Freedom and Mischief

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Canada began Tuesday a criminal trial for two key organizers of 2022’s “Freedom Convoy” protests that disrupted the country’s capital, affected US-Canada border crossings, and inspired similar actions worldwide, the Washington Post reported.

The defendants Tamara Lich and Chris Barber face a slew of charges, including mischief, obstructing police, and inciting others to commit mischief during the weeks-long protests against Covid-19 pandemic-related measures and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration.

The weeks-long demonstrations that began in January 2022 saw trucks and crowds causing gridlocks in Ottawa and serious disruptions at the border with the United States. However, they also attracted a mix of anti-government activists, far-right figures, and opponents of pandemic measures, the newspaper wrote.

Canadian authorities called the protests an “occupation” and the situation prompted Trudeau to invoke the country’s 1988 Emergencies Act – the first Canadian leader to do so. The emergency law allowed authorities to create no-go zones and temporarily freeze bank accounts without a court order.

Lich and Barber are among the most prominent of the 140 people who were charged in Ottawa.

Lich had previously alleged that her parents’ trucking business was affected by the cross-border vaccine requirement. Barber, a trucking business owner, voiced opposition to pandemic measures.

Both defendants had sought to depict the movement as peaceful and distanced themselves from its controversial figures. But a public inquiry this year – mandated by the Emergency Act – found they were reluctant to cut ties with individuals advocating violence or Trudeau’s removal, as they considered them part of the movement.

Legal observers said the trial is expected to draw significant national attention because of its implications for other defendants and the broader protest movement. While mischief charges can relate to offenses ranging from data erasure to property destruction, offenders, in most cases, don’t serve life sentences unless their actions seriously endanger others.

Canadian authorities have already prosecuted other defendants connected to the “Freedom Convoy.”

Last year, Tyson Billings, known as “Freedom George,” pleaded guilty to counseling to commit mischief, while other charges against him were withdrawn. He was sentenced to time served and six months of probation.

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