Tamara Lich paying the price for humiliating the government
Before I get to today’s column, I want to give a huge thank you to all who’ve bought my new book The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks that Shook the World. Thanks to your support, the book was last week’s most popular non-fiction title in Canada, topping the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail bestseller lists. We’ve also had pretty good numbers on the Amazon charts since the release. If you haven’t yet ordered a copy, you can do so here. Those who aren’t fans of Amazon can order directly from the publisher, from Indigo, or from your local bookstore.
By my count, Tamara Lich has spent 40 days in jail, meaning she’s spent nearly twice as long behind bars as the Freedom Convoy spent in Ottawa.
She’s got at least seven more to go before she gets another crack at release, though I remain pessimistic about whether she’ll be walking free next Monday. This is not because I think she’s got a weak case, but because it’s clear the state will stop at nothing to see her locked up.
The justice of the peace who denied her bail a couple of weeks back had a fanciful, if not delusional, view of the petite Métis grandmother sitting before him.
Justice of the Peace Paul Harris said the continuation of freedom protests in Ottawa and across Canada means Lich, who has not stepped foot near any such demonstration since her release over four months ago, is itching to take command of the troops and storm the gates of Parliament or some such.
I’m no lawyer (neither, I should point out, is Harris, whose background is in government procurement, so take from that what you will) but this strikes me as manufacturing facts more than applying the law.
No judge has yet assessed whether the convoy was a lawful protest (despite one widely-circulated article’s erroneous claim a few months back). But this didn’t stop Harris from claiming the convoy created “vulnerable victims” and placed Ottawa residents in a “continual state of fear.”
These were odd statements to make when the question at hand was supposed to be whether Lich breached her onerous bail conditions by appearing in a photograph alongside fellow Freedom Convoy organizer Tom Marazzo at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom’s George Jonas award dinner.
There’s no question the photo was ill-advised, even if, as Lich’s team testified, the two were “in the presence of counsel,” which her bail conditions stipulate is a prerequisite for communication between the two and other organizers. Lich knew the Crown was looking for any excuse to lock her up again: beforehand the Crown lawyer tried to use her future presence at the JCCF dinner as an excuse to get her bail revoked.
Ultimately, Harris said releasing Lich would undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system. That a justice of the peace said this with a straight face certainly undermines my confidence in the justice system.
Fast forward to today, and the bombastic Freedom Convoy booster Pat King finally got released on bail, five months after he was arrested in the same crackdown that ensnared Lich and Chris Barber. While I’ve little respect for King’s shtick, I have less regard for the spurious claim that King engaged in and counselled “mischief” warranting five months of detention – especially when it’s not clear what, if anything, he actually did.
There’s a line in my book’s conclusion that a few people have quoted on Twitter that befits the situation:
The convoy’s greatest contribution to the cause of freedom was revealing how far the state was prepared to go to stop those who seek it.
The continued prosecution and persecution of those associated with the convoy serves no purpose other than to punish those who humiliated the government and dissuade anyone else from trying to do the same.
People shouldn’t have to be convoy supporters to support due process. The rule of law, like freedom of speech, only exists when it exists for all. This means it shouldn’t be contingent on agreement or even likability. But far too many people refuse to see the longer-term implications of enabling this sort of heavy-handed response to protests.
How long until this state power is used against a left-wing protest leader? As that insufferably over-quoted Martin Niemoller poem tells us, there might not be anyone left to speak up by then.
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