terri Ramage when she was Onco’s secretary and treasurer, is also charged with submitting a false prospectus.
Any time he came here, or we met him in London, [Ont.], there were always serious people with him
“In the beginning it was a fantastic story,” said Richard-Marc Lacasse, the business professor at Université du Québec à Rimouski who accompanied Mr. Vanier on a road show to pitch Onco and later served on the company’s board. “We had dreams. Natural gas was at $10 per thousand cubic feet, oil was expensive. The potential was there, except along the way we discovered he was a criminal. We didn’t know that.”
In Quebec, some investors are now targeting the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, alleging that the police forces provided cover for a convicted fraudster while keeping investors in the dark. A lawyer’s letter sent last month seeks $70-million in compensation and damages, barring which they intend to file a class action lawsuit.
“Recently it has come to the attention of one of Onco’s investors that beginning in the 2000s, the Sûreté du Québec and its directors were informed of the fact that Carl Gagnon, who had already been convicted of fraud, was in charge of this company and was living a lavish lifestyle,” the letter from lawyer Gilles Daudelin says. It alleges that Mr. Gagnon initially assumed the false identity on his own but was later aided by SQ to have his name legally changed in Quebec. It adds that the RCMP was aware as early as 2006 of Mr. Vanier’s double life but neglected to inform the Ontario Securities Commission.
“I thought I had been naive to invest in that, but my naiveté was fed by the people Vanier hung out with,” said Mr. Parent, who is leading the legal action on behalf of Onco investors. He holds out no hope of getting his money back from Mr. Vanier, but he thinks investors are entitled to compensation from the police forces that were aware of the businessman’s true identity. “The SQ and RCMP knew he was an informant, knew he was CEO of Onco, and they did nothing to protect honest citizens,” he said.
Both the SQ and RCMP said they could not comment on the matter because it is before the courts.
Had people known Mr. Vanier’s life story, they likely would not have been so eager to invest in Onco. Born in 1955 as Carl Gagnon, he played two years of major junior hockey in Shawinigan in the early 1970s before embarking on his criminal career. Over two decades beginning in the early 1980s, he amassed 70 criminal convictions across Quebec before he turned informant. Those convictions included “numerous convictions for fraud,” according to a 2010 agreed statement of facts released when Mr. Vanier was eventually suspended and fined by the Ontario Securities Commission.
In 1999, he became entangled in a car-theft operation with three members of the Hells Angels criminal biker gang. According to news reports at the time, the bikers – including Robert Savard, the right-hand man of gang leader Maurice (Mom) Boucher – were alleged to have beaten him and forced him to commit an armed robbery to recover money that Mr. Gagnon owed them.
He decided to testify against them and obtained police protection. As an informant, he provided roughly 60 statements about various crimes, but when defence lawyers asked to see all of the statements to test Mr. Gagnon’s credibility, the charges against the three were dropped in November 1999. The Crown said it was because it did not want to jeopardize ongoing investigations, but defence lawyers said Mr. Gagnon was a habitual liar. As the prosecution fell apart, an SQ spokesman said Mr. Gagnon was being kept in a secure location for his own safety.
Shortly afterward, a Quebecer going by the name of Robert Vanier turned up in London, Ont. He “was in the Quebec witness protection program,” the securities commission would later report. At first he sold cars, the London Free Press reported, but soon he was hyping a plan to develop oil and gas deposits in the region.
“He was a good promoter, the best promoter I’ve ever met. I’ve been in finance my entire life and I’ve never met anybody like him,” said Peter Bilodeau, an early investor who became president of Onco after Mr. Vanier was forced out in 2008. “You entered a room having a bad day and you left feeling you had wind under your wings and you were flying. He just had a gift with people, very charismatic.”
He was a good promoter, the best promoter I’ve ever met. I’ve been in finance my entire life and I’ve never met anybody like him
Mr. Vanier rubbed shoulders with former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin and former Ontario premier Mike Harris at charitable events. At one point he assured investors that Mr. Tobin was going to become chairman of the board when Onco went public. Mr. Tobin ended up declining, though he never suspected anything fishy. In an emailed statement to the National Post, Mr. Tobin said he did not believe joining Onco was the right thing for him at the time. “I had no indication that he was anything other than as he represented himself, as an entrepreneur in the London area,” Mr. Tobin said of Mr. Vanier.
