OTTAWA—Convoy leader Tamara Lich discussed a strategy to “clog” the capital at the start of the protests that paralyzed the streets around Parliament Hill for three weeks this winter, according to evidence presented in court on Tuesday.
Crown attorney Moiz Karimjee presented the evidence, which was obtained through a police search of a cellphone belonging to Chris Barber, another protest organizer charged with Lich on a series of charges related to their role in occupying the convoy.
Lich was back in court on Tuesday for her fourth bail hearing since her initial arrest in February, after being taken into custody again last week for allegedly breaching a condition of her release.
The Jan. 30 text exchange, which was displayed on a large screen in court, showed Lich telling Barber that she had just had a call with the protest’s “command center.”
She goes on to say, “They have a strategy to blockade the city. I don’t want to make these decisions myself. »
Lawrence Greenspon, Lich’s defense attorney, dismissed the text exchange as inconclusive, arguing it shouldn’t prompt the court to agree with Karimjee and overturn Lich’s previous release order. Lich and keep her in jail pending her criminal trial.
Greenspon noted that it was unclear what strategy Lich was referring to, and argued “she doesn’t buy into their strategy…It’s certainly not conclusive that she intended to block or clog the city”.
Karimjee, meanwhile, said the text was the “Crown CN Tower case” against Lich and shows she was a decision-maker in leading the protest.
“She wanted to continue with a stalemate plan to force an elected government to make decisions by shutting down the city of Ottawa,” Karimjee said, describing local residents as “helpless victims.”
The convoy protests – which began when the trucks began arriving on January 28 – eventually entrenched themselves in the capital, with hundreds of tractor-trailers and other vehicles parked along the streets of the city center where protesters set up kitchen tents, a supply depot, bouncy castles and an inflatable. jacuzzi. The situation has sparked border blockades across Canada as Ottawa police reported an increase in death threats against officials and floods of calls that clogged local emergency lines. Ultimately, the federal government granted police and banks temporary special powers under the never-before-used Emergencies Act to deal with the crisis.
The text exchange came to light as the Crown alleges Lich breached her bail conditions when she interacted with Tom Marazzo, a retired army officer and fellow convoy organizer, during a gala in Toronto on June 16. Lich accepted the George Jonas Freedom Award at the event, hosted by the Justice Center for Constitutional Liberties.
Lich was arrested last week in Medicine Hat, Alta. on a Canada-wide warrant and brought back to Ottawa by two local homicide detectives who are investigating her conduct, the court heard Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Karimjee and Greenspon argued over whether Lich’s interaction with Marazzo violated the provision that barred them from “any” contact except through or in the presence of a lawyer.
Greenspon argued that although Lich and Marazzo sat at the same table at the Justice Center gala, the Crown’s evidence on the alleged bail breach only shows that they had a brief interaction on video so that Lich was leaving the stage after accepting the award, along with a photograph. which shows them posing together.
Greenspon said the intent of the bail condition was to prevent communication that could lead to similar behavior that prompted the other charges against Lich — staging another large-scale protest.
“It wasn’t meant to prevent an exchange of congratulations lasting less than three seconds” or to prevent Lich from posing with someone for a photo, Greenspon said.
The fact that this is “all they have”, four months after Lich was released on bail, shows he can be trusted to abide by the terms of his release, he said.
Greenspon also argued that there is no evidence that eliminates the possibility that lawyers were present during the contact between Marazzo and Lich, since an Ottawa police detective who testified in court on Tuesday admitted that he didn’t know some of the others who appeared in the video and photo from the event.
Finally, he noted that Lich had spent nine days in jail for the alleged offence, which he said “far exceeds” anything anyone should expect for someone like Lich, with no criminal record making the subject of non-violent charges.
“Does this court really need to detain Ms. Lich for what she did in Toronto? It’s as simple as that,” Greenspon said.
“Detention on this basis, for what she has done, is not warranted and, in my view, would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”
Karimjee responded that the gala itself, along with Lich’s speech accepting the Freedom Award, amounted to a “glorification of the occupation” of downtown Ottawa. He argued that the evidence from the event was new and should be considered in any further decision to release Lich from prison again.
“Why should we trust him again?” Karimjee said, calling her release on bail a “gift” that she “cut in the mouth”.
Karimjee also pointed to another text exchange between Barber and Lich during the protests, where they discuss past arrests and theft allegations against Pat King, a far-right influencer who was involved in the convoy and is also in jail. for his role. .
King also advanced a racist and unfounded conspiracy theory about replacing white people.
Evidence showed that Lich texted Barber: “We need him and I don’t care about his past. But it only takes one. We have to control his rhetoric.
Karimjee argued that this exchange “reveals that (Lich) is unprincipled and that the end justifies the means.”
Greenspon, meanwhile, said the text message did not materially alter the existing evidence used to grant Lich bail in March. “There’s no charge of conspiracy here,” he said, calling the comment about King “a lot of color, not a lot of substance.
Justice of the Peace Paul Harris is due in court on Friday.