Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich will not be returning to jail, a judge has ruled, after a Crown prosecutor argued in court that she violated her release conditions.
At her two-day bail review last week, the organizer of the Ottawa protest that brought the city to a halt for weeks sought an amendment to the terms of her release to allow her to visit Ontario — and Ottawa, specifically — and to use social media.
The Crown, meanwhile, argued Lich should be back in custody for allegedly violating her bail condition not to support anything related to the convoy and to stay off social media.
On Wednesday, Justice Kevin Phillips ruled he would vary Lich’s bail to allow her to come to Ontario but restrict her from entering Ottawa’s downtown core.
The reason why Lich wants to visit Ottawa is subject to a court-ordered publication ban and cannot be disclosed.
Phillips did reject a request from Lich’s defence lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, to allow her back on social media. He told the court Lich was old enough to have lived at a time without social media, and she could continue to keep in touch with people through other means, such as texting.
Accepting award, wearing Freedom Convoy jewelry not breaching bail
During her bail review, Lich testified she would “love to attend” an event in Toronto in June to accept a freedom award, “however I won’t be breaching my bail conditions in order to do so.”
On March 28, a charity called the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms emailed Lich to notify her she’d been selected for its 2022 George Jonas Freedom Award, she told court.
The email, which she read aloud, said the honour was being given “in recognition of your leadership role in the Freedom Convoy.”
The award announcement on the centre’s website states Lich “took the initiative to help organize a peaceful protest and serve as one of its leaders. The resulting peaceful protest in Ottawa awakened many Canadians to the injustice of Charter-violating lockdowns and mandatory vaccination policies.”
It also states she “suffered for the cause of freedom by spending 18 days unjustly jailed, and exemplifies courage, determination and perseverance.”
The day after receiving the email, Lich emailed back to say she was “honoured” to accept. She didn’t inquire about whether it would be OK, she testified under cross examination by Karimjee.
Asked whether by accepting the award she was supporting something related to the convoy, Lich said, “I guess, yeah. I guess so.
“I don’t feel that this is a breach. I don’t feel that that’s what the recognition is for. … I feel that the recognition is for inspiring Canadians to hold the government to account to the rule of law and to uphold their Charter rights,” she continued.
No connection between award and convoy, judge rules
Phillips told court he accepted Lich’s evidence that there was no connection between the convoy and receiving the award. He agreed the Freedom Convoy is over and that it would be “practicably impossible” to mount a similar protest in the city.
He also said Lich is not responsible for what other people post online, rejecting a Crown submission that she had also violated her social media ban by taking a photo of herself wearing a pendant featuring a truck image and the words “Freedom” and “Canada” emblazoned on it.
Lich sent the photo to the supporter who had given her the pendant, who then posted it on social media.
Phillips also said Lich is not responsible for the actions of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and said “there is significant uncertainty” to the degree to which Lich will be held culpable for her involvement overall with the Freedom Convoy.
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