Mr. Vanier did manage to enlist the highly successful Quebec pulp-and-paper entrepreneur Michel Perron to serve as chairman in 2006, with company documents hailing Mr. Perron’s “impressive corporate governance track record.”
Other members of that board included former Luc Robitaille, a former player for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings; the university professor Mr. Lacasse; and Mr. Lacasse’s wife, Berthe Lambert, who had been director of the Université du Québec’s executive MBA program.
Then there was William Del Biaggio III, a director and chairman of Onco’s audit committee — the man given the job of ensuring everything was on the level.
Nicknamed Boots, Mr. Del Biaggio ran a venture-capital firm in California when he joined Onco’s board. He had owned a small stake in the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and was involved in a group buying the Nashville Predators when his world crumbled in 2008. It turned out a passion for hockey was not all Mr. Del Biaggio shared with Mr. Vanier, and in 2009 he was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of securities fraud. It was revealed that he had forged documents to obtain $110-million in loans used to finance the Predators purchase and that his investment business was a Ponzi scheme.
The Ontario Securities Commission later found that of the $21.8-million Onco claimed to have in available assets when it published a prospectus for investors in 2007, $20-million was owed to Onco by Mr. Del Biaggio. About all Onco really had in the bank was a worthless IOU.
Onco owned and operated oil and gas wells in southwestern Ontario and Michigan, but production was minimal. “The potential was there,” Mr. Lacasse said. “They were old oil and gas deposits, and with some exploration we could have found more. But there was never an effort.”
After opening trading at five dollars a share in November, 2007, Onco shares had dropped to 15 cents when trading was halted in July, 2008 for a failure to file financial statements. In August, 2008, Mr. Lacasse and Ms. Lambert suspended Mr. Vanier and Ms. Ramage, as she was then known, from their positions with the company. An audit had revealed that “a significant portion of Onco’s funds (approximately $17.3-million) was paid to Mr. Vanier and Ms. Ramage personally and/or to one or more companies associated with them,” Mr. Lacasse and Ms. Lambert said at the time.
Mr. Vanier had not even paid the bill for the room at Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame where the company’s initial public offering was launched in November, 2007, in the presence of “an international group of luminary entrepreneurs and celebrities,” in the words of the Onco news release.
Mr. Lacasse and Ms. Lambert said they alerted police in 2008, but it would be another five years before the RCMP announced the charges of submitting a false prospectus and perjury. After a number of delays in the case, the Ontario Crown advised the court this month that it would bypass the preliminary hearing and proceed to trial through a direct indictment. A trial date has not been set.
That is what is especially hard, trying to regain credibility among my friends and family. I recommended that they invest. I said it was a sure thing.
The disintegration of Onco and the revelation by the London Free Press in 2010 that Mr. Vanier was Mr. Gagnon caused embarrassment for police, but in the end no one was punished. Louis Raiche, the SQ officer who accompanied Mr. Vanier at some public events and was photographed next to him at a Rimouski golf tournament, told the Drummondville newspaper L’Actuel in 2013 that confidentiality rules had prevented him from divulging that Mr. Vanier was a former informant. He underwent an internal inquiry in 2010 and was cleared of any wrongdoing. “I can understand that there were shareholders who lost money and are trying to find someone guilty, but this was settled four years ago,” Mr. Raiche, now retired from the SQ, told the National Post.
Mr. Lacasse prefers not to say how much money he sunk into the venture, but he adds that investors who lost everything in Onco had a chance to get out with a small profit before the stock hit rock bottom. “In mining and oil, all the plays are like a casino,” he said.
Usually, though, the casino is not being run by a convicted fraudster benefiting from police protection. Mr. Lacasse acknowledged that he feels badly about his role in touting Onco. “I was naïve, trusting,” he said. He teaches good governance to his university students, but even he did not sense anything was amiss until it was too late.
Mr. Parent saw Onco swallow his retirement savings, but even worse is the guilt he feels over encouraging others to invest. “For sure that chilled the relationship,” he said. “That is what is especially hard, trying to regain credibility among my friends and family. I recommended that they invest. I said it was a sure thing.”
- Published in National Post
CASTLEGAR, B.C. — Two boys who made an online video titled “How to Kill Your Teacher” have told police in Castlegar, B.C., that it was intended as a joke.
RCMP say they have let the 11- and 13-year-olds know that anyone who considers themselves a target of such a video may take it very differently.
