The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) published a statement on Sunday confirming it is “looking into” alleged screenshots of text messages circulating this weekend that appear to show Canadian officers celebrating police brutality against the Ottawa Freedom Convoy protesters.
Law enforcement began a violent operation this weekend against the Freedom Convoy, a peaceful protest movement seeking an end to civil rights violations like vaccine and mask mandates, business lockdowns, and other coronavirus-related government limitations on freedom. The Convoy is largely trucker-led and has consisted of large trucks occupying major cities and blocking international road crossings. Its largest iteration was in Ottawa, where police dispatched officers on horseback to attack unarmed protesters beginning on Friday and have reportedly arrested nearly 200 people, despite no reports of significant violence prior to the police’s arrival.
“The RCMP is aware of the material circulating on social media pertaining to a chat group that includes some of its members, and we can confirm that we are looking into the matter,” the agency said in a statement on Sunday. “This material is not representative of those who have committed themselves to serving Canadians with integrity and professionalism.”
The statement claimed that RCMP officials had “put in place measures to ensure the continued integrity of police operations as well as the safety of our members.” It also reiterated that police officers have a “responsibility to hold themselves to the highest professional standards and are subject to the Code of Conduct of the RCMP at all times.”
“This includes acting with integrity, fairness, and impartiality, and avoiding any potential conflicts between their professional responsibilities and private interests,” the statement read.
The RCMP did not confirm that the texts in question were authentic.
The statement appeared to be a response to a report by the conservative Canadian outlet Rebel News published this weekend featuring screencaps of an alleged group text chain featuring RCMP and other law enforcement members. The most egregious comments printed were attributed to someone identified as RCMP Musical Ride member Andrew Nixon, including a photo of a pint of beer with the caption, “Cheers crew! Here’s to some sweet OT [overtime] this weekend for our on call members. Don’t kick all of them out until next weeks [sic] group gets our turn.”
Another text attributed to Nixon read, “Time for protesters to hear our jackboots on the ground.” When another group member joked, “this is a kinder gentler RCMP,” the person identified as Nixon replied, “Okay we can give out free hugs and unicorn stickers.”
Rebel News also published several images of the group allegedly discussing a widely circulating video of mounted police attacking the Freedom Convoy protesters in Ottawa, appearing to trample at least two people with their horses.
“Just watched that horse video- that is awesome!!! We should practice that manoeuvre,” one of the comments, whose alleged author was not identified, read.
Rebel News noted that it had not independently authenticated the alleged texts.
Rebel News also claimed its own journalist Alexa Lavoie suffered police brutality while attempting to report on the police dispersal.
“Rebel News’ Alexa Lavoie was brutally struck with a baton, shot at close range with a pepper canister which then broke, burning her face and eyes,” the outlet detailed.
The reported horse attack in question occurred on Friday night. Several protesters shot video appearing to show an elder woman with a walker shoved onto the ground by a police officer on horseback.
Ottawa police initially denied the violence, claiming no one was injured and that a protester had thrown a bicycle at police, which many speculated was a misunderstanding caused by the woman’s walker flying out of her hands as the horse attacked her.
“We’re unaware of any injuries,” Ottawa Police stated.
Canada’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a civilian watchdog group that monitors police activity, confirmed on Saturday that, contrary to the Ottawa Police statement, an unnamed 49-year-old woman endured a “serious injury” during the incident, identifying the unit response as the Toronto Police Service. SIU is reportedly investigating two incidents of violence against protesters.
Ottawa interim police chief Steve Bell appeared to again deny the injuries in remarks on Saturday as relayed by Canada’s Global News.
“There was two members of the public who collided with the horses. They fell down, they immediately got back up, and started to again engage in their protest and demonstration activity,” Bell said.
Bell announced on Sunday that police had ended major operations to crack down on the peaceful anti-mandate protests.
“We are deeply committed to the community healing that we know now needs to take place,” he told reporters.
Bell took over last week for former chief Peter Sloly, who abruptly resigned after claiming the police force was “paralyzed,” criticizing the federal government for offering insufficient support, and implying that the peaceful protests would require Canada to deploy the military against its own people.
Far-left Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, a law intended for use against terrorism and other violent activity, last week to combat the peaceful protests. The move was unprecedented and Trudeau’s government at press time appears to be continuing to demand that his powers be expanded through the Emergencies Act despite the fact that Ottawa Police have stated that the protest presence in the capital is almost entirely over.