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Tamara Lich walks with lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, left, on their way to the courthouse on the first day of trial, in Ottawa on Sept. 5.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The high-profile trial of two central organizers of the 2022 Ottawa trucker convoy began with a Crown prosecutor arguing the case is not about the political views of Tamara Lich and Chris Barber but about the means they used that “crossed the line” into criminality.

Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber and some supporters were at the Ottawa Courthouse as the trial got under way Tuesday. It is expected to run into October and is being presided over by Justice Heather Perkins-McVey.

The trial will explore charges the pair face of mischief, obstructing police and intimidation, as well as one charge of counselling for each of those three offences.

Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber were arrested on Feb. 17, 2022. Subsequently, there was a massive police operation to clear streets in the core of the capital after big rigs remained parked for more than three weeks. Ottawa convoy protesters were opposed to vaccination mandates in place during the pandemic and some demonstrators expressed anti-government sentiments.

Lawyers for Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber released a pretrial statement saying they do not expect this to be the trial of the truckers convoy. They believe the issue should be “whether the actions of two of the organizers of a peaceful protest should warrant criminal sanction.”

During an opening statement on the first day, Crown prosecutor Tim Radcliffe said that defence counsel may argue the pair were exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The Crown plans to point to evidence to argue that Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber went beyond exercising those rights.

Mr. Radcliffe said that Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber exercised control and influence over the placement of vehicles in downtown Ottawa, beginning in January, 2022.

Not only did the protesters in Ottawa “hold the line” for weeks as directed by Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber but in so doing “they crossed the line and they committed multiple crimes,” Mr. Radcliffe added.

In response to Mr. Radcliffe’s opening statement, Mr. Barber’s lawyer, Diane Magas, said she took issue with the Crown’s use of the word “occupation” to describe the protests. Lawrence Greenspon, a prominent Ottawa lawyer representing Ms. Lich, echoed concerns about the use of the term.

The Crown called its first witness, Ottawa Police Constable Craig Barlow, on Tuesday.

An 11-minute video compiled by Constable Barlow from the protest was played before the court, including images of demonstrators chanting “freedom” when they had been asked to leave downtown Ottawa by the service.

Additional members of the Ottawa Police Service are expected to be called as witnesses on Wednesday.

Prior to delivering his opening remarks, Mr. Radcliffe told court a proposed witness list of 22 people includes senior police and city officials.

During the trial, the Crown intends to present more than 100 exhibits, including videos, Mr. Radcliffe said.

Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber have been seated in the front row behind their lawyers, along with their spouses.

Outside of the courthouse prior to the start of proceedings, some supporters held signs, such as one that said “I Support Tamara Lich” on one side and “I Support Chris Barber” on the other.

Ottawa convoy protests led to one of the largest police responses in Canadian history in mid-February of last year. In addition to the protests in Ottawa, traffic was blocked at border crossings in other parts of the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Feb. 14, 2022, that he would invoke the Emergencies Act in response to the protests. The move gave the government significant powers, including the ability to allow banks to freeze personal and corporate bank accounts without court orders.

Supporters of Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber have been critical of the Liberal government’s decision to invoke the act and believe it was a significant overreach.

Under provisions of the Emergencies Act, the federal government was required to call a public inquiry. Justice Paul Rouleau, an Ontario Court of Appeal judge, served as its commissioner. Public hearings were held last year.

In February, Justice Rouleau released a report stating the invocation of the act was appropriate. He said, however, he did not come to this conclusion easily because he did not “consider the factual basis for it to be overwhelming.”

Separate from the criminal trial, Ms. Lich and Mr. Barber are named in a proposed $300-million class-action lawsuit. It calls for compensation for residents, businesses and workers in downtown Ottawa.

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