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As three men await sentencing following guilty verdicts for their role in the Coutts border blockade, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says people can’t block critical infrastructure to protest — no matter their political ideology. 

After a few hours of deliberation Tuesday night, Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen were found guilty of mischief over $5,000 by a jury. They face up to 10 years in jail and the judge’s sentencing is expected this summer. 

In an exclusive interview with True North released Saturday, Smith said the Critical Infrastructure Act means protesters cannot block bridges, railways or highways no matter whether they’re on the left or the right. 

“I think that this is a caution,” she said. “There’s a way to be able to make your point known, there’s a way to be able to advocate, but you can’t block critical infrastructure.” 

Van Huigenbos responded on X telling Smith that the trio wasn’t charged under the Infrastructure Defense Act, but was charged with mischief. He also said that Coutts protesters weren’t there because of a political ideology.

“Tens of thousands of albertans (including members of YOUR  @UCPCaucus) went to Coutts because government had lost their %#$& minds,” he wrote.

The Coutts border protest was a two-week blockade on Highway 4 at Coutts, a village on the Canada-U.S. border.

It emerged alongside the Freedom Convoy, which saw truckers plug up the streets around Parliament Hill in Ottawa for three weeks in January and February of 2022. Protesters there were forcibly removed by police and some organizers had their bank accounts frozen following the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act. 

Just after Smith won the United Conservative Party leadership and became premier in October 2022, she said she was seeking legal advice on granting amnesty to individuals and businesses fined for violating Alberta’s Covid restrictions.

“I think it can be a political decision to make amends and apologize for them and eliminate them,” Smith told the media at the UCP annual general meeting at the time. 

In January, Smith said she wouldn’t be able to offer amnesty to those prosecuted for Covid restrictions because Canada’s judicial system is separate from the legislative branch of government. 

The Coutts Three are separate from the Coutts Four, referring to men charged with conspiracy to commit murder. In February, two of those men pleaded guilty to lesser offences. A trial for the other two is scheduled for May.