The defence lawyer attempted to block Ottawa residents and business owners from testifying on the fifth day of the criminal trial of Freedom Convoy organizers Chris Barber and Tamara Lich, arguing that their perspectives were not “legally relevant” to the case and that the Crown should not file impact statements in the middle of a trial.
“There is absolutely no need to call these nine witnesses,” Lawrence Greenspon, a lawyer for Ms. Lich, said to the judge on Sept. 11.
Mr. Greenspon said the Crown is trying to tender, as part of its case, victim impact statements in the middle of a trial. He told the judge: “I submit, your honour, that you have, under the management control function, the ability, in fact the obligation, I would say with respect, to preclude evidence being called which is not relevant, … I mean in the true legal sense.”
The Crown told the court that if Ottawa residents are called to testify, they would speak about disruptions they experienced during the three-week trucker protest, such as road blockages, honking of horns, smells of diesel, business interruptions, and inappropriate interactions with protesters.
Mr. Barber and Ms. Lich, two of the most well-known organizers of the Freedom Convoy protest that saw hundreds of vehicles crowd the streets of Ottawa in January and February 2022, are being 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.
Mr. Greenspon argued that because Mr. Barber and Ms. Lich had already signed admissions that the “actions of certain individuals” who participated in the protest interfered with public transit and the lawful use and enjoyment of property and businesses, there was no need to hear from the witnesses. He said he was “prepared to admit” that the protest impacted 18 routes of OC Transpo, the city’s transportation agency.
The defence lawyer added that the witness testimonies would equate to impact statements being brought in the middle of a trial, while they are typically reserved for the sentencing portion of the trial.
“What does that have to do with any of the charges in the face of the admission?” Mr. Greenspon said.
Crown Argues Relevance
Crown attorney Siobhain Wetscher said the witness testimonies were needed because they “illustrate the scope, nature, and consequences and the impacts of the Freedom Convoy protest.”
While the witnesses did not have any direct interactions with Mr. Barber or Ms. Lich, the Crown said that was not reason enough to block their testimonies.