Freedom Convoy Organizer Tamara Lich Released on Bail

Freedom Convoy Organizer Tamara Lich Released on Bail
Tamara Lich, an organizer of the Freedom Convoy protest, embraces supporters as she leaves the courthouse in Ottawa after being granted bail, on March 7, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)
Andrew Chen

Tamara Lich, one of the key organizers of the Freedom Convoy that launched a three-week demonstration in Ottawa to oppose federal COVID-19 mandates, has been granted bail by an Ontario court.

Lich was previously denied bail on Feb. 22 by Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois, who said her detention was "necessary for the protection and safety of the public."

Lich's lawyer launched a bail review, arguing that the decision may have been tainted by the fact that Bourgeois ran as a federal Liberal candidate in the 2011 election.

On March 7, Ontario Superior Court Justice Hon. John M. Johnston granted bail to Lich on a $25,000 bond.

In his ruling, Johnston said he found the arguments about Bourgeois' political past had no merit but noted that he did find several other errors of law in the justice's decision.

He said Bourgeois was too subjective when assessing the gravity of the offences, weighing them against the impacts to Ottawa's residents rather than objectively comparing them to other offences in the Criminal Code.

Johnston also said that while Bourgeois determined Lich could serve a lengthy prison sentence of up to 10 years, he himself found it very unlikely she would serve more than two years if convicted.

Johnston said the risk of releasing Lich can be addressed by a new surety put forward by her attorney. The new surety—a family member whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban—has been ordered to post a $20,000 bond. Lich must also post a bond of $5,000.

Court sketch shows Tamara Lich at her bail hearing in Ottawa, on March 7, 2022, as Justice John M. Johnston looks on. (The Canadian Press/Alexandra Newbould)
Court sketch shows Tamara Lich at her bail hearing in Ottawa, on March 7, 2022, as Justice John M. Johnston looks on. (The Canadian Press/Alexandra Newbould)

Lich must abide by several conditions, including having no contact with fellow convoy organizers. She has been ordered to leave Ottawa within 24 hours and the province of Ontario within 72 hours.

After Lich’s arrest on Feb. 17, her supporters said she was a political prisoner, and some rallied over the weekend outside the Ottawa jail where she was being held to demand her release.

That call reached all the way to the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who met with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Monday, was greeted outside 10 Downing Street by protesters holding signs demanding Lich’s release.

Following the Ontario court’s bail announcement on Monday, Lich's supporters gathered outside the courthouse in downtown Ottawa and sang "O Canada" in celebration.

Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, issued a statement on Twitter on March 7 saying that Lich, his constituent, was granted bail "under strict conditions," and the decision overturned the previous ruling to deny her bail, which he said "raised serious concerns regarding judicial bias."
"The fact in this case are clear: Tamara Lich is not a violent criminal, and she has not been charged with a violent crime. Despite this, last week she was perp walked into court wearing shackles, in a clear attempt [to] depict her as a menace to society," he wrote.  "This case underscores the inherent danger that judicial activism poses to the individual rights and freedoms of all Canadian citizens."
John Carpay, the president of Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which has provided legal representation to some of the Freedom Convoy organizers, said he is relieved that Lich has been released from jail, where she had been detained since Feb. 17 after her arrest on charges of counselling to commit mischief.

“The February 22 decision of Justice Bourgeois to keep Tamara Lich in prison was highly unusual, considering that she has no criminal record and was not charged with a violent offence. People accused of drug trafficking, illegal firearms possession and violent offences are routinely granted freedom prior to trial,” Carpay said in a statement on March 7.

The JCCF said since early February, it has provided legal advice and representation to truckers and other protesters “who peacefully exercised their Charter freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in Ottawa.”

The group has also set up a network of criminal defence lawyers to advise and represent those charged with offences.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.