Charges in all provinces tossed against ‘Diagolon’s’ Jeremy MacKenzie

All charges in all provinces against Canadian Forces veteran and controversial podcaster Jeremy MacKenzie have been stayed or withdrawn.

The charges against MacKenzie in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Quebec had piled on as he was labelled the leader of a dangerous militia group by the federal government and media. But his legal battle has taken a dramatic shift as he has been cleared of all charges.

During the inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, Jeremy MacKenzie testified under oath that he created Diagolon as a joke. He said that he came up with the idea of Diagolon as an analytical commentary on current events and politics. Photo by Rosey XI

“Mr. MacKenzie has never been found guilty of any criminal offence,” Toronto defence lawyer Sherif Foda told SaskToday.ca in an email on Wednesday.

“While he once faced 23 criminal counts in five prosecutions that spanned three separate provinces, his record remains unblemished. He has never acknowledged any criminal liability for any of his actions, and was content to enter into peace bonds in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia so he could move on with his life and have his property returned. Mr. MacKenzie is not a violent man, although the government, bad faith actors, and mainstream media went to great lengths to portray him as dangerous. The only ‘record’ Mr. MacKenzie has is one of honourable service for over 14 years in the Canadian Armed Forces.”

On June 5, the final charges against MacKenzie were stayed in a Nova Scotia court.

MacKenzie, and his girlfriend Morgan Guptill had been charged with harassment of Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The charges included criminal harassment, mischief, intimidation of a health professional, and making harassing phone calls.

“Judge Hartlen dismissed the charges against Mr. MacKenzie where he was accused of harassing Dr. Strang,” said Foda. “It was a bittersweet ruling for Mr. MacKenzie. He was confident that he would prevail at trial, but he is also pleased that Judge Hartlen acknowledged the violation of his right to a speedy trial. She also found that police had violated his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure as well as his right to counsel under the Charter. Overall, we are pleased that Mr. MacKenzie can move on with his life without the spectre of false criminal charges hanging over him.”

In August 2023, all Saskatchewan charges against MacKenzie were dismissed. They included assault, pointing a firearm, using a restricted weapon in a careless manner, and mischief. In place of the four charges, a 12-month common law peace bond was issued in Saskatoon Provincial Court between MacKenzie and the complainants. There is a court-ordered ban on identifying the two Saskatchewan complainants against MacKenzie.

Weapons-related charges in Nova Scotia against MacKenzie were withdrawn. The charges against MacKenzie in Quebec were also dismissed.

Now, an abuse of process motion against the Crown Attorney’s Office in Gatineau, Quebec, is underway, alleging serious prosecutorial misconduct during proceedings.

“We are currently pursuing an abuse of process motion against the Crown Attorney’s Office in Gatineau, Quebec, for what we believe was serious prosecutorial misconduct during the proceedings,” said Foda. “We are awaiting a ruling from the Superior Court of Justice on whether the Court has jurisdiction to entertain the motion for costs. The Crown has opposed the motion and has urged the Court to dismiss the application based on procedural grounds, arguing that Mr. MacKenzie should have to sue in civil court instead. We are hopeful the Court will find jurisdiction so we can have a hearing on the merits in criminal court, which we believe would expose wrongdoing by the prosecutor assigned to his case. As for civil litigation, Mr. MacKenzie is currently considering his options.”

Felt targeted

In September 2022, a Canada-wide warrant was issued for MacKenzie’s arrest. He was arrested in Nova Scotia and flown back to Saskatchewan to face charges of assault, pointing a firearm, using a restricted weapon in a careless manner, and mischief. Those charges were stayed.

MacKenzie believes that he was targeted and questions the timing of the charges being laid and having him flown to Saskatchewan on a national warrant.

“A lot of people’s eyebrows were raised about that,” he said in a phone interview. “And I was denied bail. Right? I have no record. And there’s no reason to do this.”

MacKenzie said that the police who transported him on the plane from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan said he would be released right away.  

“Even the cops were like ‘oh you’ll get bail.’ I mean they let murderers out on bail.”

He said when he was arrested, the media acted like they had captured Osama bin Laden.

“It was on the ticker of the local news in Saskatoon. It was in all the newspapers in the jail, and the whole week it’s like ‘the terrorist leader is gonna be interrogated.’

“They flew me out to Saskatoon in ankle chains and wrist chains and belly chains on an RCMP flight with four or five cops like I’m Pablo Escobar,” said MacKenzie. “It was crazy. And, you know, there was a stabbing, or killing at one of the clubs downtown in in Saskatoon where a woman killed another woman and she was out on bail the next day.

“It really felt like I was being treated a little differently than some other people.”

It took two months before MacKenzie was finally granted bail.

