A Vindictive Crown Thwarted in Attempt to Revoke Tamara Lich’s Bail for Accepting Free Speech Award
Chalk up a small but important victory for free speech. Bail is supposed to help ensure that the accused will appear for trial and will not commit the alleged offence prior to trial. All too often in Canada, it is used as a way to gag a dissident prior to trial, which might be many months away. After initially being denied bail for a non-violent offence (counselling mischief), Lich was granted bail in March, but on condition that she leave Ontario (be out of Dodge by sunset) and not access social media. When the Crown learned she was to receive the George Jonas Freedom Award from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, it was outraged. Canada’s increasingly politicized justice system was furious that a person they\d condemned to be a pariah and non-person was to receive a public honour and award. They sought to have her thrown back in prison — but we support democracy in the Ukraine, right? Her lawyers sought to amend her bail conditions. Today, Tamara Lich escaped prison and has some of her freedoms back. Nevertheless, she still is gagged and banned from the social media.
Canadian Association for Free Expression
‘The courts are not a thought police,’ judge says in Tamara Lich bail review decision
The ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer is again allowed to enter Ontario, but remains restricted from using social media. Author of the article: Aedan Helmer Publishing date:
Tamara Lich will not be sent back to jail as a judge lifted her ban from entering Ontario, but ruled to reinforce her ban from social media in a bail review decision Wednesday.
“The courts are not a thought police,” Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips said as he rejected the Crown’s arguments that Lich should have her bail revoked over alleged breaches of her release conditions.
“We seek only to control conduct to the extent that certain behaviour will violate, or likely lead to violation of the law,” the judge continued. “Here, the objective was to keep a highly problematic street protest from reviving or reoccurring … No court would ever seek to control the possession or manifestation of political views.”
The Crown had argued that Lich breached the condition that bars her from supporting “anything related” to the “Freedom Convoy” when she accepted the 2022 “George Jonas Freedom Award,” which she is set to receive in a June 16 gala in Toronto hosted by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
Lawrence Greenspon, Lich’s lawyer, said the judge’s ruling would allow his client to travel to Toronto to accept the award in person, and he confirmed she also intended to attend similar gala events in Calgary and Vancouver, where VIP tickets cost $500.
In a phone interview following the decision, Greenspon applauded the judge for “soundly rejecting” the Crown’s efforts to send Lich back to jail.
“From our perspective, this was a clear rejection of the Crown’s attempt to reincarcerate Ms. Lich for agreeing to accept a ‘freedom award,’ and, in light of this decision, she’s going to be able to go to Toronto and accept that award without fear of being reincarcerated.
“That’s a great relief to her,” Greenspon said. “This effort to reincarcerate her … the battle of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly … that battle will be fought at trial.”
The JCCF, a vocal supporter of the demonstration, issued a statement following the decision saying the revised bail conditions “still excessively restrict” Lich’s Charter rights, while saying the Crown went to “troubling” lengths to revoke her bail.
Phillips also lifted Lich’s ban from entering Ontario in his revised bail plan and lifted her ban on entering the city of Ottawa, except for the geographical boundaries of the city’s downtown core.
A publication ban protects the reason Lich is seeking permission to return to Ottawa, and Phillips said he saw no issue with Lich attending a gala in Toronto months after the convoy had ended.
“The right between attendance at that function and problematic support for a demonstration that will, by then, have been long over, is so indirect as to be barely perceptible,” Phillips said.
He decided to uphold Lich’s ban from social media, however, ruling the original March 7 court order was “warranted and appropriate.”
“In a very real way, social media undoubtedly contributed to, and even drove the now-impugned conduct, and Ms. Lich staying away from it is necessary to lower the risk of reoffence to an acceptable level,” Phillips ruled.
“Social media can be a problematic feedback loop where people get egged-on and caught up by group activity they would never perform on their own,” Phillips intoned.
He warned Lich to avoid the temptation posed by social media and cited her “susceptibility to getting caught up in the sort of toxic groupthink that animated the crowd back in February.”
Lich was arrested Feb. 17 and is jointly charged with fellow protest organizer Chris Barber with mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.
She was initially denied bail on Feb. 22, though that decision was overturned by Superior Court Justice John Johnston on March 7 and Lich was released from jail with a list of conditions. She was ordered to return home to Medicine Hat, Alta., where she must live under the supervision of a court-approved surety, and she is barred from contacting a list of fellow protest organizers. She remains banned from social media and cannot allow anyone to post on her behalf.
Assistant Crown Attorney Moiz Karimjee presented arguments during last week’s two-day bail review alleging Lich had broken two of her release conditions, first by accepting the “freedom award” and again by accepting a convoy-themed pendant as a gift from a supporter, who then posted a photo of Lich proudly wearing the necklace. The social media post identified Lich as the “brand ambassador” for the pendant.
Phillips on Wednesday said the Crown failed to prove those breaches.
The judge accepted Lich’s testimony that she saw no “live connection” between accepting the pendant — or accepting the award — and her support for the “Freedom Convoy.”
“I believe Ms. Lich when she says she does not see her acceptance of this award to be any sort of support for the ‘Freedom Convoy,’ because that initiative is over with,” the judge said. “I specifically reject the idea that she is responsible for what someone else did with a photo of her wearing a pendant.”
Lich has lived in her community for a “meaningful stretch” and demonstrated she can follow bail conditions, the judge said.