An Ontario judge ruled Monday that Ottawa convoy protest organizer Tamara Lich can be released on bail, reversing a prior court ruling.
Justice John Johnston delivered his decision on Monday afternoon in an Ottawa courtroom. He said it is highly unlikely that Ms. Lich, who has no criminal record, would face a penitentiary sentence of two years or more if convicted.
It is not “constitutionally permitted to deprive the liberty of an accused presumed innocent before trial when the sentence, if convicted, would not be lengthy,” he added in his decision.
He also said it is likely a trial will not occur for many months, meaning that, if Ms. Lich were held without bail, her time in pretrial detention could exceed the length of her eventual sentence.
Ottawa Police said on Feb. 18 that Ms. Lich had been charged with counselling to commit mischief, related to her involvement in the convoy protest. The 49-year-old from Medicine Hat used the online fundraising platform GoFundMe to organize a campaign that collected millions of dollars for the protest.
Although GoFundMe later cancelled the campaign and said it would refund most of the money to donors, the protest’s anti-pandemic-measure demonstrators still succeeded in blockading several streets in Ottawa’s downtown core for three weeks.
Ms. Lich is a former member of the governing council of the separatist Maverick Party in Alberta.
She must now adhere to a number of conditions, including that she leave Ottawa within 24 hours after her release and depart Ontario within 72 hours. Her surety must post a $20,000 bond, and Ms. Lich herself must post $5,000.
Justice Johnston said Ms. Lich’s proposed surety is considered reliable. Because of a publication ban, the surety can be identified only as a member of Ms. Lich’s family.
The court’s conditions also forbid Ms. Lich from communicating, either directly or indirectly, with fellow protest organizers. She is required to live at her Alberta residence, and she is forbidden from posting messages on social media.
Justice Johnston said the prohibition on certain online activity is restrictive, but that he believes it is necessary because it appears to him that Ms. Lich used social-media platforms to promote the Ottawa protest and blockade.
He said she must not engage in any organization, promotion or protest against COVID-19 mandates, vaccinations or similar activities, which he said is a reasonable term under the circumstances, given the evidence in Ms. Lich’s case.
The decision reverses a Feb. 22 ruling from Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois, who denied bail for Ms. Lich.
Justice Bourgeois said there was a “substantial risk” that Ms. Lich would not follow a court order to stop the illegal activity she is accused of having committed.
Last week, during a bail review hearing, Ms. Lich submitted an affidavit in which she said she was unaware Justice Bourgeois was a federal Liberal candidate in the 2011 election. Had she known, Ms. Lich said, she would have asked her lawyer to request the judge’s recusal.
Ms. Lich’s affidavit noted that the convoy protests at the heart of the charges she is facing included expressions of discontent with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who leads the Liberal Party.
Justice Johnston said Ms. Lich’s case was not about politics.
The demonstration in Ottawa began at the end of January, and police enforcement brought it to an end in late February. It was among the reasons the Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act, which was in place for a 10-day period while law enforcement worked to end blockades in the capital and at other locations across the country.
On Feb. 23, Mr. Trudeau said the government would stop its use of the never-before-invoked legislation because Ottawa had been assured that police had sufficient tools to deal with any further challenges. An inquiry is mandated as part of the use of the legislation, along with an examination by a special review committee.
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