RCMP: ‘There is no public safety risk’ following terrorism-related arrests and charges

Superintendent Michael LeSage, Criminal Operations Officer for the RCMP ‘O’ Division, addresses the media at a press conference held at Kingston Police Headquarters on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, as Chief Antje McNeely of Kingston Police looks on. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Kingston Police and the RCMP have assured Kingstonians there is no public safety risk as the investigation continues into an alleged terrorist plot that led to two arrests on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.

The RCMP hosted a press conference at Kingston Police Headquarters beginning at 1 p.m. on Friday, following a series of raids in Kingston on Thursday, Jan. 24 that lead to the arrest and charging of a minor for terrorism related offences.

Speaking on behalf of the RCMP, Superintendent Michael LeSage, Criminal Operations Officer for the RCMP ‘O’ Division, explained that the investigation began in late December 2018 after the RCMP received information from the FBI.

“To give some background, the RCMP received critical information of a potential terrorist threat in late December 2018. We immediately started a robust national security criminal investigation and the RCMP was able to gather sufficient evidence for the Attorney General to approve laying [Criminal Code] Section 83.19 charges against the individual,” he said, referring to one of the two charges laid against the youth arrested earlier in the day.

“While these are significant charges, there was no imminent threat to the public or to infrastructure.”

The RCMP investigation was due to the suspected manufacturing of homemade improvised explosive devices, explained Superintendent Peter Lamberucci, Officer in Charge INSET Ottawa, RCMP ‘O’ Division. When asked if any explosives were found, Lamberucci said that “there were elements, trace elements” but refused to say more due to the ongoing investigation.

The RCMP did confirm that a building in Kingston was evacuated in the early morning hours Friday to allow for the detonation of a “substance.”

“Elements thought to be explosive caused the evacuation of a building in the early morning today,” he said.

“That substance was detonated.”

Kingston Police confirmed and expanded on this incident.

“The RCMP’s explosive disposal unit safely detonated what was believed to be an explosive substance in the early morning of January 25th. This operation was conducted to ensure officer and public safety. We can confirm the substance was successfully neutralized and there were no injuries,” said Const. Cameron Mack, media relations officer for Kingston Police.

And, while both LeSage and Lamberucci indicated one of the arrested individuals was suspected of planning to detonate (or to counsel another individual to detonate) homemade improvised explosive devices, they explained that whatever plan the individual(s) were involved in had no specific date or target.

“There was no specific location, there was no specific date, there was no specific time. The specifics were very much just the attack plot… At no time was the City of Kingston ever identified as an attack vector or part of the plot,” Lamberucci said, noting that he could not speak to the motivation of said plot.

“It is terrorism offences, so I think it is fair to say that it’s a terrorism attack plot, the criminal code charge reflects that. But in terms of the individual’s ideology, we will let the investigation run its course on that.”

Both of the arrested parties – the youth who is now facing two charges and an adult male who has not been charged at this time – were known to one another, but Lamberucci would not expand on what kind of relationship the two had, other than to say they “travel… with one another.”

“They have an informal relationship, a friendship,” he said.

“Both individuals are residents of Kingston. They have been part of the investigation throughout the course of its duration, and both were arrested simultaneously under the same reasonable, probable grounds.”

Lamberucci would not say whether or not the arrested parties are Canadian citizens.

LeSage and Lamberucci addressed several suspicions and concerns voiced by Kingstonians in the weeks leading up to the execution of two search warrants and subsequent arrests. Firstly, LeSage explained that the ‘mystery plane’ that has been heard and seen flying over Kingston for the past two weeks was, indeed, part of the RCMP’s investigation.

“We can confirm that RCMP air assets were involved in this investigation,” said LeSage, noting that over 300 personnel from various government and law enforcement agencies have been involved in the investigation.

“Investigations of this nature require extensive co-operation and collaboration with our domestic and international partners.”

LeSage said the following agencies have been involved in the investigation, and thanked them for their collaborative efforts:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Kingston Police
  • The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)
  • Canadian Border Services Agency
  • Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS)
  • Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada

Lamberucci explained that the ‘mystery plane’ was an RCMP Pilatus DC 12 aircraft “used for the preservation of public safety and risk mitigation strategies in the area of Kingston.”

“The aerial support of the plane allows us surveillance capabilities from the air to ensure that we are able to maintain public safety and mitigate risk surrounding certain areas or addresses,” he said.

Lamberucci also addressed suspicions that the arrests were related to the lockdowns of several area schools in late November and early December or 2018 due to threats made by telephone.

“This investigation is completely unrelated,” he said when asked if the investigation had anything to do with the incidents at the schools.

Both LeSage and Lamberucci underlined that there was no threat to public safety during the investigation, and that there is no threat to public safety as the investigation continues.

“There is no public safety risk with regard to this investigative matter. We believe we have extinguished that threat. Although the investigation continues, the threat is extinguished and public safety is of paramount interest,” Lamberucci said.

With files from Cris Vilela.

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