Freedom Convoy Organizers Lich and Barber to Face Trial in Early September

Freedom Convoy Organizers Lich and Barber to Face Trial in Early September
Freedom Convoy organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber wait for the Public Order Emergency Commission hearing to begin, in Ottawa on Nov. 1, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Matthew Horwood

Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, central figures in the Freedom Convoy protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and health restrictions, will face trial in Ottawa starting next week.

Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber were two of the most prominent organizers of the February 2022 protest that saw hundreds of vehicles bring downtown Ottawa to a grinding halt. They will be the first members of the convoy organizing committee to stand trial beginning on Sept. 5.

The trial, which will be held at the Ottawa Courthouse just two blocks from the epicentre of the trucker protest, is expected to last at least 16 days.

Mr. Barber, who owns a trucking company in Saskatchewan, told The Epoch Times he believes the trial will be "entertaining."

"Very exciting to stand again with Tamara and get this over with. We did nothing but bring a voice to Canadians and give hope," he said.

Lich Repeatedly Denied Bail 

The Freedom Convoy, which began in response to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border, resulted in encampments in the nation's capital and the blockade of several U.S. border crossings across the country.

The Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time since its creation on Feb. 14, 2022, giving the federal government more powers, including the ability to ban travel to specified zones and freeze protesters' bank accounts.

A Public Order Emergency Commission was later held to examine the legality and appropriateness of the invocation of the Emergencies Act. Commissioner Paul Rouleau ruled that the federal government met the "very high" threshold to invoke the act, saying that a lawful protest "descended into lawlessness, culminating in a national emergency."

On Feb. 17, 2022, a day before police stepped in to end the demonstration in downtown Ottawa, both Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber were arrested. Both were charged with counselling to commit mischief, counselling to disobey a court order, counselling to obstruct police, and mischief that interferes with the use and enjoyment of property.

While Mr. Barber was released on bail the day after the arrests, Ms. Lich remained in custody and was denied bail on Feb. 22, 2022. Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois said Ms. Lich's release would pose a risk to the "physical, mental and financial health and well-being" of Ottawa residents if she were to try to rekindle the protest.

Ms. Lich was held for nearly a month, but following an appeal and a March 2, 2022, bail review hearing, Ms. Lich was released from an Ottawa jail on March 7, 2022.

Ms. Lich was re-arrested in June 2022 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, for allegedly breaching her bail conditions because of her brief congratulatory interaction with fellow convoy organizer Tom Marazzo at an awards gala hosted by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms in Toronto on June 16 that year.

On July 8, 2022, Justice of the Peace Paul Harris told Ms. Lich that her continued detention was "necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice." But on July 26, 2022, Ontario Superior Court Justice Andrew Goodman ruled the previous order for her detainment was “inappropriate" and ordered her release on bail once again.

Honking Ban

On April 24, 2023, Mr. Barber pleaded not guilty to a new criminal charge of counselling others to disobey a court order in February 2022. The charge followed a Feb. 9, 2022, incident when Mr. Barber posted a TikTok video allegedly encouraging protesters to defy a court injunction granted two days earlier banning the use of vehicle horns in downtown Ottawa.

In the video, Mr. Barber can be heard instructing that if protesters see "police coming toward your truck," they should "grab that horn switch and don't let go."

Ahead of next week's trial, Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber continue to be under strict instructions from the court not to communicate with one another or other convoy organizers unless under the supervision of their lawyers.

Lawrence Greenspon, who represents Ms. Lich, argued in court in July 2023 that the legal proceedings for Ms. Lich should only focus on the evidence of her case and not be a trial of the Freedom Convoy protest itself.
Justice Heather E. Perkins-McVey said she recognized the trial had the "capability of getting out of control," and encouraged all lawyers to work together and avoid unnecessary conflict. "I'm going to ensure this matter stays on track," she said.