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Man who allegedly crashed truck through Rideau Hall's gate with four guns is soldier troubled by COVID conspiracies

The RCMP won’t say what their officers talked about for an hour and a half with an armed intruder, crouched beside the greenhouse on the Rideau Hall property where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lives, but it’s easy to see how it could have been cordial.

It is equally easy to see how it might have been dark and bizarre.

Corey Hurren, 46, who grew up a farm boy in rural Manitoba, is a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces, the military confirmed.

He is also the owner of a small meat company with a flagship garlic jalapeno sausage he is proud of. A father and a member of the local Lions Club, he was described as “a community-minded personality” in the local paper, back when his only notoriety was how spicy his “Ring of Fire” sausages were.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its emergency restrictions brought considerable change to Hurren — to his work, his military life, his public pastimes and, perhaps, his state of mind.

His social media history suggest a deteriorating response to the pandemic. He moves from jokes of hoarding toilet paper and making masks out of strips of bacon to dissatisfaction with Trudeau’s compensation plan, imagery of apocalyptic anarchy and an embrace of paranoid conspiracy theories pushed by fringe online groups.

Hurren apparently drove from his home in Bowsman, in northern Manitoba, to Ottawa, carrying four guns, ammunition and what appeared to be military food rations.

Shortly before he crashed his Dodge Ram pickup truck through the heavy gates around Rideau Hall early Thursday, a conspiracy theory meme supporting the notion that global elites purposely launched the novel coronavirus, was posted to his meat company’s Instagram account.

If Hurren himself posted that less than an hour before the point of no return on a life-changing, and potentially life-ending, mission, it suggests the issue weighed heavy on his mind.

Talking to the RCMP in an armed standoff on the restricted grounds of the Queen’s official residence in Ottawa is a long way from his family farm roots.

Growing up in nature

Hurren grew up surrounded by wilderness and provincial parks, outside of Birch River, 520 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. On his family’s farm they raised animals and hunted and fished for food, including bison, he said in a news interview for the local paper when his meat company was launching in 2018.

He attended Swan Valley Regional Secondary School in Swan River, Man., followed by computer and information sciences programs at both Red River College in Winnipeg and Brandon University, according to his LinkedIn page.

Hurren first enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces in April, 1997, as part of the primary reserve with the 10th Field Artillery Regiment in Regina, Sask. He was released from the military in October, 2000, with the rank of corporal, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.

He re-enrolled in the military as a member of the Canadian Rangers and currently is with the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, a primarily aboriginal Canadian Forces reserve unit of members who live and patrol remote northern communities. Hurren said on Facebook he worked with military headquarters in Winnipeg on the creation of the new Ranger unit and was named second-in-command of the patrol.

Proud of his experience as a bushman since his childhood, Hurren said he helped teach wilderness survival to other members of the military and the RCMP.

Then COVID-19 happened

COVID changed the nature of his work with the military.

As part of Operation Laser, the Canadian military’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurren was put on call, meaning he switched to full-time service. Under a military Class C contract, he did full-time work with the same pay and benefits as Regular Force members.

“He was considered ‘on duty’ at the time of the incident on 2 July as he was supporting Operation Laser,” the military said in a statement.

Hurren, who had the rank of master corporal, travelled to Ottawa of his own accord without the knowledge of his chain of command, the statement said. There is no indication any of the guns Hurren may have had with him when arrested in Ottawa were Canadian Forces weapons. The rifle he was issued is still in the possession of the Canadian Rangers, the military said.

Hurren spent 20 years working in the meat industry, including at the Maple Leaf bacon plant in North Battleford, Sask., he said.

He moved back to northern Manitoba in 2001 when his father became sick, he told a reporter with the Star and Times in Swan River, Man., in 2018. Hurren turned his passion for cooking meat into a fledgling business in 2014, starting GrindHouse Fine Foods, a cured meat and sausage company.

He had ambition for GrindHouse and his Ring of Fire specialty, boasting of having his sausage served inside the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ stadium and tickling the palette of celebrity investor Arlene Dickinson, of Dragon’s Den fame.

Hurren said he met Dickinson at a public agricultural event and asked if she liked spicy food and offered her a sample. “She said she did and would try the Ring of Fire on the plane,” he said in the 2018 interview. The next day, he said, he heard from District Ventures Capital, Dickinson’s food themed business accelerator.

Dickinson confirmed her passing contact with Hurren.

“Arlene was a speaker at the Farm Credit Canada Forum where she gave advice to Canadian entrepreneurs. Like many events she participates in, Arlene met with participants and posed for pictures after her speech,” said Jerry Nasr, a spokesman. District Ventures did request more information about GrindHouse, but nothing came of it, Nasr said, and “no relationship has ever existed” between them.

Hurren was distributing his products through grocery stores, with his business hurt by pandemic restrictions.

Along the way, social media posts on several platforms linked to Hurren expressed concern about the pandemic and its possible origins.

Dabbling in QAnon

The accounts openly shared an interest in QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory linking current events into a pattern of malevolent deception by global elites.

Using the GrindHouse account, he posted a QAnon meme in March, and asked in his own caption, “Has anyone else been following ‘Q’ and the ‘White Rabbit’ down the rabbit hole and how this all relates to the Corona virus/COVID-19 situation?

“Lots of coincidences in all these ‘Q’ posts if this turns out to be a “Nothingburger,” the post said. He then used a litany of hashtags popular with QAnon followers, including #Redpill #Pizzagate and #Followthewhiterabbit.

If the social media footprint linked to Hurren is an accurate indication, the pandemic seems to be having a darker impact on some Canadians than others.

Paranoia over the pandemic was also a feature of Gabriel Wortman’s behaviour, shortly before he started his murderous rampage of 22 people across northern Nova Scotia in April, according to RCMP documents in the investigation of Canada’s worst mass murder.

Hurren was charged Friday with 22 criminal offenses: one of uttering threats, the rest relating to his four firearms and ammunition brought into the Rideau grounds.

With files from David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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