Cpl. Debbie Postnikoff said Thursday that police have also spoken with the boys’ parents and school officials to try and understand why they created the video, which shows them holding toy guns and referring to a Ms. D.
Charges will not be pursued due to the boys’ ages, Postnikoff said.
She said Mounties are working with school officials, the boys and their parents to hold the children accountable for their behaviour as they put together a plan to ensure it doesn’t continue.
Greg Luterbach, superintendent of the Kootenay-Columbia School District, said officials are dealing with police and other agencies, which may include the Children’s Ministry, to conduct a violence-risk assessment.
“You’re trying to get as much data as you can to look at this to ascertain risk and then determine what kind of plan you’re going to have moving forward,” he said.
“Certainly, the video is disturbing, highly inappropriate.”
He noted it’s important for children to know the seriousness of sharing inappropriate content, even if they’re tempted by how easy it is to post to various sites.
“Three clicks later, it’s online.”
Luterbach said the district will discuss ways to educate students in making wise choices when posting anything to the Internet but families also have a role to play in discussing such issues.
“It’s about what happened and where were bad decisions made along the way?”
Police in Nanaimo were initially notified about the video after a Florida radio host saw it and called the city’s newspaper, but its origin was then traced to Castlegar, in B.C.’s West Kootenay region, where the boys were identified.
- Published in National Post
The man suspected of shooting two Mounties in St. Albert Saturday morning has been identified by RCMP.
Shawn Maxwell Rehn, 34, was found dead in a private home hours after Const. David Matthew Wynn and auxiliary Const. Derek Bond were shot inside the Apex Casino in St Albert.
Wynn, 42, was last reported to be in grave condition, while Bond, 49, was released from hospital Saturday evening.
Police spent hours hunting for Rehn and cornered him in a home in Sturgeon County before finding him dead inside. Rehn had broken into the unoccupied house after fleeing the nearby casino.
An autopsy to determine how he died will be performed on Monday. Rehn’s family has been notified.
Rehn, who was from the greater Edmonton area, according to RCMP, was known to police.
In January 2005, Edmonton police issued an arrest warrant for Rehn after a man armed with a pistol allegedly forced his way into a home, saying he was owed money and forcing a 22-year-old man to drive to a bank to withdraw cash. The suspect allegedly left personal identification in the victim’s car.
In March 2003, a man described in the Journal as Shawn Rehn, then 22, was charged in connection with the theft of $150,000 worth of hockey memorabilia from a home in north Edmonton.
Wynn, 42, continues to fight for his life in hospital. He was a former paramedic in Nova Scotia and is a “treasured” St. Albert elementary school resource officer.
Counsellors will be at Keenooshayo Elementary School on Monday to offer support to students who know him.
- Published in National Post
Mountie fighting for his life after shooting at St. Albert casino is also ‘treasured’ school resource officer
An RCMP officer fighting for his life in hospital after being shot inside a casino Saturday is a “treasured” St. Albert elementary school resource officer.
Counsellors will be at Keenooshayo Elementary School on Monday to offer support to students who know Const. David Matthew Wynn, 42.
Wynn has been working at the school for more than five years. He also assists with the DARE program, a prevention and education campaign about drug abuse.
“I spoke to the principal yesterday and he said that [Wynn] is a really treasured part of the Keenooshayo family,” Paula Power, spokeswoman for St. Albert Public Schools, said Sunday.
“He’s got a great rapport with the kids. He’s just part of the family there.”
Wynn was hit by one bullet early Saturday morning while he and his partner, auxiliary Const. Derek Walter Bond, 49, were investigating a stolen vehicle at the Apex Casino on 24 Boudreau Rd. The suspect in the shootings was later found dead inside a rural home about five kilometres north of the casino.
Bond, a volunteer with the force since 2008, was released from hospital Saturday evening.
Wynn, who joined the RCMP in 2009, remains in grave condition.
“This is a huge blow to the community. Const. David Wynn has a special relationship to the children of this community. He’s a DARE officer and has a place in a lot of hearts,” Tara McWheeldon wrote on The Community of St. Albert Facebook page.
RCMP said in a news release Sunday morning that they had no updates but would followup later this morning.
The suspect in the shootings, known to police from previous run-ins, was found dead inside an unoccupied private home in a rural area east of St. Albert, RCMP said at a Saturday afternoon news conference. They have tentatively identified the man but have not released his name.
Police said the suspect had forced his way into the Sturgeon County home after fleeing the scene of the shooting at the
Wynn and Bond were shot inside the casino around 3 a.m., its closing time.
