Several Freedom Convoy protesters, buoyed by a recent victory in Canadian federal court, said they’re preparing to sue the federal government, banks, and the police that brought the 2022 protest to a heated end.
“I think it’s the second phase to what took place with the federal court case,” military veteran and plaintiff Eddie Cornell said. “We’ve got a big hill to climb, but it’s something that’s necessary. It has to be done.”
The government’s use of the act did “not bear the hallmarks of reasonableness—justification, transparency and intelligibility—and was not justified in relation to the relevant factual and legal constraints that were required to be taken into consideration,” Justice Mosley wrote in his ruling.
Alberta contractor Jeremiah Jost, who, alongside his wife, drove to Ottawa as part of the convoy, said he was “incredibly encouraged by Justice Mosley’s ruling and his courage to put his neck out.”
The ruling has likely given hope to Canadians who are upset with the country’s justice system, he said.
The Freedom Convoy, a protest response to a federal mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for truck drivers crossing the Canada–U.S. border, resulted in an encampment of large trucks in the nation’s capital in early 2022.
The emergency measure also allowed the national police force—the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)—to provide banks and other financial institutions with a list of individuals and entities involved in the protests and to ask them to freeze the accounts of those on the list.
The action to freeze bank accounts was “not minimally impairing,” the judge said, as the measure applied everywhere in Canada—including in areas where no protests were occurring—and because there were “less impairing alternatives available” to Ottawa.
“We respect very much Canada’s independent judiciary. However, we do not agree with this decision. And respectfully, we will be appealing it,” she said on Jan. 23.
Lawsuits Against Government, BanksJustice Mosley’s decision was ultimately the result of court action by five plaintiffs who participated in the protest, two of whom had their bank accounts frozen.
He said his team has established an initiative called “The Accountability Project” to fundraise for the planned lawsuit. The legal team, which is currently being assembled, will decide whether the litigation will take the form of a class-action or a tort suit.
“They want to make sure that they get it done correctly. We have complete faith in the team, because these are the guys that actually were successful with this Federal Court challenge,” Mr. Cornell said.
“I’m just hoping that Canadians will stand up and support this initiative.”
While Justice Mosley ruled that Mr. Jost lacked standing to challenge the Emergencies Act decision and ultimately dismissed his application, Mr. Jost said he was pleased to still provide video and first-hand evidence.
“I was able to be there and testify that they were filming all of us. There were snipers on the roof. They had guns, batons, rubber bullets, and pepper spray, and all those things. And they were snatching people and beating people,” he said.
‘Something Historical’Mr. Gircys, who assisted with the logistics and coordination for the Ottawa protest, said he was in “disbelief” when city police moved in to evict the protesters from the downtown core.
“The event was peaceful, and I would never believe that our police agencies would move on peaceful protesters,” he said.
A former forensic investigator with the Ontario Provincial Police, Mr. Gircys said he had observed what was happening in regard to the vaccine mandates and travel restrictions, and as the trucker convoy converged on the nation’s capital, he felt he had to go see it for himself.
“I thought this could be something historical,” he said.
“When we arrived—and my intention was just to stay one night and head back—I could not believe how big this was, how many people were there, just how huge this event was and how incredibly happy and jovial everybody was to come together from one end of the country to the other.”
Mr. Gircys, who is based in the Toronto area and had traveled to Ottawa with his son, said he had to drive his son back to Toronto but then returned to the capital and stayed for the protest.
He said citizens came together “organically” to ensure that necessary services such as restrooms, first-aid stations, and access to fuel were provided.
“My observations with all those that I engaged with, was that this was a very peaceful event,” he said. “I’ve never seen this much unity in our country, as I had never seen such a large group of people being as happy as they were. And yet I’m constantly, every evening, observing on the news reporting that ’this was a violent, hateful group,' and nothing could be further from the truth. This was complete propaganda.”
Mr. Gircys said that after the Emergencies Act was invoked, he heard that some individuals’ bank accounts had been frozen. Then it happened to him.
He said he was able to get some money “through the goodness and kindness around me” to fuel his vehicle to get home.
“They’re violating rights on a massive scale in a number of ways, and eventually, they moved in with police en masse again,” he said.
“Having been a former police officer with 32 years of service, and having spent time in emergency management as a member of the Emergency Response Team, I’m very aware of what was about to take place from the policing side.
“I was in disbelief that this would actually be happening, because the event was peaceful,” he said.
Court Ruling Has ‘Teeth’Chris Barber, one of the Freedom Convoy’s lead organizers, said Justice Mosley’s ruling is a “step in the right direction” and will help many Canadians see how “the government trampled on us during the protests.”
He called the Cabinet’s intention to appeal the ruling “vindictive.”
“There’s a lot of people out there right now that are seeing just how motivated this government is toward destroying Canadian citizens and anyone who stands up against what they’re doing to us right now. So I think it’s eye-opening,” he said.
Mr. Barber said the recent ruling “definitely will help our case,” which began in September 2023 and is likely to stretch into the summer.
Another convoy organizer, Tom Marazzo, who is a former military member, told The Epoch Times that unlike the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC), which found in the federal government’s favor for invoking the act, the recent federal court ruling has “teeth” and “holds the government accountable for what it did in a court of law.”
After the Emergencies Act was invoked, as required by law, the POEC was formed to evaluate if its use was justified. It was overseen by Justice Paul Rouleau, who was appointed as commissioner. The commission isn’t a court of law, but rather an inquiry whose report is presented to Parliament.
Mr. Marazzo said he wasn’t surprised that the federal government made the “political decision” to appeal Justice Mosley’s ruling.
“I don’t personally see that they have a choice. What they’re going to try to do is frame a narrative to make this decision a question mark in the minds of voters,” he said.
“Because if they accept defeat, and they don’t challenge that, it’s like accepting a ruling that somehow the Liberals have done something wrong.”
Marco Van Huigenbos, a town councilman for Fort Macleod, Alberta, who became an unofficial spokesperson for the Freedom Convoy protest in Coutts, Alberta, said that in addition to showing that Ottawa erred in invoking the Emergencies Act, the federal court ruling changes the Canadian public’s perception around the protest and challenges the “narrative the media initially spun.”
“For many people facing the courts, like myself, being that the public is the jury pool, this changes the attitude as a whole. Even if you’re completely opposed to it, you’re now thinking, ‘Maybe it wasn’t what they see, maybe the government was out of line,’” Mr. Van Huigenbos said.
“For those who knew all along that there was complete mismanagement, a lack of communication between levels of government, and a desire to squash this [protest] instead of communicate, it’s now become mainstream. That’s now the narrative.”
Civil Liberties Groups Support RulingTwo civil liberties groups, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), had argued in the court case that the Liberal government didn’t meet the legal threshold to invoke the Emergencies Act.
CCF litigation director Christine Van Geyn said she was “thrilled” with Justice Mosley’s decision.
Ms. Van Geyn said the federal Cabinet will have a “mountain to climb” to appeal the ruling, and that her organization “looks forward to the fight.”
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, CCLA’s executive director and general counsel, said the federal court agreed with her group’s argument that the threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act is “extremely high” and that Ottawa failed to demonstrate there were threats to the security of Canada that justified its invocation.
James Manson, director of legal services at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), told The Epoch Times that the court decision has given his organization “a measure of encouragement” and “a clear message that the charter of rights is still in existence and does still mean something.”
“It gives us a little bit of encouragement to keep going and to have faith that while this may be a long road, we are headed in the right direction.”