Canadian police provocateurs are as old as Canada itself...
Manufacturing Threats tells the story of police provocateurs going back to the time of Canadian Confederation. Whether against communism or the FLQ, the Black Liberation Movement or the Muslim community, Alexandre Popovic documents the role Canada's secret services have played in repressing marginalized communities and movements for social change. From bombings and harassment campaigns, to setting up fake urban guerrilla cells and leading invasions from the US, there seem to be no limits to what the operatives of the Canadian state will do to stoke fear and justify their own ever-growing budgets.
Beyond just documenting these nefarious and shocking misdeeds, Manufacturing Threats shows the perennial failures of attempts to rein in or reform these agencies. Popovic argues that the entire concept of repressive apparatuses whose actions must be hidden from the public and even elected politicians—which has remained the untouchable assumption of these reform efforts—is itself the problem, and that these sorts of outrages will continue unless real transparency and accountability can be achieved.
Different chapters detail the 19th-century origins of Canada's secret police in countering the Irish nationalist Fenians, many of whom were based in the United States, and the Métis Red River Rebellion led by Louis Riel. Popovic goes on to show the role of entrapment and provocation in countering the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Communist Party in the 1920s and '30s, and then in attempting to entrap Black and Indigenous activists and in successfully infiltrating and manipulating the nationalist Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) in the 1960s and '70s. Examining the work of the provincial and federal governments' Keable and McDonald Commissions, which came about following disclosures of RCMP dirty tricks (arson, break-ins, kidnappings...), and which led to the establishment of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Popovic then details three major examples of CSIS informants (Marc-André Boivin, Grant Bristow, and Joseph Gilles Breault) who were allowed to carry out acts of violence and intimidation in the service of their government paymasters.
This book is an important introduction to the subject of Canada's repressive agencies and the legislation and lack of oversight that have structured their use of agents provocateurs and informants over the years.
First published in French as Produire le menace (Sabotart, 2017), this first English-language edition includes updated information as of 2022.
About the Author
Alexandre Popovic has been politically active in social struggles since the early 1990s. He has suffered police repression as a result of his participation in various protest movements; he subsequently began to represent himself in court. Intent on documenting the issue of police abuse, the author has sent more than six hundred Access to Information requests and has pleaded many times in front of the Access to Information Commission.
For over a decade, Popovic has been involved in supporting families who have lost a loved one at the hands of the police. In this capacity, he has participated in half a dozen coroners’ public inquests as an interested party.
Inspired by Popovic's work, Amy Miller's documentary Manufacturing The Threat focuses on one case, providing an in-depth examination of the entrapment of Omar Nuttall and Ana Korody in 2013:
For the first time ever, a feature-length documentary is examining the issue of agent provocateurs and entrapment in Canada’s national security apparatus. Manufacturing the Threat is a thrilling and emotional film, which examines a deeply disturbing episode in Canadian history, when an impoverished couple was coerced by undercover law enforcement agents into carrying out a terrorist bombing. Further, viewers learn that this case is far from unique in the context of Canadian intelligence.
When a young Muslim couple was arrested on Canada Day 2013, caught red-handed planting bombs at the Parliament buildings in Victoria, BC, the news was celebrated as a tour de force for Canada’s national security agencies. Citing the rising threat of Islamic terrorism, the Harper government went on to pass Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act. However, media and government were relatively silent when the case against the Canada Day bombers fell apart.
After the young couple, Omar Nuttall and Ana Korody, had spent three years in prison, they learned that they had been deceived by an elaborate agent provocateur operation managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). ‘Project Souvenir’ involved over 240 security service operatives, and culminated in their decision to plant fake bombs, constructed with the help of undercover agents, on the BC Parliament Grounds. The Canada Day Bombers had their charges thrown out, and their imprisonment was referred to as a “travesty of justice” by Judge Elizabeth Bennett.
Shining a light into the murky world of police infiltration, incitement, and agent provocateurs, Manufacturing The Threat shows how Canada’s policing and national security agencies, granted additional powers after 9/11, routinely break laws with little to no accountability or oversight.
How are our lives affected by these secretive and costly organizations, supposedly put in place to protect Canadians? What are the implications for our civil liberties and for democracy itself? Finally, in this era of COVID-19, climate crisis, and increasingly divisive politics, where are real threats to our security?
Manufacturing the Threat is the first feature-length film to look closely at covert operations in Canada. We learn that Canada’s concept of national security now includes the defence of oil and mineral extraction. Miller exposes a disturbing nexus of interests in which military and policing agencies align with giant transnational fossil fuel and mining companies, revealing a dark history of covert operations that target minorities, environmentalists, and Indigenous communities.
Manufacturing the Threat takes the viewer directly into Operation Souvenir, the joint RCMP-CSIS campaign that snared the Nuttalls. We watch hidden-camera footage of the Nuttalls as they talk with manipulative undercover agents, as they plan their terrorist attack in a hotel room paid for by the RCMP, and even as they plant explosives during the infamous Canada Day bombing.
Initially convicted of intent to commit a terrorist attack, the Nuttalls were eventually cleared of all charges in a ruling that described Project Souvenir as a “travesty of justice.” The trial proceedings revealed that the undercover operation employed over 240 agents and cost Canadian taxpayers over $900,000 in overtime pay alone.
“The RCMP manufactured this crime,” said Judge Elizabeth Bennett in the aftermath of the ruling.
A startling exposé and a stirring call to action, Manufacturing the Threat features interviews with national security experts, newly discovered archival material, and compelling first-hand testimony from Canadian citizens caught in the web of Canada’s covert operations.
For more information see: https://wideopenexposure.com/manufacturing-the-threat/