RCMP had been called to investigate a stolen vehicle in the parking lot, Marlin Degrand, criminal operations officer for the RCMP in Alberta, told a news conference Saturday.
The casino was still open, so the officers went inside to look and encountered the shooter. Degrand said the officers were shot without having a chance to return fire.
Wynn was carrying a 9-mm sidearm. As an auxiliary constable, Bond did not have a gun, Degrand said. Auxiliary officers carry pepper spray and batons. They are paired with full officers on their jobs.
After the shooting, RCMP tracked the suspect to the home in Sturgeon County, east of St. Albert.
Neighbour Ted Elkins said he wife woke him at 5 a.m. when she heard a chopper overhead.
“It’s very sad. It’s terrible, you know. They are investigating a stolen vehicle and next thing you know they are fighting for their lives,” Elkins said. “It’s very hard on families so you grieve with them too.”
He said the home was owned by a quiet couple in their 70s.
Police found the suspect dead when they entered the home, Degrand said. Officers didn’t fire their weapons or speak with the suspect before they entered the home.
Because the man died while the residence was under the custody and control of police, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) Is investigating the man’s death. The investigation will focus on the circumstances surrounding the death of the man in the residence. A news release from ASIRT issued Saturday evening said initial evidence suggests no shots were fired at any time by RCMP.
The cause of death and identity of the man have not yet been released. Police had earlier described the suspect as a white man between 25 and 35 wearing blue jeans and a two-toned striped blue jacket. They said he was considered armed and dangerous. Some Sturgeon County residents were told by police not to leave their homes.
The RCMP continues to be in charge of the investigation into the officer shootings.
“Despite the suspect having been found deceased, this remains a continuing investigation, a very complex, intensive [one] and it will be a lengthy one,” Degrand said.
Degrand would not say how many people witnessed the shooting in the casino. Investigators are looking through video surveillance and the business remains closed.
Deanna Blaquiere, whose band Chronic Rock performed at the casino’s Vee Lounge Friday night, said when she and her fellow musicians left the lounge at 1 a.m. there weren’t many patrons left.
A group of about nine men had just arrived at the bar, but otherwise, there were only about half a dozen other customers, Blaquiere said. The lounge is separate from the casino, which has VLT machines but no poker table.
It’s terrible, you know. They are investigating a stolen vehicle and next thing you know they are fighting for their lives
The RCMP has informed the Alberta Director of Law Enforcement of the suspect’s death. The director has told the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to start an independent review of the circumstances.
The suspect’s death is considered an “in-custody death because police had established containment of the scene.
Degrand spoke about Saturday’s shooting “with deep regret.”
“This incident serves to remind us of the dangers that our front-line responders everywhere face in the performance of their duties,” he said at the first of two Saturday news conferences.
“Our thoughts of course are with our injured officers, their loved ones and their colleagues who are courageously pursuing this investigation as we speak.”
Roads around the casino were blocked off early Saturday. Police tape could be seen near the door and surrounding the entire property.
A dark-coloured pickup truck had been abandoned in a ditch near where the suspect was found.
Debbie and Larry Martin live on an acreage that backs onto a rail line in the area of the police search. They woke up around 7 a.m. and saw officers and canine units searching the railway behind their community, Manor Estates in Sturgeon County.
Police told them if they left their house, they wouldn’t be allowed back.
“[The officers] kept circling around the crescent but at no point did anyone knock on our door and say don’t come out,” Debbie said.
Around 10:30 a.m. Larry went outside to get an update from an officer.
“He kind of indicated the guy was ‘no longer functioning,’” he said.
I extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of both officers caught in the line of fire
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured officers and their families as they cope with this tragic event. This incident stands as yet another reminder to us all of the real and present dangers our police officers and peace officers face every single day as they work to keep our communities safe.”
Premier Jim Prentice issued a statement: “It is with shock and sadness that we learn of the serious injuries sustained by two officers in the line of duty as they served their home community of St. Albert early this morning.
“My thoughts are with their families as they pray for their husband, father and son. I know all Albertans stand in unity and gratitude alongside those impacted by the events earlier today as together we hope for the recovery of both officers.”