Humour to cope with trauma

MacKenzie’s supporters say he is a comedian known for his satirical and humorous takes on social and political issues and his controversial statements and actions are part of his comedic persona, rather than indicative of any real-world threats.

“He’s very good for morale,” said Dr. Matt Tucker, a military doctor who got to know MacKenzie when he was stationed on the same base.

“You know, in the military, you deal with a lot of situations and a lot of things that are beyond the experience for most people,” Dr. Tucker previously told SaskToday in a phone interview from his home in New Brunswick. “Sometimes you need a certain kind of a sense of humour to cope with that and sometimes you need a certain kind of a person to be able to supply that kind of humour.

“Jeremy’s the kind of guy that you sometimes find in the military who has that certain sense of humour. He’s what we call a morale raiser. Not everybody’s going to understand this kind of humour. Not everybody’s going to appreciate it.”

Likewise, the late Peter Kitto, who was a trauma counsellor for veterans, law enforcement, and emergency responders, told SaskToday that MacKenzie’s dark humour kept many from putting a gun in their mouth.

“Jeremy’s message was bang on, what these guys needed.”

In MacKenzie’s message, men and women found their friends.

“We have a lot of people that are suffering with their trauma issues, mental health issues, that aren’t getting treatment, but the weekly support that they get from just connecting with other veterans and other like-minded individuals is saving lives. It’s tremendous.

“They’re all fans and they get to talk with each other within the community mostly until they’re comfortable meeting face-to-face. They get to talk with others that are going through similar stages in their lives and it’s amazing. It’s just amazing to see that hope being restored to these people. And the common denominator is Jeremy’s humour and his rage.

“They’re not putting a gun in their mouth,” he added. “How do you reach people in that state? Jeremy did it. He’s inspired Veterans 4 Freedom to be essentially Legion 2.0 because the Canadian Legion has lost its purpose with the current crop of veterans.”

Chet Chisholm, a paramedic in Nova Scotia, who has dealt with job-induced PTSD, listened to MacKenzie’s podcasts and met him in person. From his experience, paramedics, law enforcement, firefighters, veterans, and nurses tend to use dark humour to deal with trauma.

“The average person, fortunately, doesn’t see a lot of what we see or what we go through. In my line of work, if you heard the jokes the paramedics make, you’d never call 911 again.”

Warning: Details may be very disturbing to some readers

Humour to cope with horrors of war

MacKenzie was a 15-year-old high school student when the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings in New York on 9/11. As he watched the terror unfold, that’s when he knew he wanted to join the army to protect his country.

“I was watching all this at 15 years old and thought I had an obligation to defend my people from attackers,” MacKenzie previously told SaskToday.ca in a phone interview.

At 17 he enlisted and by the age of 20 he was deployed to Afghanistan. He was an infantry non-commissioned officer and was with the elite Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. A master corporal is a non-commissioned officer or NCO, hence the phrase of calling them an NCO, said MacKenzie.

Twenty-seven men were killed during MacKenzie’s deployment. Seven of them were his close friends.

“The six or seven months in Afghanistan had some significant conflict,” said MacKenzie. “I think we had around 27 killed and over double that wounded from our battle group while I was there. Nearly one-quarter of my platoon was killed including both my roommates Chris Stannix and Kevin Kennedy.”

On April 8, 2007, Master Cpl. Christopher Stannix, 24, and Private Kevin Vincent Kennedy, 20, were killed in Afghanistan. They were two of the six soldiers who died when their LAV II struck a roadside bomb west of Kandahar City. Body parts were strewn at the site; a boot with a foot still in it, a piece of a rifle.

In July 2007, after a battle, MacKenzie and his fireteam provided first-aid to wounded Afghan security forces and Taliban. One of the injured was a 13-year-old boy whose legs were blown apart. He had deep wounds in his chest and abdomen and his left foot was under his head in a deformed, bloody mess. Splinters of his bones were everywhere and his burned flesh looked like cooked meat. MacKenzie said it took him a long time before he could eat roast beef again.

The translator told the Canadian soldiers that the boy was begging them to fix him up.

They couldn’t.

MacKenzie sat with the boy, feeling helpless as he watched him die a slow, agonizing death in the scorching Afghanistan sun waiting for a helicopter that arrived too late.

MacKenzie often wonders what the boy’s name was and if his parents ever found out what happened to him.

This is just one horrific death he witnessed that haunts him.

In another battle, an RPG-7 – used to blow up tanks and personnel carriers – headed straight towards MacKenzie. He only had half-a-second to duck for cover behind an olive tree, which absorbed most of the explosion. He survived but is now legally deaf in his left ear.

The first time MacKenzie found himself in a sustained gun fight, it was terrifying and he found himself laughing at what he described as the extreme absurdity.

