Will Tamara Lich receive a fair trial for the charges she faces in relation to organizing the Freedom Convoy? It would be nice to think that in a country such as Canada the question is a ridiculous one because justice here will always be fair.
Yet both the intense politicization of the events surrounding the convoy and Lich’s own experience the past year with the justice system indicate that the question of fairness is now basically a coin toss.
This past week, the trials of both Lich and Chris Barber commenced in an Ottawa courtroom. The charges they face are surprisingly insignificant, at least compared to all of the public rhetoric surrounding Lich’s alleged sins.
Politicians, figures in the media, and members of the public used words like insurrection, occupation, and even coup to describe what happened during the weeks the convoy took root on a couple of streets in downtown Ottawa in early 2022.
We also heard a lot about supposed violent scenes, including a since-debunked claim that convoy members attempted to burn down an entire apartment building.
Given all of these claims, you’d think the eventual charges laid against Lich would be colossal. But they weren’t.
What she is now defending herself against—with the assistance of high profile Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Edward Greenspon—are charges of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief, and intimidation.
That’s rather small potatoes. This case ranks up pretty high on the list of recent Canadian court cases. Yet, at least based on the charges, it doesn’t live up to the hype.
If the system could have hit Lich and others with more severe charges, they surely would have. But the simple truth is this is all they could come up with.
Former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly, who resigned in the middle of the convoy protest, famously said that he felt a political solution rather than a law enforcement one may have been what was needed.
Earlier this year, in an exclusive interview with CTV News, Sloly elaborated on what he had meant: “[The situation] required a whole of society investment in some small or significant way, from a number of actors, whether elected or unelected, whether they be police or justice, or whether they just be thought leaders and thoughtful Canadians.”
This is a powerful and even moving statement. Here we have a police chief acknowledging that what happened in some respects transcended a traditional law enforcement scenario.
The small scope of the charges, though, has never been reflected in how Lich was treated by the system. It’s been remarked by many that the amount of time Lich, who never posed any danger to the public, has spent in pretrial custody is much greater than that experienced by many alleged murderers and repeat offenders.
Last summer, Lich was even re-arrested for supposedly violating her bail conditions after exchanging very brief congratulatory words with another convoy organizer at a gala event. A justice of the peace sent her back to jail, but then a Superior Court judge let her out again—criticizing the JP for his “errors of law” and also inflammatory statements.
Throughout all of this, people have confused whether they approve of Lich’s views on pandemic restrictions and her organizing of the convoy with whether she is guilty of serious criminal wrongdoing. Unfortunately, this attitude seems to have spread into the justice system. It seems to explain the severe approach taken by the JP and others who needlessly kept her behind bars pending trial for so long.
This is why the question of fairness is now a coin toss. It comes down to whether the judge in this current case sees things the same way as the JP did.
To riff again on what Sloly was saying: Maybe the case became inherently unfair the moment it shifted from a political issue to a legal one. Maybe the inherent unfairness is in the fact that no leader ever stepped forward to visit the convoy protest and have a genuine human conversation with its participants.
Things could have been different.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.