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis added: “I extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of both officers caught in the line of fire at the St. Albert Casino. I commend the RCMP and all law enforcement agencies for their commitment to keeping our communities safe around the clock. Each and every day courageous men and women put themselves at risk to protect our communities, our province, and our country, and I stand with them.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted: “Canada’s thoughts & prayers are with @RCMPAlberta officers today as they deal with an ongoing shooting investigation in the #StAlbert area.”
Saturday’s shootings occurred only one day after the release of a report into the deaths of three RCMP officers and the wounding of two others in Moncton, N.B. last June at the hands of camouflaged gunman Justin Bourque.
With files from The Canadian Press
- Published in National Post
EDMONTON – Two RCMP members were shot early Saturday morning in St. Albert and a search is underway for the suspect in the area of the Sturgeon Valley Golf Course.
1/2 RCMP is searching for unknown white male, 25-35, wearing two-toned blue jacket and jeans in relation to shooting of 2 RCMP officers.
RCMP Alberta (@RCMPAlberta) January 17, 2015
Insp. Gibson Glavin confirmed the officers were shot between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. in the town of St. Albert. They are being treated in hospital, but Glavin could not provide an update on their condition.
RCMP is telling the public to stay away from the area around the golf course as the investigation continues. The suspect is described as armed and dangerous.
A press conference is expected to be held later this morning.
RCMP in active investigation of a serious local incident; will provide updates as available from RCMP. Thoughts are with members’ safety
— Nolan Crouse (@stalbertmayor) January 17, 2015
With files from the Canadian Press
- Published in National Post
OTTAWA — One of the identical twins charged with terrorism-related offences who RCMP say was on their radar for more than a year “drifted in and out” of an Ottawa mosque in recent years.
Abdulhakim Moalimishak, the president of the east-end Assalaam mosque, recalled that Ashton Larmond, 24, attended the mosque during Ramadan in 2013 but was not a member of the congregation.
“I saw him in the crowds. He didn’t come regularly. He drifted in and out,” Mr. Moalimishak said. He said Larmond attended alone and wasn’t with his twin who is co-accused in what police say is a conspiracy to participate in the activities of a terrorist group.
RCMP allege that between the end of August 2013 and up until his arrest on Friday, Ashton Larmond participated in the activity of a terrorist group. Police, however, remain tight-lipped on what exactly they believe Ashton and twin Carlos Larmond participated in and on behalf of which specific terrorist group. The charges relating to their alleged conspiracy to participate in the activity only date back to August, 2014.
News of their arrests Friday night ricocheted through Ottawa’s Muslim community over the weekend, with several of its leaders saying they didn’t know the 24-year-old brothers.
Mr. Moalimishak condemned what he called a disturbing pattern of young Muslim men going overseas to wage a campaign of killing based on a “warped” version of Islam.
The president acknowledged that radicalized Muslims are a pressing concern and will sometimes try to find legitimacy by attending mainstream mosques, and when that happens, he said, RCMP are called.
Police were called in October after Luqman Abdunnur, 39, allegedly tried to assault the imam as the spiritual leader denounced terrorism in his sermon. He said Mr. Abdunnur had to be restrained by members of the congregation as he ranted that terrorist groups were his heroes.
Mr. Abdunnur was arrested days later in an unrelated traffic stop, during which a shot was fired by Ontario Provincial Police, and has been charged with assaulting a police officer. He was under police surveillance as part of a national security investigation.
Mr. Moalimishak said Mr. Abdunnur was not a member of his Sunni congregation, but like Ashton Larmond he had attended the mosque a few times.
Mr. Abdunnur’s mother, Michelle Walrond, believes moderate Muslim voices are being drowned out in Canada and what’s making the most noise is a brand of religion that is dangerous.
“Muslims whose Islam is based on intellect and scholarship, we have no voice; we’re not identified as Muslim,” Ms. Walrond told the Citizen the day after the Larmonds were arrested.
She believes Wahhabism, an ultraconservative brand of Islam, has taken over the dialogue in many mosques through extensive Saudi Arabian funding.
Muslim leaders on the weekend reacted in fear that young people in Ottawa had fallen prey to Islamic extremists.
Neighbours and friends say the Larmond brothers are both recent converts to Islam. The alleged acts of those who are young and new to the faith are troubling mainstream leaders.
“That is a problem and we have to figure out how to address this,” Mr. Moalimishak said. “There are thousands of people who convert to Islam every year and they are perfectly knowledgeable, but there is now a growing subgroup amongst the converts. Not only are they not coming to our mosques for help … but they seem to be under the control of these groups of extreme, radical, self-segregating, almost cult-like groups who are just basically grabbing them, stacking them up, and before you know it, they’re gone.”