“I was just like, ‘this is absurd, this whole situation is crazy, how am I here now? How are there people shooting machine guns?’ You can laugh or you can cry when you when you have situations like that and one of those attitudes will carry you forward and the other one is going to keep you right where you’re at,” said MacKenzie. “Humour kind of helps to process it or makes it a way for your brain to kind of go through it.”

Humour was how he coped.

It’s no surprise MacKenzie used humour to deal with being in combat and seeing the brutality of war. Throughout his school years, he was always the class clown, cracking jokes.

“I always did voices and impression,” said MacKenzie. “I would make fun of the teachers and you know, do impressions of them. I did the same in the army. It just got me laughs and people would like me for it, and it would make me friends. So, it was just how I learned to socialize. I make fun of all kinds of things and I think it makes life more interesting.”

In fact, when MacKenzie was a baby, his great-grandmother told his mother, “He’s going to be a comedian.”

“My mom told me that when I was a kid, and I was like, ‘the insight of a great-grandmother, right?’”

MacKenzie was stationed in Germany and the United Arab Emirates. He trained soldiers in Jamaica and participated in exchange programs with the U.S. Marines. He explained that he was attach posted to CANSOFCOM in 2009-10 while on the special operator course after completing the selection phase.

“I was embedded with my company into 2nd battalion, third marines for nearly two months in 2010,” said MacKenzie.

After 14-and-a-half years, Master Corporal MacKenzie retired from the military, a decorated soldier. He received the Sacrifice Medal, which is a version of the U.S. Purple Heart. The Sacrifice Medal was created in 2008 and recognizes soldiers who were killed, or seriously wounded, under honourable circumstances that was the result of hostile action.

He also received a general campaign star from the Afghanistan war and a Canadian Forces decoration for more than 12 years of service with a spotless record.

MacKenzie said when his podcast fans tell him he seems to understand how they feel, he tells them, “It’s because I am you. You are me, and we came from the same place. We went to hell. And now we’re here.”

Preventing suicides

MacKenzie has lost count of how many army buddies he has lost to suicide. He estimates about 20.

Unable to process or deal with the trauma, many veterans and first responders commit suicide, said Chisholm.

Kitto said those with PTSD are stigmatized, suffer in silence, and it’s difficult to connect them with resources, treatment. He added that many can’t make connections to “so-called professionals, mental health experts, but they can connect with their peers.”

There are a lot of assumptions made about veterans, which results in them being stereotyped and stigmatized.

“It shows in how Jeremy was treated by the media, and by others with other agendas,” said Kitto.

This results in feeling betrayed, he said. 

“Betrayal has probably the most psychological effect on a human being. So then, people like Jeremy, they come back, they feel betrayed by the government. And essentially, that’s what you’re seeing with his response, a reaction to betrayal. It’s unjust and it’s an obvious betrayal.”

When veterans return from war, they feel discarded by society and are treated with complacency, ignorance, disrespect, and in some cases, outright disdain, said MacKenzie. After returning from combat, MacKenzie felt betrayed by the Canadian government and the Canadian Armed Forces for their treatment of veterans. That anger and rage is evident in his podcast under the name Raging Dissident. He jokes that listeners have to be f***** up to appreciate his humour.

Diagolon

In 2020, MacKenzie came to Saskatchewan from Nova Scotia and had only planned on staying a couple of weeks but then COVID-19 lockdowns happened so he ended up living here for two to three years.

“There were no mandates and stuff for a while and the people were more Conservative so I just liked it there,” said MacKenzie about Saskatchewan.

It was during this time that MacKenzie came up with the idea of Diagolon.

“More of the Conservative provinces and the Republican states were not going along with lockdowns at the time.”

From his imagination, MacKenzie came up with “Diagolon,” a fictitious country in a parallel universe and used it as an analytical commentary on current events and politics.

He said he had noticed that Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Alaska, along with the Mid-Western states of Texas, Florida, South Dakota, formed a geographical diagonal line of states and provinces that resisted federal government-imposed mandates and they were traditionally Conservative provinces and states.

“I kind of found it amusing that there was this kind of geographical divide,” he said.

He then created the “Diagolon” flag on his cell phone and it became a symbol of his podcast.

The vice-president of Diagolon was a cocaine-addicted, time-travelling goat named King Phillip. Diagolon was at war with “Circulon.”

Bees were bred to terrorize Diagolon’s enemies and a bee, Jeffrey, died in a kamikaze mission when he was swallowed by Doug Ford during a press conference.

Diagolon had capital punishment. During game show hypothetical executions, in “Dumpster Toss” someone is tossed from a tall building into a dumpster. Then there’s “Torn Apart by Wolves” where the accused is put on an iceberg with hungry wolves. In “Gun or Rope,” spectators get to choose between a firing squad or the gallows.

