Three suspects involved in the alleged plot are in custody, while a fourth suspect was found dead in a home in Timberlea.
MacKay gave an opening statement, then responded to questions from reporters. Here is a transcript of that conversation.
What MacKay said
I want to begin, as others have, by applauding the excellent work of the officers of the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police, CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency), Halifax Regional Police, Geneva, Illinois Police Department and others for their diligence and collaboration in curbing a planned attack on Halifax citizens. Based on what we know so far, it would have been devastating. Mass casualties were a real possibility. A day known to represent love and affection could have taken a much different meaning had it not been for the exceptional efforts of the law enforcement community.
Three arrests were made yesterday in an alleged foiled attack on our citizens. As I said just this week, these threats are real and they are in Canada and clearly, we must all remain vigilant.
What we know of these alleged plans for a mass attack against our friends and our neighbours in the province, is that the attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism. It is alleged that a 19-year-old Nova Scotia male and a 23-year-old U.S. female, who may have been corresponding online, intended to go to a not-yet-publicly named venue here in the Halifax region with the goal of opening fire and committing a horrific act of violence against us. Police later found the 19-year-old to be dead in a home in Halifax.
Evidence also suggests that two young Nova Scotian males of Halifax and Cole Harbour were also involved. So to be clear, all suspects are either dead or in custody.
When our law enforcement authorities became aware of the attack, they acted decisively, bravely and quickly, intercepting the threats in the early-morning hours. They were able to divert what would have been an extremely tragic incident. This is where investigative techniques and tools save lives, and the balance of privacy rights versus police powers to intercept and prevent violent crime is on full display.
These arrests are a great example of the fine work of our men and women in uniform who strive daily to protect Canadians, often putting their own safety and lives at risk, to protect ours.
A community not far from here, Moncton, N.B., has recently lived through the horror of what could have happened without the commendable actions of our law enforcement.
Our government, as people know, have been cracking down on crime, putting and keeping dangerous criminals behind bars and putting victims at the heart of our justice system. For too long, criminals’ rights have trumped those of victims. This is changing with our government.
We can all agree it's crucial that attacks such as this one must be prevented from happening, whenever possible. The law enforcement community must be provided with the tools that they need to protect Canadians.
Without this, there would be serious gaps in their abilities. If you commit serious crimes or plot or plan to do so, you will be apprehended and you will be locked up for a very long time.
As this investigation is ongoing, the RCMP has asked the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
Public safety has asked for your patience and for the benefit of the public, there are other details that cannot be released. I am advised by assistant commissioner Brian Brennan, that they are currently meeting, that is to say the criminal operations branch that consists of the RCMP and the Halifax police are currently meeting this morning.
There will be more information released, they believe, later in the day. There is a great deal of evidence that has to be pored over. And, of course, there is the necessity to preserve and protect evidence for the future trials that will follow. So, there will be more to discuss of course in the future on this case. And make no mistake about it, there could have been a real tragedy and it would have marked our city and province forever. But thanks to those who are sworn to protect us, the common sense and humanity of a tip that was shared with the police, and which was acted upon, we have averted a true tragedy here in Halifax.
Our thanks again go out to those involved in this investigation. Our families, our friends, our community, are forever grateful for your work.
I thank you and I’ll be pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: You mentioned when we started a day for love and affection. What were you referencing there?
MACKAY: Valentine's Day.
QUESTION: It didn't have anything to do with something going on today at a particular site?
QUESTION: Is there anything more you can tell us about where the location was?
MACKAY: I spoke and I understand the natural curiosity about this. I spoke to the commissioner about that and the site that was the target has been notified. But, for reasons of the ongoing investigation, they have chosen at this point not to release that site.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the information that led to the arrest?
MACKAY: Only what has already been quoted by the RCMP, that is that they have received information anonymously, I believe through Crime Stoppers and that led to further investigation and further information that they acted upon.
QUESTION:What is being done today at that site to ensure further protection of the people?
MACKAY: I, again, asked that question and I’m told that certain security measures have been taken to – or extra security measures, if I can put it that way.
QUESTION: You're saying that your government is changing the laws. Doesn't this show, though, that the laws that exist help police and give police the resources they need to prevent this?
MACKAY: There is ongoing investigations that we believe will be critical to not only prevent crimes such as this, but avert similar acts in the future, we believe that we've identified. And while this particular incident doesn't appear to be motivated by terrorism, we believe in particular that some of the online investigations required to avert this type of activity do require changes in the legislation and that's why current legislation is before parliament.
I'm relaying to you what the police have indicated to me and have already indicated publicly.
QUESTION: You mentioned some about online, what was that? What was going on?
MACKAY: Again, it's early still what the police have released, but where one of the suspects came from the United States of America, we think there was correspondence online.
QUESTION: They met online?
MACKAY: I'm not sure of that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us which organizations in the U.S. are involved? Is it just the Illinois police? Is homeland security involved? Is the F.B.I. involved?
MACKAY: That question would have to be posed to the police. Public safety may have more to say on that.
QUESTION: We know they shared similar beliefs. Can you tell us anything more about that?
MACKAY: I have no information on that to share with you at this point.
QUESTION: Can you confirm if they were of a Columbine nature, these beliefs?
MACKAY: I cannot confirm that, but what I can tell you is that this appeared to be group of murderous misfits that were coming here or were living here and prepared to wreak havoc and mayhem in our community, and through the quick actions of the police, through the combined efforts of law enforcement, we've averted a tragedy and I think we're very grateful for that, but it is a very stark reminder of the vulnerability that we have to violence and the good work of the police and their actions which have saved the day.