He said mosques need to offer young new Muslims support.
“We have to give them guidance. We have to tell them there are groups out there who will prey upon them and they are not the people they want to associate with.”
Imtiaz Ahmed, a local Ahmadiyya imam who helped launch the anti-radicalization speaking series Stop the CrISIS, said leaders “need to act fast and act jointly to stop so many Canadians getting radicalized.”
- Published in National Post
Security agencies were “closely monitoring” the situation after a video repeating calls by ISIS to kill Canadian civilians, police and members of the military was posted on the Internet, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said on Sunday.
The video showed footage of the attack on Parliament Hill as well as last week’s killings in Paris, and quoted from a statement issued last September by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al Adnani calling for terrorist attacks in the West.
While the 9-minute video was a compilation of earlier threats made by ISIS, and was not an official ISIS release, it specifically named Canada and, coming after the Paris attacks and the killings of Canadian Forces members, police were taking no chances.
“Given the recent terror attacks in France and in Canada, this new threat should be taken seriously,” the RCMP said in a message sent to members on Saturday after the video appeared on a Twitter account that has since been suspended.
“Because members of law enforcement are clearly mentioned by ISIS as priority targets, it is critical that you exercise a heightened level of caution and vigilance when carrying out your duties,” Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana wrote.
The video surfaced a day after the RCMP arrested twin brothers from Ottawa on multiple counts of terrorism — one of whom was stopped as he was allegedly about to board a flight to Frankfurt, raising flags he may have been heading for Syria.
Carlos Larmond, 24, was ticketed to transit through Germany to India but authorities suspected the second leg of his trip may have been a ruse. Frankfurt is a popular travel hub for Western extremists on their way to Syria and Iraq via Turkey.
Arrested Friday at Montreal’s Trudeau airport, he has been charged with two terrorism-related counts: participation in the activity of a terrorist group and attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activity abroad.
His twin brother Ashton Carleton Larmond was arrested in Ottawa and has been charged with facilitating terrorist activity, participation in the activity of a terrorist group and instructing to carry out activity for a terrorist group.
“Canada will not be intimidated and stands firm against terrorists who would threaten our peace, freedom and democracy,” Mr. Blaney said in response to the latest pro-ISIS video. “While I cannot comment on operational matters, we will not hesitate to take all appropriate actions to counter any terrorist threat to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world.”
The last ISIS video threat to Canada was made by John Maguire, a radicalized Ottawa Muslim convert who allegedly knew the Larmond brothers. It said that Canadians would be indiscriminately targeted and that Muslims were obliged to either join ISIS or “follow the example” of the attackers who struck in Ottawa and Quebec.
“My clients intend to vigorously defend these allegations,” the Larmonds’ defence lawyer, Joseph Addelman, said Saturday outside the Ottawa courthouse where the brothers made their first appearances.
“This is going to be a case where we are going to determine how much value the Canadian system truly places on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and these matters will be determined in court.”
Asked by a reporter where Carlos Larmond had intended to travel when he was arrested, Mr. Addelman said the Crown had not yet disclosed those details. The RCMP declined to comment on Mr. Larmond’s suspected travel plans.
She’s done everything for them, and for them to turn around and [allegedly] do something like this, it’s just awful
“We’re not revealing the cities or destinations where he was heading at this time,” said Sgt. Richard Rollings, an RCMP spokesman. The RCMP press release said only that he was arrested “as he was intending to travel overseas for terrorist purposes.”
Police have been struggling to track more than 100 Canadians whom they suspect have adopted violent extremist beliefs and may attempt to travel abroad to engage in terrorism. Syria and Iraq are currently the top destinations.
The threat is two-fold: that those who leave could return to conduct Paris-style attacks; and that those unable to leave could carry out simple but deadly acts of terrorism such as the October killings of Canadian Forces members.
Since the murders in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, Canadian counter-terrorism officials have ramped up their investigations, adding hundreds of officers to Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams across the country.
“Through collaborative efforts with our partners, we were able to prevent these individuals from leaving Canada to engage in terrorist activity overseas,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia, officer in charge of federal policing operations, said in a statement.
The charges against the hockey player twins relate to alleged terrorist activities that occurred since last August. The five-month investigation was conducted by the RCMP, Ottawa Police Service and Ontario Provincial Police.
