UPDATED, 8:14 p.m. EST: Ontario Provincial Police on Friday evening told TheBlaze it is aware of the video showing a "member of its Provincial Liaison Team" on Thursday speaking to a "citizen." The agency added, "Publicly available information is used at times by PLT to identify event organizers for outreach. Proactive contact is one way to help facilitate events that are safe and lawful."
Original story below
A police officer from the Ontario Provincial Police in Canada was recorded on video standing outside the door of a woman's home, admitting that police have been monitoring a Facebook group she has participated in regarding growing protests across the province over COVID-19 restrictions — and then handed her a brochure on "peaceful protests."
The cellphone video begins with the resident opening her door and asking the officer for her name and badge number, after which the officer hands the resident her card along with "some information about peaceful protests."
The resident asks, "So you saw something on my Facebook?"
"No, on the Facebook group," the officer replies.
"And [you] decided to come to my personal residence to give me information about peaceful protests?" the resident asks.
"Yes," the officer replies.
At first the resident wonders if the officer is with police in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto. But the officer acknowledges she's with the Ontario Provincial Police, and her shoulder patch indicates it as well.
"Are you guys now monitoring people's Facebook pages or Facebook groups [as] to who comments, as to what their status updates are, or what they're doing ... within the group?" the resident continues.
The officer at this point only admits police are "monitoring the protests" happening across Ontario and then adds, "So, there's a protest coming up. I'm simply providing you with information about a peaceful protest, and now I'm leaving. That is all."
'Nice to know that we're being watched'
But the resident apparently wanted to nail down exactly what was going on, so she inquired more: "So the OPP are watching what people are doing on Facebook in different groups, whether or not they're commenting, participating, liking, and you guys are now doing service calls to give people information about peaceful protests?"
"Yeah," the officer replies. "It's just a proactive measure to make sure you understand your rights about peaceful protesting."
The clip concludes with the resident telling the officer, "I'm hoping that you guys aren't gonna waste our tax dollars continuing to do this to everybody, but now it's nice to know that we're being watched."
TheBlaze on Friday morning contacted the Peterborough County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police to inquire about the video, but an official said the office was being "inundated" with calls about the clip and that OPP's corporate communications arm was now handling the matter. OPP has not issued a statement as of noon Friday; TheBlaze will update this story once a statement is issued.
What has been the reaction?
Reaction to the clip has been somewhat mixed. Some commenters said the officer did nothing wrong; others are saying the visit was more or less the delivery of a chilling message from Big Brother.
One commenter noted, "Not really sure why this is an issue. Facebook public communities are just like any other communities. I'm glad OPP is paying attention. That is what I'm paying them for."
To which another user answered, "You pay them to stalk people online? Shouldn't they be solving crime or something?"
Another commenter in favor of the visit wrote, "Good. I see nothing wrong here. The cop was nice, was only there to give information not to arrest or harm anyone. If you post on a public group that supports an illegal occupation I'm glad the cops are checking on you."
But another user replied, "She's a fascist, as are you, since you see no problem with this. There was no reason to show up at her house, since this lady is entitled to speak out and disagree with the government. And there's nothing illegal about it. No wonder Canada has gone to hell, with people like you."
The Canadian truckers protest against COVID-19 restrictions has been dominating headlines across the globe of late, and sides are being chosen as the truckers disrupt the normal flow of commerce to get their points across.
Indeed, some Canadian provinces recently have ordered the easing or lifting of pandemic restrictions in the wake of the protests as well as decreases in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
However, on Friday the premier of Ontario declared a state of emergency over the trucker protest and promised participants would receive heavy fines and penalties, including prison time, if they persist.
This story has been updated