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Freedom Convoy trial of Lich, Barber headed to closing arguements

Diane Magas, left, lawyer for Chris Barber, centre, walks with Tamara Lich's lawyer Lawrence Greenspon to the Ottawa Courthouse on Sept. 19, 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Diane Magas, left, lawyer for Chris Barber, centre, walks with Tamara Lich's lawyer Lawrence Greenspon to the Ottawa Courthouse on Sept. 19, 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Closing arguments are expected to be heard in August in the trial of two leaders of what became known as the Freedom Convoy.

Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are charged with mischief, intimidation and offences related to counselling others to break the law during the protest that took over downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks in early 2022.

The trial began in September but has been slowed by delays. This week, lawyers for Lich and Barber announced they would not be calling any of their own evidence.

Final submissions are expected to be heard Aug. 13-15.

"We've reviewed the evidence that's been tendered by the Crown, it's been all subject to cross examination," Lich's lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said outside of court Friday.

"We're of the view that there's nothing that really needs to be added or that should be added by the defence to the body of evidence that the Crown has presented."

Pair 'crossed the line,' Crown says

Crown prosecutors Tim Radcliffe and Siobhain Wetscher argued the case is not about Lich and Barber's political views, but instead how they "crossed the line" in committing the crimes they're accused of.

They used police and resident testimony, hours of video evidence, and mountains of social media content and text messages to argue the two accused had control and influence over the protest.

"We're looking forward to making final submissions before the judge on the basis of that evidence," said Greenspon.

Freedom Convoy organizers Tamara Lich, left, and Chris Barber speak as they wait for the Public Order Emergency Commission to begin Nov. 1, 2022 in Ottawa.
Freedom Convoy organizers Tamara Lich, left, and Chris Barber speak as they wait for the Public Order Emergency Commission to begin Nov. 1, 2022 in Ottawa.

Freedom Convoy organizers Tamara Lich, left, and Chris Barber speak as they wait for the Public Order Emergency Commission to begin Nov. 1, 2022, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Defence lawyers have argued throughout the trial that Lich and Barber worked with police and city officials, and remained peaceful during their time in Ottawa.

Most of the court time this week was spent debating how specific pieces of evidence will be viewed by the judge in making her decision.

Lawyers for Lich and Barber accused the Crown of "cherry-picking" evidence, while prosecutors accused the defence of the same.

Trial beset by delays

Arrested Feb. 17, 2022 — one day before police started clearing downtown streets of people protesting COVID-19 rules and airing anti-government grievances — Lich and Barber have travelled to Ottawa from western Canada to attend their trial in person.

Barber, from Swift Current, Sask., was released a day after entering custody in 2022.

Lich, from Medicine Hat, Alta., spent 49 days in jail spread across two stints. The first followed her initial arrested, and the second followed her arrest on a Canada-wide warrant for violating her bail conditions.

Meant to decide whether — and if so, how — the two should be punished for their role in the weeks-long protest that clogged the city's core and shook many residents, the trial has been slowed by legal wrangling, technical delays, unprepared witnesses and issues over how police evidence was disclosed.
 
The judge will have six months to make a decision once closing arguments end. A penalty for mischief carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.