The Larmond twins were raised by their grandmother, Linda Brennan, in the Ottawa suburb of Vanier and attended Rideau High School. “She’s done everything for them, and for them to turn around and [allegedly] do something like this, it’s just awful,” a neighbor told the Ottawa Citizen.
“You’d never see them apart,” said another neighbour. “If one’s walking down the street, the other’s not far behind.”
Nearly five years ago, the woman said she heard one of the brothers had a Muslim girlfriend and was looking to convert. “Whatever one does, the other does, too,” she said.
A former hockey teammate, who asked to be identified only as Doug, said Ashton Larmond had played on his team in the Minto Adult Hockey League. He recalled that while they waited for the Zamboni to finish clearing the ice in late 2013, a police officer had walked past, prompting Ashton to tell Doug that he was a newly converted Muslim and he was being watched by the RCMP.
“They’re all watching me because I’m a new Muslim and they think I’m doing stuff when I’m not doing stuff,” Doug recalled Ashton telling him. “He said to me that he wasn’t doing anything and that the RCMP was stupid,” Doug said.
The team soon grew to have difficulties with the young man. “He had a lot of anger on the ice. He would smash his stick on the board if he didn’t get passed [the puck] when he wanted it. He was very vocal about things so we had some inner team fighting around him,” Doug said. “He seemed like a pretty nice guy, to be honest.”
But as the season progressed, seemingly insignificant squabbles began to surface. One erupted into a larger dispute where Ashton claimed the team captain owed him $20. The team chose to kick him off the team.
The Larmonds were scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 12.
National Post, with files from the Ottawa Citizen
- Published in National Post
Canadian military on the lookout for spies and sabotage during annual Arctic training: internal documents
OTTAWA — The Canadian military has been routinely deploying a counter-intelligence team to guard against possible spying, terrorism and sabotage during its annual Arctic exercise, according to internal documents.
In the view of intelligence experts, the move is unusual because Operation Nanook is conducted on Canadian soil in remote locations of the Far North. Foreign involvement is limited to friendly, close allies.
It is also curious because guarding against such threats at home is usually the purview of either the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or the RCMP, said Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa professor and one the country’s leading experts on intelligence.
A spokesman for the military’s intelligence branch says the team has been deployed every year since 2008, which is two years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper began attending the military exercise with members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in tow.
The only regular foreign media presence on those trips has involved the Chinese, including the country’s official news service and — in 2013 — a representative of a major daily, both of whom are accredited members of the gallery in Ottawa.
Capt. Travis Smyth said the military intelligence branch has a legal responsibility to protect the Forces. The Arctic exercise, despite being within the country’s borders, is “highly visible and the potential for threats to security exist.”
He would not say what potential threats were posed in the remote region, citing it as an operational security matter.
When asked directly whether the media was targeted, Smyth replied in an en email: “For reasons related to operational security, any individuals or groups that may have been under investigation cannot be publicly released.”
Another unusual aspect is the fact the Canada’s top brass has for years insisted that the country faces no significant military threat in the Arctic.
Yet, a series of briefing documents released to The Canadian Press under access to information legislation show the counter-intelligence team was ordered — both “prior to and during” the exercise — to “detect, identify and mitigate the threats of espionage, terrorism, sabotage and subversion” against the military, its personnel, equipment and infrastructure.
The group was told to focus on “direct threats” within the “immediate area of operations,” which would involve both a few hundred regular and reserve force soldiers camped on the tundra and a handful warships supporting them in empty inlets.
A heavily censored July 5, 2013 operations order shows the deployment had five distinct phases and that regular briefings were to be given to the country’s joint northern commander.
Unlike CSIS and the RCMP, there is no dedicated civilian review committee for defence intelligence activities. However Smyth points out that counter-intelligence has an internal watchdog that examines investigation requests and operations. It is chaired by the military’s head of intelligence.
Wark said it is curious and wondered how much of it was a so-called “table top exercise” meant to get counter-intelligence officers thinking.
There is also, in terms of the overall intelligence community, a dearth of awareness and knowledge about the Arctic, a gap that Wark says the army may be able to plug with its capabilities.
“This is supposed to be CSIS’s bailiwick, but as we heard from (the security and intelligence review committee) recently, CSIS has not been devoting a lot of organized resources to the North,” he said.
