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No evidence to support conspiracy between 'Freedom Convoy' organizers: defence

OTTAWA — There's no evidence to support that Tamara Lich and a fellow "Freedom Convoy" organizer should be viewed as co-conspirators in court because their actions were not illegal, her defence team said in a court filing on Tuesday.
Tamara Lich arrives to the Ottawa Courthouse in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. Lich's defence team says there's no evidence to support that she and hew fellow "Freedom Convoy" organizer should be viewed as conspirators in court, because their actions were not illegal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — There's no evidence to support that Tamara Lich and a fellow "Freedom Convoy" organizer should be viewed as co-conspirators in court because their actions were not illegal, her defence team said in a court filing on Tuesday. 

The Crown finished its case against Lich and Chris Barber on Monday.

The two are co-accused of mischief and intimidation, among other charges connected to the massive protest against COVID-19 restrictions that gridlocked downtown Ottawa for weeks in 2022.

The Crown took the court through weeks of testimony about the disruptive nature of the protest, which blocked roadways and filled the downtown with the sound of blaring horns and the smell of diesel.

Thousands of protesters, including a convoy of trucks, descended on the streets surrounding Parliament Hill and protest organizers declared they would not leave until their demands to end COVID-19 vaccine mandates were met. 

The Crown also played several hours of social-media videos posted by Lich and Barber, from the outset of the demonstrations to the time of their arrests, in which they declared themselves to be leaders of the demonstration and documented their messages to protesters. 

The Crown hopes to prove that the two conspired so closely together that evidence against one of them should apply to the other, as part of what the court calls a Carter application.

Lich's lawyers, including Lawrence Greenspon, have now filed their own application to ask the judge to scrap the conspiracy allegation. 

In a court filing, Lich's lawyers say the Crown's application should be dismissed because the Crown has not proven that Lich and Barber agreed to protest COVID-19 mandates by illegal means. 

"To the extent there were any collective objectives on the part of the protesters, they were not inherently illegal," Lich's lawyers said in the court document.

Whereas a murder or drug conspiracy is inherently illegal, Greenspon and his colleagues said travelling to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 mandates is not. 

"Similarly, there is no evidence of any of the leaders of the Freedom Convoy 2022 agreeing to pursue their ends by way of illegal activity," the documents state. 

The defence argues there is no direct evidence linking Lich to any of the alleged unlawful activities complained about in downtown Ottawa during the protest.

"There is nothing illegal about encouraging others to come to or stay in Ottawa to protest lawfully. Lich does not encourage anyone to engage in any unlawful conduct at any time," the lawyers argue. 

The Crown showed video evidence of a tearful Lich speaking to supporters during a livestreamed video the day before her arrest in Ottawa. 

In the video, she encouraged more people to come to Ottawa to stand with the protesters, despite fears that she was about to be arrested.

The Crown has also repeatedly referred to Lich and Barber's use of the phrase "hold the line" as they urged people to come to Ottawa and stay, even as police ordered protesters to leave the downtown streets. 

She repeated the words as she was being led away from the protest in handcuffs in the final days of the demonstration, before police led a massive operation to put an end to it. 

Crown attorney Tim Radcliffe argued in his opening statement that Lich and Barber didn't just "hold the line" during those three weeks in Ottawa, but they "crossed the line, and in so doing they committed multiple crimes."

The pair "pressured decision-makers" and exerted "control and influence" when it came to where vehicles were parked, all in the name of achieving the political purpose of ending pandemic health orders such as vaccine mandates, Radcliffe said.

The defence argues in the court filing that it was never defined in court what exactly the phrase means to Lich or anyone else. 

The Crown hasn't yet responded to Lich's application in court.

The trial is expected to resume next week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2023.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press