Judge issues arrest warrant to get defendant into courtroom as 'Freedom Rally' organizer's trial begins

David Lindsay leaves the Kelowna, B.C., courthouse with his supporters following the first day of his trial on Wednesday.  (Brady Strachan / CBC - image credit)
David Lindsay leaves the Kelowna, B.C., courthouse with his supporters following the first day of his trial on Wednesday. (Brady Strachan / CBC - image credit)

The assault trial for one of the leaders of the Okanagan's "Freedom Rally" protest movement began Wednesday amid unusual scenes at provincial court in Kelowna, B.C., where dozens of his supporters were denied entry to the courtroom after refusing to have their bags searched.

A warrant for David Kevin Lindsay's arrest was briefly issued by the presiding judge after Lindsay initially refused to enter the courtroom to begin the trial, in which he faces two counts of assault connected to a demonstration against public health orders in August 2021.

Lindsay, who has not retained a lawyer, then refused to enter a plea and said he would not participate in the trial.

The "Freedom Rally" movement began in summer 2020, with weekly protests in downtown Kelowna, mostly against public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing anywhere from dozens to several hundred people.

The charges against Lindsay stem from a protest at an Interior Health building in Kelowna on Aug. 19, 2021. The Crown alleges he assaulted two security guards at the entrance of the building at 505 Doyle Ave. as he tried to push past them to enter.

Chris Walker/CBC
Chris Walker/CBC

Judge issues arrest warrant

Lindsay told reporters on Wednesday morning that he felt confident in his ability to defend himself against the charges.

"I'm going to destroy the Crown," he said. "They have no idea what is coming and there was no assault that took place."

The start of the trial was delayed as Lindsay initially refused to enter the courtroom, after he and a group of about 50 of his supporters refused to comply with a security check of their bags.

Judge Cathaline Heinrichs asked that Lindsay be paged to enter the courtroom and, when he didn't arrive, she issued a warrant for his arrest.

Heinrichs vacated the warrant after Lindsay finally entered the courtroom and agreed to return in the afternoon to begin the trial.

Not guilty pleas entered

When proceedings began, Lindsay refused to enter a plea to charges and said he would not participate in the trial, but would instead file a constitutional challenge against having his bags searched.

"You can talk to the hand," he told Heinrichs. "I'm not participating in any court where I have to be searched without reasonable or probable grounds."

Heinrichs entered two not guilty pleas on Lindsay's behalf and the proceedings continued with Crown prosecutor David Grabavac giving his opening statements laying out the allegations.

Grabavac said Lindsay attempted to enter the Interior Health building at 505 Doyle Ave. despite knowing he was previously banned from the building.

According to Grabavac, Lindsay "intentionally applied force" against two security guards who were standing at the entrance to the building, where a rally against public heath orders was taking place.

After the Crown's opening statements, Lindsay appeared to change his mind about participating in the hearing. He again brought up his objections to the search of his bag, which he said remained outside the courtroom and contained his notes and his computer.

Heinrichs suggested he go out and bring in his belongings without his bag as a way to get past the issue of the search, and Lindsay agreed.

Curtis Allen
Curtis Allen

The Crown's first witness, RCMP Const. Daniel Fortier, testified he was outside the Interior Health building on an unrelated policing matter at the time of the protest.

He told the court he spoke to Lindsay, whom he described as being "oppositional" and "fairly worked up" at the time.

Fortier testified that Lindsay asked him what he would do if he tried to push his way into the building. Fortier said he replied that he would arrest Lindsay for trespassing.

Declared 'vexatious litigant'

Lindsay, who sat quietly taking notes during the police officer's testimony, is no stranger to the courtroom. He told CBC News on Wednesday that he's participated in more than 350 court cases in several provinces.

He has a long history of court dealings, making pseudo-legal arguments to challenge various aspects of tax legislation and the authority of the Canadian state and the courts.

In 2006, he was declared a vexatious litigant in B.C., meaning he cannot commence legal proceedings in any B.C. court without prior approval.

In 2008, he was sentenced to jail time for failing to file his income tax returns. Lindsay had argued he was not a "person" within the meaning of the Income Tax Act but rather "a full liability free will flesh and blood living man."

The City of Kelowna has petitioned the courts for an injunction to stop the "Freedom Rally" protests and named Lindsay as the respondent. Lindsay has told CBC News that he hasn't been served with the lawsuit.

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday morning with testimony from the two security guards Lindsay allegedly assaulted.