Tuesday 8 March 2022

Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich released from custody after court overturns bail decision

 Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich has been released from custody after a justice in Ottawa, Canada, overturned a previous justice's ruling.

The justice said that the previous justice who controversially denied Lich bail made several errors in law, according to CTV News Ottawa.

Lich, a resident of Alberta, has been released on CA$25,000 bond and has been ordered to leave Ottawa within 24 hours and Ontario within 72 hours. She may not return to the province except to attend court or to meet with her lawyers.

She was arrested Feb. 17 and charged with counseling to commit mischief for her role in the trucker protests against Canada's vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Lich organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $10 million to support the demonstrators, who had camped in downtown Ottawa for weeks, disrupting traffic and refusing to leave the city until the mandates were lifted.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the protests by invoking emergency powers, giving police additional authority to fine and arrest protesters and empowering financial institutions to freeze the accounts of convoy participants.

When Lich was initially denied bail by Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois, critics slammed the justice's decision, observing that even alleged violent offenders, in some cases, are granted bail.

A long bail review hearing was held last week to determine whether Bourgeois erred in her decision, according to CTV News. Justice John Johnston presided over the hearing and said his decision would be issued Monday.

In overturning the previous justice's order, Johnston said Bourgeois wrongly compared the seriousness of Lich's charges to the seriousness of the impact of the "Freedom Convoy" and not to other criminal code offenses.

He said that Lich had lived a "pro-social" life prior to these charges and had no criminal record, suggesting these factors may be grounds for a lighter sentence if she is convicted. Johnston expressed concern that Lich would spend more time in jail before her trial than she would if convicted and sentenced, CTV News reported.

As a condition of her release, Lich has been barred from accessing or using social media or having someone else do so on her behalf. She also cannot attend or engage in any future protests against COVID-19 mandates. Further, she may not contact several other organizers or leaders of the convoy protest.

Johnston did however reject an argument from Lich that Bourgeois was biased because the justice unsuccessfully ran as a Liberal Party candidate for Parliament in 2011 and the Freedom Convoy protested the current Liberal government. He said there was no evidence that an election from more than a decade ago was proof of bias.

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