After a two-day bail review held this week, Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich will find out Wednesday whether or not she’s heading back to jail.
Lich, an organizer of the Ottawa protest that brought the city to a halt for weeks, was seeking an amendment to her bail conditions that would allow her to return to Ontario and to use social media. Crown lawyers charged she was in violation of her bail conditions, and should be back in jail.
Lich, who is charged jointly with fellow convoy organizer Chris Barber, is accused of mischief, counseling mischief, obstructing police, counseling to obstruct police, counseling intimidation, and intimidation by blocking and obstructing one or more highways in relation to the protest.
She has been out on bail since March 7.
‘Did not see the harm’ in Freedom Convoy jewelry
During Friday’s bail review, Crown prosecutor Moiz Karimjee showed a social media post featuring Lich wearing a pendant gifted to her. The pendant features a truck image and the words “Freedom” and “Canada” emblazoned on it.
Lich, testifying via video from Alberta, said the pendant was gifted to her, and disagreed with Karimjee that giving permission for it to be posted online violated bail conditions requiring her not to “verbally, in writing, financially, or by any other means, support anything related to the Freedom Convoy. “
The photo of Lich wearing the necklace was posted on a Freedom Convoy group page that says “portions of the sale will be donated to Truckers Convoy.”
Lich said this was not supporting anything related to the Freedom Convoy, in part because “there’s no convoy to support.”
“I do not see how it’s a breach. It’s a piece of jewlery that was gifted to me,” said Lich. “I really did not see the harm in it.”
She said she took the photo because she was “appreciative” that someone had sent her “such a beautiful gift.”
Lich said she had assumed the person who sent the pendant and asked for the photo would post it on a personal page.
The surety tasked with making sure Lich follows her bail conditions, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said they were unaware the post or photo existed.
Social media ban ‘comparable to exile’
Lich is seeking to be able to return to social media. Right now she is able to text and call people, but she is restricted from accessing social media platforms.
She said she would like to connect with family and friends who post and message her on social media.
“We live in social media world now, I think being banned completely from social media is comparable to exile once upon a time,” Lich told the court. “I personally do not see why I can not consume my own social media and log into it even and stay connected, that’s what it’s all about really, staying connected.”
During examination by defense lawyer Lawrence Greenspon on Thursday, Lich testified she also wants her bail conditions changed to allow her to visit Ottawa. The reasons are subject to a court-ordered publication ban and cannot be disclosed.
She also testified she would “love to attend” an event in Toronto in June to accept a freedom award, “however I will not be breaching my bail conditions in order to do so.”
Award for leading convoy
On March 28, a charity called the Justice Center 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 honor was being given “in recognition of your leadership role in the Freedom Convoy.”
The award announcement on the center’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.”
The day after receiving the email, Lich emailed back to say she was “honored” to accept. She did not 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 do not feel that this is a breach. I do not 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.
“I guess it is related, because of what happened,” she added.
Lich arrested in February
Lich was arrested Feb. 17 and originally charged with counseling to commit mischief, shortly before a major police operation cleared protesters and vehicles from Ottawa streets.
She was initially denied bail by Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois, who told court she found Lich to be guarded and “almost obstructive” at times, and who was not convinced Lich would go home, stay home and stop her alleged counseling.
Lich and her then lawyer Diane Magas appealed Bourgeois’ decision, leading to her first bail review in the higher court in early March.
Superior Court Justice John Johnston ruled in Lich’s favor after the one-day proceeding, saying she had been a “valued employee” in Alberta and had lived a “crime-free” life, and that the risk in Ottawa had been minimized after police cleared streets.
Lich was released after spending about 18 days in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center. Other bail conditions included that she leave Ottawa within 24 hours, refrain from using social media and have no contact with certain co-organizers.
Her surety – who cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban – put up a $ 20,000 cash bond, while Lich herself put up an additional $ 5,000 cash bond.