Defence’s fight for internal police documents continues in ‘Freedom Convoy’ trial

By Liam Fox, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Lawyers for two “Freedom Convoy” organizers resumed their arguments on Friday in a legal fight for access to internal Ottawa Police Service documents, as they question the validity of police claims that the files are protected by solicitor-client privilege.

Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are on trial for their role in the massive demonstration against COVID-19 public-health measures that gridlocked the streets of Ottawa for three weeks in early 2022.

They face multiple charges including mischief, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

The Crown seeks to prove the two high-profile organizers had influence over the actions of protesting crowds. 

The trial has been frequently delayed by challenges around the admissibility of evidence. 

Defence lawyers want to see emails that show what evidence police officers were asked to hand over as part of the case against their clients, as well as any instructions given to officers about updating the software on their cellphones when the protest ended.

The software update may have deleted messages between Barber and police liaison officer Const. Nicole Bach, who was considered a primary contact of Barber’s.

The defence had only received heavily redacted documents in response to their request. The Crown and Ottawa police say the redactions omit irrelevant information or information protected by solicitor-client privilege.

On Friday afternoon, testimony from witnesses resumed with the chief examination of Sgt. Jordan Blonde, a police officer who was described as a “secondary” contact for Barber. 

Blonde described “hostile” scenes leading up to a police operation to forcibly remove demonstrators out of the downtown core. 

Blonde said police attempted to distribute notices to protesters to “peacefully leave” last year’s downtown demonstrations on Feb. 16 and 17. 

When police were handing out the notices, he said, one person took the flyer and threw it into a toilet in the middle of Wellington Street, which runs along Parliament Hill.

Blonde said that on Feb. 17, about three weeks into the protest, he witnessed a situation in which protesters were behaving in a hostile way and police pulled out of an area a short walk away from Parliament Hill. 

Police began the “removal operation” the next day, on Feb. 18, following the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act. 

Blonde said he talked to several people involved in the convoy who were “very adamant to get arrested.”

He also described seeing an outpost of convoy participants who were gathered in the parking lot next to an east-end Ottawa Stadium, home to the Ottawa Titans baseball team. 

He said he saw saunas, tents, woodpiles, stacks of propane tanks and approximately 60 vehicles. 

“There were people living in the parking lot,” Blonde said. “It was an odd sight.” 

The trial is expected to resume on Tuesday with the Crown continuing its examination of Blonde. 

Defence lawyers said they won’t be able to cross-examine him until the judge makes a ruling on the police documents. 

The Crown, defence lawyers and lawyers for Ottawa police presented their legal arguments about the documents all day on Thursday and in the early part of the day on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2023.

Liam Fox, The Canadian Press

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