Court drops all charges against Freedom Convoy protester

'The right to peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy which is why the Charter guarantees the right to peaceful assembly,' said Justice Centre lawyer Henna Parmar.

Court drops all charges against Freedom Convoy protester
The Canadian Press / Nathan Denette
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A Canadian court stayed all charges against a Freedom Convoy protester last month — a decision the Justice Centre is celebrating as a victory for democracy.

On February 19, 2022, J.W. faced charges for allegedly interfering with the lawful use and enjoyment of property of downtown Ottawa residents, failure to obey a court order, and obstruction of justice for failing to identify himself to police. He participated in the peaceful protest responding to the invocation of the Emergencies Act in February of 2022.

Prosecutors alleged J.W. disobeyed a court order under the provincial declaration of emergency used to deal with the Windsor bridge blockades. Though the order was explicitly created to clear the Windsor blockades, counsel argued that it was an abuse to use the order for any other purpose. 

The Crown agreed and withdrew all charges, citing a lack of evidence that J.W. interfered with the lawful use and enjoyment of property. No police notes stated he failed to identify himself to the police, which could amount to obstructing police.

"The right to peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy which is why the Charter guarantees the right to peaceful assembly," said Justice Centre lawyer Henna Parmar. "We look forward to the Canadian Courts upholding the fundamental right of Canadians to assemble peacefully."

As of December 9, all charges against their client have been dropped.

In August, the Justice Centre stayed 49 charges against seven Freedom Convoy protesters who participated in a peaceful protest in Ottawa. The Crown also stayed these charges due to a lack of evidence, ruling in favour of the defendants that the right to peaceful protest is essential for a healthy democracy. 

The Freedom Convoy was a peaceful demonstration that protested the Trudeau Liberal's trucker vaccine mandates in January 2022. In response to the peaceful demonstrations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the unprecedented step of invoking the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022, to suppress the peaceful protests and freeze the bank accounts of protesters without a court order.

As required by the Emergencies Act, a public inquiry commission was established to determine the justification for invoking the Act. The Justice Centre was granted full standing at the commission and cross-examined witnesses, including Prime Minister Trudeau. Witness testimony ended on November 25, 2022. The Commissioner is expected to release his report in February 2023.

According to Nanos polling, Canadians overwhelmingly supported invoking the Emergencies Act against the Freedom Convoy. The Trudeau Liberals emerged unscathed after six weeks of intense scrutiny at the Public Order Emergency Commission.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents 'supported' or 'somewhat supported' the precedent-setting decision against the convoy protests that gridlocked the capital and jammed some border crossings. Only 30% 'opposed' or were 'somewhat opposed' to invoking the Emergencies Act, with 4% unsure.

According to an Angus Reid poll published in May, only 46% of Canadians agreed that invoking the Emergencies Act was 'necessary' to give police the resources to end the protest. But 34% of Canadians and 51% of Conservative voters felt it was 'unnecessary.'

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