Heated bail review hearing for ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizers Tamara Lich


The bail review had initially been scheduled a challenge of the bail conditions restricting the ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer from accessing her social media accounts.

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Thursday’s bail review for Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich featured some unexpectedly heated exchanges between the judge and prosecutor that threatened to derail a hearing where the Crown is seeking to revoke Lich’s bail and return her to custody for allegedly breaching her release conditions.

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Lich appeared by videolink from her Alberta home for the first day of the two-day session. She told court she was “honoured” to be named this year’s recipient of an award from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a legal advocacy group and vocal supporter of the “Freedom Convoy” during the three-week occupation of downtown Ottawa streets.

Lich denied, however, that her acceptance of that award would constitute a breach of bail conditions.

“I was asked to accept an award,” Lich said during her testimony. “I said yes I would, I’d be honoured.”

Assistant Crown Attorney Moiz Karimjee filed an application this week arguing Lich should be returned to jail on the grounds that she “has continued her support of the convoy cause” by agreeing to accept the award, which is to be presented in Toronto at a June 16 gala featuring keynote speaker Rex Murphy.

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Lich is currently barred from entering Ontario as part of her release conditions.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly charged with mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

She was arrested Feb. 17 and was initially denied bail, though that decision was overturned on March 7 and she was ordered to return home under the supervision of a surety and with a list of conditions, including a ban from social media and a broad order barring Lich from supporting “anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

A poster advertising the JCCF event was entered as an exhibit Thursday, but, as Lich’s lawyer Lawrence Greenspon pointed out, there is no indication on the advertisement that Lich will be in attendance in Toronto.

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Lich was pressed by Karimjee on her pending acceptance of the award equating to her continued support for “Freedom Convoy” causes.

“I guess so,” she replied. “But I don’t feel this is a breach. I feel the recognition is for inspiring Canadians to ask their government to uphold the rule of law and their Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I don’t think it’s a breach.”

Thursday’s bail review had initially been scheduled for Greenspon to challenge the bail conditions that restrict Lich from accessing her social media accounts.

Greenspon said the condition was overly broad and restrictive and amounted to an outright “banishment.”

Those arguments were quickly upstaged, however, by rare fireworks inside the courtroom between the usually mild-mannered Karimjee and Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips, the presiding judge.

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The morning session began with Phillips hearing lengthy arguments over whether the hearing could actually proceed in Superior Court. Similar jurisdictional arguments had already been heard at an earlier session by Justice Julianne Parfett, and Phillips returned after a break with a decision supporting Parfett’s ruling.

The temperature elevated slightly when Karimjee took exception to a line of questioning from Greenspon that, Karimjee said, “challenges the integrity of this Crown.”

Greenspon had asked Ottawa police Sgt. Mahad Hassan why police hadn’t charged Lich with breaching her conditions if they had already established those grounds.

Karimjee bristled at the suggestion that police held off laying that charge until after the bail review to allow the prosecutor to question Lich.

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The prosecutor took exception again when Phillips denied his request to file as an exhibit a March 28 email from the JCCF awards committee notifying Lich she would be the recipient of a “freedom award.”

Lich read the email aloud into the court record and the judge briskly asked the prosecutor to move on.

Frustrations boiled over in the afternoon session after the judge made critical comments about Karimjee’s “demeanour.”

“I’m doing my job,” Karimjee shot back. “And it’s my duty when (defence) counsel objects to a question before I’ve completed it, when an email is not being filed … when I am permitted to introduce this as evidence. And Your Honour has made some comments during the proceeding…”

Phillips interjected at that point, curtly asking Karimjee to proceed with his cross-examination of Lich, who remained quiet while observing the exchange.

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“I don’t want to engage in this. Proceed with your cross,” the judge said.

The verbal sparring match continued, however, as Karimjee then raised the prospect of filing a “mistrial application” and referenced several clashes between the prosecutor and judge through the day.

“When I think something is improper, I’m not going to remain silent,” Karimjee said.

“Do you have a question for the witness?” Phillips replied coolly.

“I’m asking Your Honour to recuse yourself,” Karimjee said.

“That request is denied,” Phillips flatly replied.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Friday.

ahelmer@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/helmera

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