Trespassing charge against Toronto lawyer arrested at Ford rally withdrawn in Hamilton

Toronto-based lawyer Caryma Sa'd says she feels vindicated, but has unanswered questions, after Hamilton's city prosecutors withdrew trespassing charges against her. She had been arrested near an Ontario Progressive Conservative campaign stop in Hamilton in May. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)
Toronto-based lawyer Caryma Sa'd says she feels vindicated, but has unanswered questions, after Hamilton's city prosecutors withdrew trespassing charges against her. She had been arrested near an Ontario Progressive Conservative campaign stop in Hamilton in May. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)

Hamilton's city prosecutors have withdrawn trespassing charges against Caryma Sa'd, the Toronto-based lawyer who was arrested near an Ontario Progressive Conservative campaign stop in Hamilton in May.

"I feel somewhat vindicated," Sa'd told CBC Hamilton on Tuesday morning.

The charges were related to a Ford rally at the Hamilton airport on May 26.

Sa'd said she had RSVP'd to attend the event, which was behind held ahead ot the June 2 Ontario election. She's known for creating cartoons and videos that criticize politicians and people protesting public health measures.

Sa'd said she wasn't there as a protester but as a political commentator. She said someone from Ford's team asked her to leave and called the police when she refused.

"You're not invited to this event … we know you're not here for the right intentions," said a person speaking to Sa'd in a video she posted to Twitter. The person appeared to be wearing an in-ear headset, but their affiliation was unclear.

Hamilton police previously said Sa'd didn't leave despite multiple chances, leading to an officer arresting her for trespassing — fail to leave premise when directed.

Sa'd said she was taken off the property before being released and given a $65 ticket.

The airport told CBC Hamilton it was the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) who approached them and asked that the airport request officers to enforce the Trespass to Property Act (TPA) "to remove protesters from its property."

OPP said officers were just doing their job and enforcing the TPA, which states police must act upon whatever the airport defined as prohibited activity. In this case, OPP says, it was the airport that said protesting was prohibited.

Meanwhile, Hamilton police, the service responsible for arresting lawyer Sa'd on behalf of the OPP, previously wouldn't answer questions about the situation besides saying officers were enforcing the TPA.

The arrest had groups such as the the Criminal Lawyers' Association (CLA) "alarmed" and raised questions about whether Hamilton officers were acting based on orders given by Premier Doug Ford's security, if Sa'd's charter rights were violated and what influence the PC party may have had.

'No reasonable likelihood of conviction'

Prosecutor Sean Ramage said Tuesday there was a request to withdraw the charge because there was "no reasonable likelihood of conviction."

James Bowie, the Ottawa-based lawyer representing Sa'd, said someone must have decided Sa'd was trespassing, but who it was is unclear.

He added notes from the the arresting officer do not reveal who made the decision.

Caryma Sa'd/Twitter
Caryma Sa'd/Twitter

Bowie said his disclosure request "included a request to the legal occupier, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, to know what person decided to remove Ms. Sa'd." He also asked if Ford was the one who made the call, he said.

"Our request was never answered. The premier of Ontario refuses to say if he is the one who accused Ms. Sa'd of this trespass or not ... Caryma Sa'd has never known who her accuser is."

CBC Hamilton contacted the provincial government and Hamilton police for comment.

'I don't know that the story is quite over yet'

Sa'd said there are still "lots of unanswered questions" and feels she was arrested for political dissent.

She said the Ford government not responding to her counsel's request is "disappointing."

"The leader of the province ought to be accessible to his constituents," she said.

"I don't know that the story is quite over yet."

Sa'd said she's working to determine other legal options, including arguing if her charter rights were violated.