After returning for just one day in the new year, a judge has halted the trial of Freedom Convoy leaders Tamara Lich and Chris Barber.
The trial has already exceeded its originally planned duration by months, leading to the need for rescheduling. The court must now determine a future date for the resumption of the trial.
Initially slated to conclude within 16 days, the trial, which began on September 5, 2023, has faced numerous delays. Contributing to the delays was the extensive time the Crown required to call up witnesses and the defence’s challenge to a $290 million class-action lawsuit filed by Ottawa residents against the convoy leaders, which their lawyers said was designed to “silence” the leaders’ right to free expression.
The most recent session, the sole one scheduled for 2024, focused on the contentious debate about the admissibility of transcripts from a February 2022 injunction hearing when the protest was still ongoing.
“We heard submissions from both the Crown and the defence regarding the admissibility of the February 2022 injunction hearing transcripts,” wrote The Democracy Fund, responsible for crowdfunding Lich’s legal expenses, in their Day 34 trial update.
According to the legal group, the defence counsel tried to have the transcripts admitted to the record, which was contested by the Crown.
Diane Magas, the defence lawyer for Chris Barber, shared parts from both injunction hearings in court arguing they should be part of the official record. She highlighted the need to understand the context behind the injunction judge’s comments, explaining his acceptance or rejection of certain terms.
Magas emphasized that the hearings’ transcripts showed if someone broke the injunction, it would be treated as a civil issue, not a criminal one. She also mentioned the judge’s decision allowing people in Ottawa to keep protesting even after the injunction was issued.
Lawrence Greenspon, Lich’s lawyer, focused on earlier submissions made during the 2022 injunction hearing, highlighting that it was solely about honking and noise.
“Greenspon highlighted the injunction judge’s remark that there was ‘no evidence of any breach,’ emphasizing the credibility of a superior court judge who heard experienced counsel’s submissions,” said The Democracy Fund
After hearing the submissions made by the defence counsel, the Crown reversed its stance, agreeing to provide the full transcript to Justice Heather Perkins-McVey for context.
The Crown emphasized the injunction judge’s statement that the sole issue before him was honking horns, providing context to Greenspon’s “no evidence of breach” quote.
According to the account of courtroom proceedings, the Crown suggested that the injunction judge referred only to a lack of evidence regarding honking horns, not a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.
Counsel will meet next week with trial coordinators to schedule day 35 of the proceedings.
The crown has remained determined to prove that Lich and Barber influenced protestors’ actions through their words, suggesting a co-conspiracy. The defence has dismissed this accusation as unsubstantial.
Lich and Barber are facing several charges related to the 2022 protests, including mischief, counselling mischief, counselling intimidation, and obstructing police for taking part in and organizing the anti-mandate Freedom Convoy.
Lich was jailed for weeks while awaiting bail.