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Army reservist James Topp speaks to a crowd during a protest against COVID-19 health measures, in Ottawa, on June 30.Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

The Canadian soldier charged with speaking against federal vaccine mandates while wearing his uniform and who recently led a march to Ottawa is now facing a court martial.

Warrant Officer James Topp’s lawyer says the army reservist was recently notified that he will be allowed to have his case heard in a military court instead of by his chain of command.

Phillip Millar says the decision represents a second about-face after the military initially offered his client a court martial, only to rescind the offer and send his case to his unit commanders.

Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline after publicly criticizing federal vaccine requirements while wearing his uniform.

He later led a months-long march from Vancouver that ended in Ottawa last week and was supported by many of the same organizers as this year’s “Freedom Convoy.”

Military law experts say the decision to allow a court martial raises the stakes for Topp by increasing the potential penalties should he be found guilty.

Yet they say it also means his trial will receive much more public attention and he will be allowed to have legal representation at trial, which wouldn’t have necessarily been the case if he was tried by his commanding officer.

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