Eight Ottawa residents are scheduled to testify in the trial of Freedom Convoy organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, according to a decision made on Wednesday by the presiding judge.
Lich and Barber are facing charges for their role in organizing the Freedom Convoy protest against Covid-19 mandates that took place for almost three weeks in Ottawa in February 2022.
Lawrence Greenspon, who is representing Lich, asked that Ottawa locals not be permitted to testify, arguing that their testimony was not relevant to the case.
Both Lich and Barber previously signed admissions that public transit in certain areas of the city were interfered with as a result of some protesters and that this prevented the lawful use and enjoyment of property and businesses during the protest.
The defence is not allowed to force the Crown to accept the admissions and therefore witnesses will be allowed to testify, ruled Justice Heather Perkins-McVey.
Perkins-McVey said that refusing the testimony of locals would “unfairly or irreparably cause damage” to the Crown’s discretion regarding what they call as evidence.
She said that she would ensure that their testimonies would be relevant to the charges faced by Lich and Barber, instead of becoming victim-impact statements about how those testifying were personally impacted by the Freedom Convoy.
In lieu of this decision, the Crown plans to call Ottawa residents witnesses to testify what their experiences were like during the protest.
Residents include the owner of a women’s clothing boutique, an employee of the city’s public transit operator OC Transpo and an employee from the National Arts Centre.
Witnesses will testify as to how certain protesters affected people in the streets, through disruptions and alleged intimidation.
The lead plaintiff is Zexi Li, who filed a class-action lawsuit against the Freedom Convoy organizers on behalf of people who live and work in Ottawa’s downtown. She also went to court to get an injunction against horn honking during the protest.
Li also gave witness testimony during the federal government’s inquiry into the use of invoking the Emergencies Act.
Ottawa residents are expected to testify, starting on Thursday.
Lich and Barber are both charged with mischief and counseling others to commit mischief and intimidation, as well as several other charges.
The trial first began in September and ran for 13 days before taking a break and resuming Wednesday.