The game show portions of MacKenzie’s podcasts didn’t last too long. They were soon taken as “evidence” that MacKenzie and Diagolon were promoting violence.

MacKenzie, however, thought it was self-evident that Diagolon was a joke.

It seems that the RCMP didn’t perceive Diagolon as a group, a militia, or a security threat.

“Diagolon does not pose a criminal or national security threat,” said the RCMP. “The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) is cited as the main authority on the group by all mainstream media outlets; due to the fact that all information traces back to one source, triangulation and the verification of facts is almost impossible at the current time.”

MacKenzie, said that, as a joke, he egged on the media to sensationalize Diagolon – and they took the bait.

In November 2021, Jeremy circulated a group photo taken at a family barbecue in Viscount, Saskatchewan. The photo showed masked men with hunting rifles and the Diagolon flag. The Saskatchewan media took the photo and used it as proof that Diagolon was a militia. In response, on social media, MacKenzie posted, “I guess we’re a militia now.”

About the guns and the group photo, MacKenzie said that hunting is a normal activity in Western Canada.

“Some guys shoot their guns, they go hunting, whatever,” he said.

The friends and family members had get-togethers on rural land with men, women, and children.

“There were a couple of guys on the property that had some shotguns so we’re like, OK, we’re gonna take this picture.”

MacKenzie posted it to social media and put “redacted” over everyone’s eyes.

“It was a joke,” he said, adding that he wanted to make it look like the photo had come from a CIA dossier.

He said he thought there was “an outside chance” that someone in the media would take the photo, which they did and called it a militia training camp.

“I started laughing,” said MacKenzie when he saw it.

“No one’s really interested in hearing my side of anything,” he said, adding that no media had ever called him to ask for his version. “They just kind of played this crazy game of telephone. And it just got more and more insane as time went on.”

In November 2022, during the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) inquiry into the federal Liberal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, MacKenzie’s lawyer, Sherif Foda pointed out that two days after the Emergencies Act was invoked, there was an article in the Globe and Mail quoting Mendicino, which was later proven to have referred to Diagolon.

Mendicino had said: “It could have been deadly for citizens, protesters, and officers. We need to be clear-eyed about the seriousness of these incidents and indeed several of the individuals at Coutts have strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa.”

On Feb. 14, 2022, the federal government invoked the never-before used Emergencies Act largely because of Diagolon’s perceived threat to national security. After invoking the Emergencies Act, then Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino, told reporters: “Several individuals at Coutts have strong ties to a far-right organization with leaders who are in Ottawa.”

Independent journalist Caryma Sa’d, who is also a lawyer, had attended the POEC inquiry and said Diagolon seemed to play a big role in the use of the Emergencies Act.

“There were a number of factors that the commissioner identified as warranting the Emergencies Act but I do think (Diagolon) was a big part of it. Diagolon was a thread that appeared woven throughout.”

Sa’d said that MacKenzie had never been to Coutts and wasn’t in communication with any of the accused leading up to their arrest. In fact, numerous videos played at the POEC inquiry showed MacKenzie urging all of his Diagolon fans to remain peaceful during the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa.

Not a militia

When Dr. Tucker watched as the media portrayed MacKenzie as a terrorist and a security threat, he was flabbergasted.

“I thought it was a bit ridiculous. I was taken aback. I mean, listen, and can I say this? I’ll be honest with you because I know you work for the media and I don’t mean this to be offensive in any way, but I, like a lot of people who have been in the military, have not been a huge fan necessarily of the media at all times. But I never expected anything like that. You know what I mean? I just thought it was crazy. I was like, this isn’t the person that I know.”

Kitto said the media and the government needed a boogeyman and they found one in MacKenzie.

“It was just laughable,” said Kitto. “It’s just incredible to speculate that all these guys (Diagolon fans) have a hidden agenda, and they’re just using humour to cover it up. Like, OK, where’s the secret bases? Where’s the training facilities? Where’s the membership? It’s just absolutely laughable. That’s a joke in itself.”

MacKenzie admits that his humour rubs some the wrong way.

“I have a superpower of being able to get under people’s skin,” joked MacKenzie. “I’m not sure why. Is it the cadence or tone of my voice? I don’t know exactly what it is but for some reason, when I piss people off, they really hate me for a long time.”

Dr. Tucker said most people have the capacity to imagine being in a certain situation and they should put themselves in the shoes of someone who has been through what military veterans have been through.

“How would you deal with it? What coping mechanisms would you use to try and deal with these things?” he asked. “I think if you try and do that you might have a greater appreciation of why these guys can seem a little bit outside of the mainstream.

“I would encourage people not to prejudge a person like Jeremy until they understand what he’s all about,” said Dr. Tucker. 

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