Some community advocates want city to step in on sale of St. Brigid's church

·3 min read
The United People of Canada are in the process of acquiring St. Brigid's Church in Lowertown, Ottawa. Community advocates want the city to stop the sale. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)
The United People of Canada are in the process of acquiring St. Brigid's Church in Lowertown, Ottawa. Community advocates want the city to stop the sale. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)

An Ottawa community association says it wants the city to intervene on the impending sale of a local church to a group with suspected ties to the Freedom Convoy.

The previous owners of St. Brigid's Church, located in Lowertown, recently agreed to sell it to The United People of Canada (TUPC) — a group that describes itself online as a "diverse, intergenerational fraternal organization." In social media posts it refers to the building as The Embassy.

But since the group moved in, its colourful redecorating, which includes painted red doors and white tree insignias, has raised eyebrows from members of the local community. Some have pointed to social media posts from some of TUPC's members, which suggest ties to the Freedom Convoy.

Corporate filings for TUPC show three directors: William Komer, Kimberly Ward and Diane Nolan.

In a video posted on March 7, Ward described herself as an adviser for Dwayne Lich, the husband of Freedom Convoy leader Tamara Lich.

On Nolan's Facebook page, several posts appear to be associated with the Freedom Convoy and the movement the winter occupation inspired, such as sharing the Canadian Convoy Rally Song.

TUPC leadership has outright denied any connection to the movement, saying members' actions don't reflect the larger group's beliefs.

Diane Nolan/Facebook
Diane Nolan/Facebook

Now members of the Lowertown Community Association are pointing to pictures of what appear to be two vehicles parked in front of St. Brigid's. One has "Freedom Express" painted on the side. The other is marked with a  "F*ck Trudeau" sticker. Both are adorned with Canadian flags, a popular symbol among convoy protesters.

"We, as well as the Centretown residents, lived through a very difficult time, and it's certainly not something we want to revisit," said Sylvie Bigras, president of the Lowertown Community Association. "That close association is extremely concerning."

Now the Lowertown association and other local advocates are calling on the city to step in to ensure the building is either acquired by the city itself or sold to someone local. A petition has been started that had more than 500 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Group continues to deny association with Freedom Convoy

Komer, TUPC's director, said he was not aware of the petition until CBC informed him of it, but that a conditional sale of the church has already been agreed upon by the previous owners.

Despite continued accusations, Komer insisted TUPC was not associated with the Freedom Convoy.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

"The United People of Canada is in no way whatsoever affiliated with the Freedom Convoy. We've been abundantly clear with that despite what seems to be continuing misinformation being spread online," he said.

The impending owners have broken no rules, but have been the subject of themselves of criminal activity, Komer said.

He said "malicious actors" have committed several offences against TUPC, including death threats, harassment and vandalism on the church steps.

Ottawa police said they have received four calls in the past week related to the former church, but would not comment on the nature of the calls or provide details on investigations into the reports.

WATCH | Lowertown community petition opposes group with alleged ties to Freedom Convoy

City not taking action

A statement from Court Curry, the city's manager of heritage and urban design services, did not comment on whether or not the city would or could eventually get involved in the ownership of St. Brigid's. It only said that "no activity has been initiated to acquire the subject property."

Curry wrote that as a heritage building, any modifications to the interior or exterior of the church would require a permit from the city.

"If the owner of the building plans to readapt the property for any new use, city staff would work closely with the proponent on how to do so," he said.

In a post to its Facebook page, TUPC said it's open to a conversation with its neighbours and it intends to join the Lowertown Community Association's monthly meeting on Monday.

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