March 26, 2023

Organizers of final winter’s Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa need a court docket to launch simply over $450,000 in frozen funds to assist pay for his or her participation in an upcoming public inquiry — after initially failing to request funds the group was entitled to from the inquiry itself.

The inquiry, formally referred to as the Public Order Emergency Fee, will start on Oct. 13 to probe the federal authorities’s reasoning for taking emergency measures to finish the prolonged occupation of components of downtown Ottawa. Protesters rallied in opposition to pandemic restrictions and clogged metropolis streets with vans and different autos, blocking entry to neighbourhoods and primary arteries round Parliament Hill.

In a movement filed this week within the Ontario Superior Courtroom of Justice — which was first reported by CTV Information — Tamara Lich, Pat King, Chris Barber and different protest organizers acknowledged they face “vital authorized illustration calls for” from the fee. In addition they indicated their banner group, Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms, has no property aside from the cash tied in escrow.

These funds are a part of the greater than $20 million in donations raised by the Freedom Convoy throughout its almost three-week keep in Ottawa. Greater than $5 million of that cash was put in escrow pending the end result of a proposed lawsuit. Ottawa residents and companies are hoping to efficiently sue the protest organizers for greater than $300 million in damages.

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Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino says invoking the Emergencies Act gave legislation enforcement the required energy to finish the Ottawa protest convoy, in a particular joint committee listening to wanting into the federal authorities’s use of the act.

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Group didn’t apply for obtainable funding

The group had been granted “standing” within the inquiry — which means, partially, that it may cross-examine witnesses — again in June. At the moment, it might have utilized for funding for assist however didn’t, in accordance with the fee. 

In its movement, the group stated that it anticipated funding would come from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which has been related to Freedom Convoy figures akin to Lich.

“JCCF funding has decreased because of the tip of public measures ensuing from the pandemic,” the movement stated, including that the group can be “considerably prejudiced [during the inquiry] with out entry to authorized illustration funds.”

Now the group is as an alternative searching for a listening to to state its case for receiving $450,400 from the funds in escrow to cowl two attorneys for the inquiry and two attorneys to argue for the funds to be launched. Simply over $83,000 of that’s earmarked for eight witnesses and purchasers’ journey and lodge prices throughout the inquiry.

It’s unclear which of the convoy organizers could testify throughout the inquiry. Lich, Barber and King all face felony prices associated to the protest and have been launched from custody on bail. 

A glimpse of what may come 

The group’s movement additionally presents a style of what might come within the inquiry. 

“The transferring get together defendants have recognized hundreds and paperwork, movies and photos to which the fee counsel’s doc manufacturing calls for apply,” the movement stated. 

That features 26 hours of movies.

The group can be opposing the participation of Paul Champ within the inquiry. Champ is the lawyer representing residents within the proposed lawsuit. He’s additionally representing a coalition of Ottawa residents and companies throughout the inquiry. 

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The group stated Champ has made defamatory feedback about them, together with in a March 24 tweet referencing a person who stated he regretted the cash he spent to assist the convoy. 

(Paul Champ/Twitter)

“The respondents are additionally involved that Mr. Champ, who’s antagonistic in curiosity on this matter, will probably be taking part within the Public Order Emergency Fee proceedings and may have a pre-emptive alternative to cross-examine the Freedom Corp. contributors prematurely of any trial,” the movement stated.

Champ stated in an e mail on Friday that the events are assembly on Sept. 8 to debate the proposed lawsuit, “the place the defendants should attempt to persuade the court docket to present them a movement date on an pressing foundation” for the discharge of funds. 

He stated the group ought to as an alternative apply to the fee for funding. 

Funding for inquiries comes from the Privy Council Workplace, in accordance with the fee.