The integrated threat assessment centre, which brings together experts from across the security and intelligence communities — including National Defence — looked at potential threats in the Arctic back in 2010. While foreign jihadists were considered a remote possibility, the group said “issue-based” domestic extremism — or those opposed to development in North — represented the biggest cause for concern.
- Published in National Post
EDMONTON — Edmonton police say a man who killed six adults and two young children before taking his own life had a lengthy criminal record.
At a news conference late Tuesday night, police Chief Rod Knecht said the motive for the mass murder appears to have been domestic violence.
Although he did not release the name of the killer, Knecht said the man was well-known to police and had a criminal record dating back to September 1987.
Knecht also said the man had been arrested in Edmonton twice before and was charged in November 2012 with domestic violence and sexual assault.
Cyndi Duong, 37, was fatally shot in a home in south Edmonton on Monday while two men and three woman between the ages of 25 and 50, and a girl and a boy — both under the age of 10 — were found dead a few hours later at a home in the northeast.
Investigators have determined the 9 mm handgun used to kill Duong had been stolen in Surrey, B.C., in 2006.
“This is a tragic day for Edmonton,” police chief Rod Knecht said at an earlier news conference, confirming that this was the worst mass murder in Edmonton for half a century.
The suspect was found dead by his own hand in a restaurant in the Edmonton bedroom community of Fort Saskatchewan on Tuesday morning.
Autopsies will be conducted on Thursday.
Knecht said it all started when police responded just before 7 p.m. Monday to a report of a man entering the south-side home, opening fire and fleeing. That’s where Duong’s body was found.
An hour and a half later, officers responded to reports of a suicidal man at a northeast residence, the same home where a man had been arrested in November 2012 and charged with domestic and sexual assault.
Family members reported in the call that the man was “depressed and over-emotional.”
When officers arrived, Knecht said, no one answered the door. They searched the exterior of the home but found nothing overtly suspicious and did not go inside.
“We can’t just arbitrarily go into that residence,” explained the chief. “(Officers) did a walk-round, looked in a window and checked a door.”
Hours later police were contacted by a second person and returned to the residence. When they went inside, what they found was carnage.
Knecht allowed that officers would have had information about a previous domestic violence incident at the home but said that still would not give them cause to enter on the first contact.
“We did everything we could have done,” he insisted.
Neighbour Moe Assiff watched what unfolded as police arrived on scene the second time.
He said a man and a woman sitting outside the house in a white car seemed very concerned. He said he went up to the car and talked to the man to see if everything was OK.
“He looked very shaken up like he had seen a ghost. He paused and he said, ‘No, it’s personal,”’ said Assiff.
He saw officers come out and talk to the woman in the car.
“She just let out a hysterical scream. It was eerie,” he said.
“She was screaming about her kids: ‘My kids! The kids!,’ grabbing her hair and trying to pull her hair out. The cops then ushered her down the road into a police cruiser.”
The suspect’s body was found hours later at the VN Express Asian restaurant in Fort Saskatchewan after police brought in tactical-team officers, surrounded the area and reportedly smashed through the front of the restaurant with a vehicle. The front door of the building was knocked out and pieces of the metal frame hung from above.
Knecht said the man had a business interest in the restaurant, but would not say if he was the owner.
Outside, was parked a black SUV police say was seen near the first shooting is southwest Edmonton.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said in a statement that he trusts the police investigation will provide answers as people struggle to understand what happened.
“In this season of peace and goodwill, this act of violence is all the more difficult to comprehend. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those involved at this very difficult time. May they find strength in knowing that Albertans share in their loss.”
At their game on Tuesday night, the Edmonton Oilers paused for a moment of silence out of respect for the victims.
Near the crime scenes, residents expressed horror over the events that unfolded over the previous 24 hours.
When Farley Yuras moved into his home on 180A Avenue over two years ago, a boy who lived around the corner asked if he could take Yuras’s dog for a walk. Yuras is stunned now that the house was the scene of a mass murder.
“I’m just sort of disgusted and shocked,” he said. “It’s just really, really sad.”
Prior to the killings on Monday and Tuesday, there had been 27 homicides in Edmonton in 2014. These eight deaths bring the total to 35.
Amy Duong, the vice-president external of the Edmonton Viets Association, said the group did not know the victims, who are all believed to be Vietnamese.
“It’s a tragic and horrific event,” Duong said. “I’ve never heard of this kind of domestic violence in the Vietnamese community before.”
The Canadian Press, with files from Postmedia News
- Published in National Post
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