Nova Scotia

2 people charged with harassment after protests at Dr. Robert Strang's home

The founder of a group that's been described as an American-style militia movement was one of two people arrested Tuesday in relation to recent protests at the home of Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.

Jeremy MacKenzie 1 of 2 people arrested by Halifax police

Police say they arrested a man and woman on Pleasant Street in the Woodside area of Dartmouth Monday evening. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

The founder of a group that's been described as an American-style militia movement was one of two people arrested Tuesday in relation to recent protests at the home of Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.

RCMP and Halifax Regional Police said in a news release Wednesday they've charged 36-year-old Jeremy Mitchell MacKenzie of Pictou, N.S., and 31-year-old Morgan May Guptill of Cole Harbour, N.S., with criminal harassment, mischief, harassing phone calls and intimidation of a health professional. 

RCMP Const. Guillaume Tremblay said that last charge — intimidation of a health professional — was introduced in January specifically to respond to problems arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The charges come after three days of protests outside of the Fall River, N.S., home of Dr. Robert Strang that started on Sunday. Strang also said people were prank calling him until 2 a.m. that morning.

Police said they arrested MacKenzie and Guptill on Pleasant Street in the Woodside area of Dartmouth Tuesday evening while protests continued outside of Strang's home. When police informed protestors the pair had been arrested, they left. 

"Dr. Strang wishes to pass along his sincere thanks to law enforcement for their action in addressing the incidents taking place outside of his home. As this is now a matter before the courts, he will not be commenting further," Nova Scotia Health Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis said in an email.

MacKenzie and Guptill appeared virtually in Dartmouth provincial court on Wednesday, where the Crown opposed their release from police custody. 

They were ordered to remain in custody and a bail hearing has been scheduled for Friday morning in the same court. Both accused are under orders to have no contact with Strang or his family.

Diagolon a white nationalist movement, says prof

MacKenzie is the founder of Diagolon. University of New Brunswick Prof. David Hofmann, who studies far right movements, told CBC News in February the goal of the group is to establish a "diagonal" white nationalist state.

He said those who believe in the Diagolon movement say a civil war is needed to create a new state that would run diagonally from Alaska, through western Canada's provinces, all the way south to Florida. Hofmann also said they hope to accomplish this through violence.

Two of the four southern Alberta men accused of conspiring to murder RCMP officers at the Coutts, Alta., border blockades last month have ties to Diagolon. 

Earlier this year, RCMP raided MacKenzie's parents home in Pictou, N.S., and seized several firearms after a video was posted to social media allegedly showing MacKenzie pointing a pistol at another man's head while drunk on whiskey.

According to an application by RCMP for a warrant to search the High Street residence, MacKenzie appeared in the video to be in possession of a "high capacity magazine," a prohibited device. 

"The magazine was inserted into a firearm which MacKenzie was handling in a careless manner," the document from Const. David Peck said.

"MacKenzie's actions in the video, and by his own admission to police on January 13, 2022, suggested that MacKenzie was intoxicated at the time the video was captured."

MacKenzie is a veteran with PTSD

The document described MacKenzie as a veteran of the Afghanistan war who has post-traumatic stress disorder. He served in the Canadian military for 14 years.

The video was shot while MacKenzie was at the Iron Mountain Wilderness Cabins in Whycocomagh, N.S., the application said. In the video, MacKenzie appeared to be in a building that looked like a commercial restaurant. 

"MacKenzie appeared intoxicated and was waving the firearm around in a reckless manner," it said.

"While waving the firearm around, MacKenzie briefly pointed the firearm at [the man's] head, causing [the man] to flinch, momentarily close his eyes, and moved his head away from the muzzle." 

The document said MacKenzie was "quite vocal" during the video, saying things like, "I just go where the gun tells me to go."

He also mentioned "Diagolonoia," which a witness described to police as "an imaginary country made up by MacKenzie" for which he also created a flag.

Outspoken about COVID-19 restrictions

The investigator wrote that MacKenzie claimed he did not recall the events in the video, noting he was "hammered" at the time, which the officer took to mean that he was heavily intoxicated.

"MacKenzie thought the contents of the video were good for a laugh.... MacKenzie denied having any knowledge of the firearm he had been holding," the document said.

MacKenzie was released by police on conditions, including that he not possess any firearms, weapons, ammunition or explosive substances. He is scheduled to appear May 30 in Port Hawkesbury provincial court on a number of firearms-related charges, according to RCMP.

MacKenzie moved to Nova Scotia shortly before Christmas to be closer to his children, who lived in Dartmouth, and prior to that he had been living in Saskatoon, Sask., the search warrant document said.

It appears Guptill, the other person charged in relation to protests outside Strang's home, has been outspoken about COVID-19 restrictions in the past.

A person named Morgan Guptill started a petition at the outset of the pandemic against the province implementing a state of emergency. 

A Twitter profile with the name Morgan May also frequently tweets and retweets about protests against COVID-19 restrictions, including one poster saying she was the host of a January rally outside Global News in Halifax titled The Media Is The Virus.

Houston speaks out against protests at Strang's home

On Monday, Premier Tim Houston decried the protest activity at Strang's home and suggested steps could be taken to stop future protests at the homes of public officials.

Last weekend's protest is not the first to take place outside of Strang's home. In September a small group opposed to public health restrictions protested outside of Strang's home. At that time, Houston addressed them in a video telling them to "grow up."

With files from Blair Rhodes