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Trial of 'Freedom Convoy' organizers Tamara Lich, Chris Barber adjourned until 2024

OTTAWA — The criminal trial of "Freedom Convoy" leaders Tamara Lich and Chris Barber adjourned Thursday after more than 30 days of evidence and arguments, and is expected to resume in January.

The trial began in September and was originally scheduled to finish on Oct. 13, but it is now anticipated to continue well into the new year.

Lich and Barber are both accused of mischief, intimidation and several charges related to counselling others to break the law.

Barber also faces a charge of counselling others to disobey a court order.

The two were among prominent organizers who spearheaded the effort to bring massive crowds of protesters and scores of big-rig trucks to Ottawa in a demonstration against COVID-19 public-health restrictions early last year.

The protest lasted for about three weeks, as participants blocked downtown streets with their vehicles and camped out next to Parliament Hill.

The Crown intends to prove the two conspired together in lock-step to organize an illegal protest, and that evidence against one of them should apply to both.

The defence has asked the judge to dismiss that notion, on the grounds that planning a protest is not an illegal activity.

Lawyers wrapped up their arguments on the conspiracy allegation this week, and no date has been set to hear the decision.

The trial is expected to resume briefly on Jan. 4 so the lawyers can quickly present their arguments about the admissibility of documents related to a court order that was issued during the protest.

Barber's lawyer Diane Magas wants to give the criminal court judge access to the court transcript related to the injunction. The Crown has yet to weigh in on what portions of the transcript it will agree to show the judge.

The injunction banned honking in the downtown core during the protest, after truck horns blared at all hours of the night during the demonstration's early days.

Barber is accused of counselling protesters to disobey the court order.

In a TikTok video shown in court, Barber told truckers during the protest to keep their horns quiet because of the injunction.

But he suggested in the expletive-laden message that if it seemed like a mass of police officers were moving in to break up the protest, demonstrators should "grab that horn switch and don't let go."

The transcript at issue contains a section in which the judge outlined what should be done if someone broke the injunction. He said it would be a civil matter and the person should be brought before his court to face the consequences.

No further dates have been scheduled, though the trial could potentially carry on for weeks more. The defence has yet to call any evidence, and closing legal arguments are expected to be complex and lengthy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2023.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press