Sponsor says family in ‘total shock’ after son arrested in RCMP raid in Kingston

RCMP are still investigating Friday morning after they arrested two people in relation to a counter-terrorism investigation in Kingston, Ont.

The raids happened at two homes: one on Kingsdale Avenue, the other at 430 MacDonnell St. One of the two people arrested was a minor, sources said.

The house on Kingsdale Avenue belonged to a refugee family that fled to Canada from Syria. The family was sponsored by four churches, including Our Lady of Lourdes church, and the house was painted and prepared for the family by church members.

According to documents from the church, the family was sponsored by the congregation to come to Canada in 2016. The church helped the family, which was originally from Damascus, Syria, travel to Kingston from Kuwait.

Bronek Korcynski oversaw the church’s sponsorship of the family, which lasted a year. He said the son of the family was arrested in the raid.

“I was intimately involved with the sponsorship as co-chair of the group so I know the family very well,” Korcynski said. “This has come as a total shock.”

“It’s just so completely beyond anything we’ve experienced with the family. This is a group of people who have expressed nothing but gratitude for our assistance and to Canada for being able to welcome them.

“Their priority has been to build a new life here.”

Korcynski said the family’s son was working to get his high school marks up so he could get into university.

“I have been in contact with the father and I know right now their heads are spinning.”

A neighbour told Global News that while he didn’t know the family who lived in the other house on MacDonnell Street well, nothing about the house seemed off.

Little information was known about the nature of the arrests, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter that RCMP “took action in Kingston, based on credible information, to ensure public safety.”

Based on RCMP activity, Stephanie Carvin, national security expert and Carleton University professor, said the investigation appears to be regarding counter-terrorism.

“The authorities have not given us a lot to go on … but signs are pointing towards a counter-terrorism investigation. If it was an espionage case, I didn’t think you’d have this kind of police response,” Carvin told Global News.

RCMP are set to host a press conference at 1 p.m. to offer more information about the arrests.

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Police conduct an investigation in Kingston, Ont., on Jan. 24, 2018.

Police officer carry evidence from a house that police raided and arrested two police in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

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Police conduct an investigation in Kingston, Ont., on Jan. 24, 2018.

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Police conduct an investigation in Kingston, Ont., on Jan. 24, 2018.

RCMP officers stand outside a house in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.

RCMP officers stand outside a house in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.

Police officers carry evidence after raiding a house in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.

Police officers carry evidence after a house was raided in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.

Two RCMP officers stand outside a house in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.

Police officer carry evidence from a house that police raided and arrested two police in Kingston, Ontario, on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

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Police conduct an investigation in Kingston, Ont., on Jan. 24, 2018.

Both RCMP and Kingston police raided a home on MacDonnell Street on Thursday evening.

Global News confirmed the FBI were involved in the investigation, but Carvin said that’s not unusual.

“The FBI is often involved in Canadian national security investigations,” Carvin said, citing the case of the Via Rail bomb plot that was thwarted in 2013.

Carvin said there are many questions left regarding the arrests, including the use of a plane spotted hundreds of times this month by Kingston residents.

Royal Military College Prof. Christian Leuprecht suggested the RCMP had to speed up their investigation when the plane started getting coverage on local news for its mysterious origins. When it was identified as an RCMP plane by local experts, Leuprecht said it could have raised concerns.

“When the RCMP is flying a plane here on a regular basis at night, it’s a good tip that something may be up,” he said.

The RCMP previously only offered a statement saying its “primary concern is the safety and security of Canadians. We have multiple aircraft that support our mandate in Ontario and elsewhere in the country. To maintain the integrity of our investigations and operations, the location of our aircraft is not disclosed.”

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