The criminalization of freedom
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It was absurd that Freedom Convoy fundraiser Tamara Lich served 18 days beyond bars before a judge finally granted her bail in March. I’m not sure what to call the fact that the Crown wants to revoke her bail and send her back to jail.
I can’t even say they’re throwing the book at her as the “book” hardly justifies what prosecutors are doing to a woman with no criminal record who’s unlikely to reoffend (that is, if she even “offended” in the first place) because the protest she was arrested for leading ceases to exist.
A judge is set to decide Wednesday whether Lich will have to head back to Ottawa in a prisoner transport rather than a transport truck.
The Crown’s lawyer is building his case off of the least charitable interpretation of Lich’s (admittedly broad) bail conditions.
Under Lich’s conditions, she is to not access any social media, including allowing anyone to post on her behalf or indicate her approval of a post. She is also “not to verbally, in writing, financially, or by any other means, support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”
Taken literally, this could cover anything from a rallying speech on the top of an 18-wheeler to a private conversation with a friend in which she said something nominally positive about her experience in Ottawa.
It’s a gag order, and one that convoy lawyer Keith Wilson said would be the envy of leaders like Vladimir Putin, even.
By all accounts, Lich’s transition to post-convoy life has been uneventful. She’s gone back to Medicine Hat – as the court ordered – and has returned to her job. There are a few people she’s barred from communicating with.
Her surety has periodically checked her electronic devices to ensure compliance. I had the pleasure of having dinner with Lich a few weeks back when I was in Alberta, and saw how diligent and cautious she was to make sure she didn’t slip up.
The Crown is evidently unmoved by all of this, and seems to think Lich is ready to rally the troops for Convoy 2.0 any minute now.
One piece of “evidence” was a photo of Lich wearing a pendant with a truck and the word “freedom” on it. A supporter sent Lich the pendant as a gift, and Lich sent back a photo of her wearing it, which the supporter posted – on their own, without Lich’s direction or approval – to social media.
More notably, the Crown hammered Lich on her forthcoming receipt of the George Jonas Freedom Award from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. The JCCF is holding a Toronto awards dinner in June, though she might not be allowed to attend in person as her bail conditions prohibit travel to Ontario except for court appearances.
The Crown suggests it’s a no-no because the JCCF is giving her the award “in recognition of your leadership role in the Freedom Convoy.”
There’s a cruel irony in trying to have a woman locked up for accepting an award about freedom just a few months after locking her up for exercising her freedom. Or, at least, what she thought was her freedom. The jury (metaphorically, I should say) is still out on that.
Whether Lich is in breach of her bail conditions or not, I have no idea. Whatever the award is supposed to be about, there’s a Minority Report-esque quality of trying to prosecute her for participating in an event that hasn’t happened. On the other hand, her bail conditions are so broad it wouldn’t take much for her to find herself running afoul of them if the court wants to operate in bad faith.
I have no inside knowledge of this, but I suspect she and her lawyers accepted the conditions because it was her only way out of jail. After being denied bail the first time around, it didn’t seem she had much bargaining power when she returned to court to try again.
She’s seeking an easing of these conditions, which she aptly characterized in court as muzzling her, and preventing her even from keeping in touch with her family on social media.
One of the convoy’s successes, albeit an unintended one, was revealing the lengths to which the state will go to clamp down on those seeking more freedom. The prosecution of Tamara Lich fulfills a similar aim, as if to tell everyone else “Don’t you dare.”
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