OTTAWA — Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the Freedom Convoy protest that paralyzed Ottawa for weeks, will remain free on bail pending trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Kevin Phillips said he made his decision because she complied with her bail conditions, her surety supervised her well, and she already had a “taste of prison”, which he said reduced his risk of re-offending.
The judge said he did not accept that Lich violated his release conditions by agreeing to receive a reward, and added that Lich could be trusted to abide by the conditions of his release.
She was released in March with a long list of conditions, including a ban on all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy”.
The conditions for Lich’s release were intended to prevent a similar protest from happening in the nation’s capital, the judge said, adding that the court was not seeking to scrutinize people’s political views.
“Courts are not thought police. We only seek to control conduct to the extent that certain behavior will violate or likely lead to the violation of the law,” he said.
The protest is over and has left Ottawa, he said, adding that it would be “virtually impossible” to stage a similar protest in the city again.
Lich’s attorney, Lawrence Greenspon, said in an interview Wednesday that he was happy with the decision.
“She will be able to lead her life in a much more normal way thanks to the judge’s decision,” Greenspon said.
Moiz Karimjee, a crown attorney, said last week that Lich violated one of his bail conditions by agreeing to accept a reward for his leadership at the Ottawa protest, and should be remanded behind bars to await trial.
Greenspon argued last week that his bail conditions should be relaxed to allow him to come to Ontario and use social media.
He told the court that the social media ban imposed on Lich was unnecessarily broad and had a huge impact on her life while she was not in custody.
However, Phillips said Wednesday that Lich’s social media ban was justified.
“Social media can be a problematic feedback loop where people get encouraged and caught up in group activities that they would never do alone,” he said.
Social media “undoubtedly contributed to and even drove” Lich’s conduct related to the protest, and her separation from her is necessary to reduce her risk of reoffending, Phillips said.
Noting that Lich is in her late 40s, Phillips said she should be able to remember “how to use the social skills she surely picked up before the advent of the internet.”
Lich is able to communicate through many other means, including email, phone or in-person meetings, he said.
Greenspon said while he would have liked to see the social media ban lifted, “the most important thing was the rejection of the Crown’s efforts to put her back in jail for agreeing to accept an award.”
The judge changed his conditions of release to allow him to go to Ottawa.
Lich’s motivation for coming to the city cannot be disclosed as it is subject to a court-ordered publication ban.
Phillips reiterated the high improbability that Lich could stage an event resembling the convoy protest.
Although she is allowed to come to Ottawa, Lich is not allowed to visit downtown so as not to “walk through the very neighborhoods she would have traumatized,” he said, except for go to court or meet with a lawyer.
Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly charged with mischief, obstructing police, counseling others to commit mischief and intimidation.
The “Freedom Convoy” demonstration turned into a week-long demonstration that crowded the streets of Ottawa in February.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press