A Conservative MP has accused a media outlet and a Liberal cabinet minister of spreading “misinformation” about loaded firearms being found among protestors when police dispersed the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa in February.
Conservative MP Dane Lloyd made the claim while questioning Ottawa Police Service (OPS) interim chief Steve Bell at a meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety on March 24. Lloyd made his statement in reference to an article published in the Toronto Star on March 19.
The article said: “Fears that there were weapons inside some of the trucks proved prescient: A police source said loaded shotguns were found.”
Lloyd pressed Bell repeatedly to confirm whether the allegations were true.
“Were loaded firearms found, yes or no?” Lloyd said.
“In relation to—no, not relating to any charges to this point,” Bell replied, referencing an earlier statement he made that investigations into weapons possession at the protest were ongoing.
After the exchange, Lloyd noted the claim that police had found weapons on-site and the Toronto Star article had been retweeted by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller.
“This is misinformation, chief, and I submit to the committee [it is] misinformation being spread by a journalist and misinformation being spread by a member of this government.”
After the committee, the Toronto Star added an editor’s note to its article and a new paragraph below the original claim.
“On March 24, Bell confirmed police received ‘information and intelligence’ pertaining to firearms in the occupation, but would not confirm whether firearms had been seized and said investigations are ongoing.”
This update appears to be drawn from one of Bell’s comments to Lloyd during the committee hearing. But Bell’s comment was with regards to “weapons,” and he didn’t cite “firearms,” as claimed in the article.
“What I can indicate is throughout the protest, we did receive information and intelligence around weapons and the possession of weapons by people that either had attended or intended on attending the occupation,” Bell said.
“As a result of the clearing, at no point did we lay any firearms-related charges. Yet, there are investigations that continue in relation to weapons possessions at the occupation.”
Before the committee adjourned, Lloyd had tweeted “Ottawa interim chief Bell confirms at #SECU that no firearms were found during the clearing of the Convoy protests. Despite claims by Toronto Star and Liberal Ministers.”
Liberal MP Ron McKinnon took notice of the tweet at the end of the meeting and requested a point of order to committee chair Jim Carr.
“That’s not the testimony I heard. I believe that mischaracterizes Chief Bell’s testimony. And I would urge people to look at the actual testimony,” MacKinnon said about Lloyd’s tweet.
“We’re not going to be debating tweets in front of the committee, however, I will ask the witnesses to feel free to give us more information if they had insufficient time to answer these questions fully,” Carr replied.
While the committee did not debate the issue further, the debate did move to Twitter, where Liberal MP and member of the committee Taleeb Noormohamed responded to Lloyd.
“Actually, [Bell] said ‘to date’ and that he could not comment on ongoing investigations. Facts matter,” wrote Noormohamed.
Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks, who said in the House of Commons that the use of “Honk honk!” by Freedom Convoy supporters was code for “Heil Hitler,” retweeted Noormohamed’s post with the hashtag “FactsMatter.”
Keith Wilson, a lawyer who was on the ground during the protest in Ottawa and represented some of the participants, commented on Lloyd’s tweet as well.
“We are making a list of the false claims by the ‘so-called media’ against the freedom truckers that are now being proven false. It’s a growing and long list,” he wrote on March 24.
In recent weeks, House committees have been hearing witness testimony about the Freedom Convoy and the invoking of the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to clear the protest.
The trucker-led movement demanding the lifting of COVID-19 mandates and restrictions started in January after Canada and the United States imposed a vaccine mandate on cross-border truckers.
The movement later evolved into border blockades across the country and a three-weeks-long demonstration by hundreds of trucks in downtown Ottawa. The protest was forcibly removed on Feb. 18 and 19, and the emergency order was lifted on Feb. 23.