A Freedom Convoy participant who was at the protest following the invocation of the Emergencies Act has had his charges dismissed by the Ontario Court of Justice, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has announced.
“We are proud to have been able to support Mr. Vardy through this difficult ordeal, as well as supporting so many other courageous Canadians who peacefully exercised their Charter rights and freedoms in the face of unjust and unscientific lockdown measures imposed on Canadians by their own governments,” said JCCF President John Carpay in a press release.
On Feb. 19, 2022, five days after the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act in response to the Freedom Convoy protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and public health restrictions, Steven Vardy was stopped by a police officer while departing downtown Ottawa in his car.
After allegedly failing to produce his identification documents, Mr. Vardy was arrested and charged with obstructing a public officer in the execution of his duties.
Later on, authorities searched Mr. Vardy’s social media accounts and found video footage taken at the Freedom Convoy. An additional charge of mischief was filed against him.
The invocation of the Emergencies Act in February 2022 gave the federal government—among other powers—the ability to restrict public assembly “that may reasonably be expected to lead to a breach of the peace.” That meant that during the Freedom Convoy, it became illegal for people to gather in Ottawa’s downtown core.
A trial for Mr. Vardy—who claimed to be innocent of all charges—took place at the Ottawa Courthouse in downtown Ottawa on Aug. 29 and 30, 2023. Before the trial took place, the obstruction charge against Mr. Vardy was withdrawn at the request of the Crown prosecutor.
During the trial, the judge determined that the Crown could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person speaking in the social media videos was Mr. Vardy. The judge also ruled that even if Mr. Vardy was the person speaking in the videos, his narration of the events taking place in downtown Ottawa did not amount to criminal mischief, and all remaining charges against Mr. Vardy were dismissed.
“After almost 18 months of waiting, my client and I are thrilled with this result,” said JCCF Lawyer Chris Fleury. “We are pleased that the Court agreed with us that the alleged conduct did not amount to mischief and that Mr. Vardy can finally put these charges behind him.”
Back in December 2022, another Freedom Convoy participant had his charges dropped thanks to the JCCF. J.W. had been charged with interfering with the lawful use and enjoyment of property of downtown Ottawa residents, failure to obey a court order, and obstruction of justice for failing to identify himself to police.
The Crown determined that the court order J.W. allegedly disobeyed, which was made under a provincial declaration of emergency, was specifically implemented to deal with the Windsor bridge blockades and not any other purpose.
There was also a lack of evidence that J.W. actually interfered with the lawful use and enjoyment of property, and there were no police notes stating that J.W. failed to identify himself to police in a way that could amount to obstructing police. All the charges against J.W. were subsequently dropped.
“The right to peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy which is why the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the Charter,” says J.W.’s lawyer Henna Parmar. “We look forward to the Canadian Courts upholding the fundamental right of Canadians to peacefully assemble.”