Ottawa’s ‘face’ of convoy class-action lawsuit Zexi Li awarded Mayor’s City Builder Award

By Dani-Elle Dubé

Gathering limits have lifted, mask mandates are no more and now city council is back in chambers. 

As the world continues to take steps towards opening up after two years of fighting COVID-19, Ottawa’s city council held its first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic. 

And they kicked off the meeting in the presence of someone who has become a local celebrity of sorts: Zexi Li, the 21-year-old public servant who became a community spokesperson for the class-action lawsuit filed against Ottawa truck convoy occupiers. 

Li was awarded the Mayor’s City Builder Award by Mayor Jim Watson and Somerset ward city councillor Catherine McKenney at the meeting on Wednesday, March 23.. 

“Like many people in downtown neighbourhoods, Zexi Li felt growing frustration as residents were subjected to relentless honking, fireworks and chocking diesel fumes from the convoy of trucks clogging downtown streets,” an announcement from the City issued on Wednesday, reads. “The occupation, which lasted more than three weeks, forced some businesses to close and disrupted the daily lives and wellbeing of residents.”

However, Li said she couldn’t just stand by and do nothing, so she connected with Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ, who now leads the legal team representing downtown residents in a class-action lawsuit against the demonstrators. 

Li became a spokesperson and the face of the lawsuit, which was filed on Friday, February 4, against some protesters. 

Her actions brought about an injunction that prohibited participants in the protest from using vehicle horns in the vicinity of downtown Ottawa. 

After the first week of the occupied, Champ filed a $9.8 million lawsuit on behalf of Li, the plaintiff, against organizers of the occupation.

And on February 7, an Ontario Superior Court Justice granted a 10-day injunction against horn honking in downtown Ottawa. 

A week later, the City was granted an injunction, restraining protesters from setting unlawful fires, discharging fireworks, causing noise or idling vehicles. 

As more joined in on the lawsuit, the claim rose to $306 million in damages for the disruption to their lives and livelihoods.

“At the end of the day, we were able to make it through this horrible situation,” she said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I believe Ottawa as a City will come out stronger and move forward in all of this.”

The Mayor’s City Builder Award is a civic honour, created to recognize an individual, group or organizations that, through outstanding volunteerism or exemplary action, has demonstrated an extraordinary  commitment to making our city a better place today and for the future, the City explained. This may include lifelong service, outstanding acts of kindness, inspiring charitable work, community building or other exemplary achievements.”

In an earlier interview with CityNews on February 23, Li said that despite the harassment she was experiencing, she stood by her her actions and decisions. 

“I know what I did was a good thing for the many residents of Ottawa,” she said. 

And in the end, the messages of support outweighed the messages of hate for Li.

“I wanted to make a difference and do anything that I can help.”

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