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RCMP Logged Journalists, Twitter Users Who Shared Musical Ride WhatsApp Leak Scandal

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: April 25, 2022
The RCMP logged coverage by journalists and media, dissenting Conservative Party members, and ordinary Twitter users who spoke about the Musical Ride WhatsApp leak scandal during the Freedom Convoy crackdown
A member of the RCMP breaks window to arrest a protester during the Emergencies Act crackdown against the Freedom Convoy trucker occupation protest on February 18, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Documents released under an Access to Information and Privacy request show the RCMP began logging journalists and Twitter users who shared the RCMP Musical Ride WhatsApp group leak scandal. (Image: by Alex Kent/Getty Images)

Canada’s federal police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), began cataloging media outlets, their writers, and various Twitter users who shared a leak of highly unprofessional WhatsApp messages from a private group composed of members of the force’s Musical Ride public relations team during the height of the Freedom Convoy crackdown.

Musical Ride WhatsApp leak

On Feb. 19, screenshots from a WhatsApp group where pictures of fully uniformed officers breaking at Ottawa’s five star Fairmont Chateau Laurier shared among participants were made public.

In several instances, uniformed officers are seen eating plates of food. In one, a female officer has her mouth wide open with a pastry in it as she stares into the camera, captioned with #hero.

In another tagged with #hero, an officer strikes a pose with a cup of coffee on the table next to him. 

But more pointed were text messages from several group participants lauding a spurious use of force by the Toronto Police Department’s mounted unit, which saw several Freedom Convoy protest participants trampled by horses.

One member of the group joyously cited a report from state-funded messaging outlet Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as they stated, “One person got arrested for injuring a Police Service Animal, inserting a bike tripping him up. U can see the horse trip in other views, thankfully the rider stayed on.”

Another stated “Just watched that horse video- that is awesome!!!” before adding, “We should practice that manoeuvre [sic].”

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In another instance, a member confirmed as an officer announced, “Time for the protestors to hear our jackboots on the ground.”

A “jackboot” is a well-established term referring to a knee-high leather military boot that Google defined as “used as a symbol of cruel or authoritarian behavior or rule.”

In a Feb. 20 statement published by the force to its official website, the RCMP verified the legitimacy of the leak when it stated it was aware of material circulating “pertaining to a chat group that includes some of its members.”

Fairmont Chateau Laurier buffets

The public relations nightmare for the force was only exacerbated when in mid-April, independent news outlet True North Canada received an RCMP response to an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request, Canada’s version of FOIA, where the agency revealed it spent $235,000 worth of taxpayer dollars on Fairmont Chateau Laurier buffets over a two week period. 

The agency paid the hotel as much as $12,240 for a single dinner buffet, $11,340 for a single lunch buffet, and $9,312 for a single breakfast buffet.

Whitewashing websites

On April 23, independent media outlet Rebel News released more than 100 pages of documents released by the RCMP under a second ATIP inquiry requesting internal communications on the scandal. 

The bundle is composed of email chains, mostly involving members of social media teams, many of whom belong to RCMP’s civilian division.

In one bundle, internal emails show that the force began pulling webpages it controls that contained additional information about officers whose names were exposed in the screenshot leak.

RCMP staff appeared to be mitigating damage as a result of several of the Musical Ride WhatsApp group participants receiving credible threats while tensions between citizens, the government, and police were highly escalated during the unprecedented deployment of the Emergencies Act to crackdown against a peaceful protest.

Logging social media

In a second bundle, a Social Media Advisor for the National Communications Service began an email thread where Twitter users, including journalists breaking from the federally funded establishment media narrative, who spoke out about the Freedom Convoy crackdown or who reshared the Musical Ride WhatsApp group leak were manually logged. 

Notable names include Andrew Lawton and Cosmin Dzsurdzsa of True North Canada, National Post columnist Rupa Subramanya, and Ian Miles Cheong of Rebel News.

A screenshot of an internal RCMP email chain logging a tweet by True North Canada journalist Andrew Lawton during the Freedom Convoy crackdown after leaks from a private WhatsApp chat group for the RCMP Musical Ride were made public.
A screenshot of an internal RCMP email chain logging a tweet by True North Canada journalist Andrew Lawton during the Freedom Convoy crackdown after leaks from a private WhatsApp chat group for the RCMP Musical Ride were made public. (Image: AITP Request via Rebel News)

A third bundle revealed that the Advisor also took note of multiple ordinary Twitter users, including one American who used the police violence against Freedom Convoy participants as grounds for support of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The thread also captured Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre after the Member of Parliament tweeted a video of his public opposition to the deployment of the Emergencies Act. 

A screenshot of an internal RCMP email chain logging unflattering media coverage by The Post Millennial of the Freedom Convoy crackdown after leaks from a private WhatsApp chat group for the RCMP Musical Ride were made public.
A screenshot of an internal RCMP email chain logging unflattering media coverage by The Post Millennial of the Freedom Convoy crackdown after leaks from a private WhatsApp chat group for the RCMP Musical Ride were made public. (Image: AITP Request via Rebel News)

Later in the cluster, the agency also noted media outlet The Post Millennial for their coverage of the WhatsApp group leak and provisional Conservative Party leader Candice Bergen who, like Poilievre, voiced opposition to the use of the Emergencies Act on Twitter.

In a fourth bundle, Vision Times was also noted for our coverage of the scandal.

An additional 20 pages of email thread was devoted to the agency’s response to a public comment received from an individual identifying as a retired police officer who shared both their alarm with and criticism of the unprofessional attitude demonstrated by Musical Ride members in the leak.

Cautioning officers

In a final bundle received by Rebel News, internal communications show the force cautioned members that “the taking and sharing of photographs, especially while on duty, could undermine operations and risk officer safety.”

“Social media and text messaging applications are vulnerable,” the communication warned.

The missive added that “private text messages” and what was characterized as “light-hearted photos shared between friends” may be leaked, becoming “the story of the event.”

It also claimed the existence of “growing concern” about the “spread of disinformation” from “photos and videos of our members being circulated.” 

The text claimed such items are being used “out of context” in order to “misrepresent the RCMP as bad actors who seek to harm members of the public or who are aligned to a particular ideology.”

Specifically, the week before the police crackdown on the Freedom Convoy, the National Capital Region of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) organized a “counter protest” against Freedom Convoy participants that was framed in Canada’s one-voice establishment media and by various politicians on social media as if it were organically organized by fed-up Ottawa residents.

PSAC describes itself as composed of members who “work for federal government departments and agencies, Crown Corporations, universities, casinos, community services agencies, Aboriginal communities, airports, and the security sector among others.”

The “counter protest” was notable as multiple photographs of participants openly carrying the Hammer and Sickle Flag, representing Marxist-Leninist communism and the Communist Party, were captured during the event.

PSAC represents the civilian membership division of the RCMP, according to its website.