Four men — Anthony Olienick, Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak and Jerry Morin — were charged with conspiracy during the Coutts, Alberta, border blockade and will be back in court on July 25, 2023 for a pre-trial hearing.
The hearing could relate to evidentiary issues; however, reporting the details may be constrained under an existing publication ban.
On June 12, 2023, the four men appeared in court together for a pre-trial hearing but with separate legal representation. They were expected to appear for a two or three week long jury trial, which was delayed due to pre-trial applications brought by the defence lawyers.
Applications were heard by Court of King’s Bench Justice David Labrenz. A publication ban has been placed on multiple Information to Obtains (ITOs) detailing RCMP allegations against the four. ITOs are used to justify executing a warrant without a judge’s signature in advance.
Katherin Beyak, who represents Chris Carbert, has argued a publication ban should be issued on information RCMP used to apply for search warrants. Beyak insisted jury members may have access to the information in the ITO before the trial, which she argued is a one-sided narration of events provided by police.
This ban would include information already released to the public by a previous judge, and would prohibit the publication of information related to these warrants.
“From my perspective it is very difficult to see how’s there any increased risk in trial fairness, given the amount of publicity that this case has already received,” he said.
Tess Layton, the lawyer for multiple media outlets, and Crown prosecutor Stephen Johnston, have argued against a ban. Justice David Labrenz reserved his decision.
Lawyer Greg Dunn, representing Jerry Morin, requested an adjournment on June 13, alleging prosecutors haven't fully disclosed evidence of the police investigation, with disclosure arriving just days before this latest court appearance.
Morin has called this failure to disclose a violation of the accused's constitutional rights, rendering them unable to bring a fulsome defence of the charges against them. In court, Dunn informed the judge that there had been 13 disclosure packages provided by the crown to date, with the latest coming just days prior.
“There are three breaches that have been made by the Crown in this ongoing matter...one, failure to provide full disclosure; two, failure to provide timely disclosure; three, failure or refusal to respond to additional disclosure requests.”
After Dunn's adjournment application, the hearing saw RCMP Supt. Kevin Kunetzki, deputy criminal operations officer for the Alberta RCMP during the Coutts blockade, testify.
Defence lawyer for Anthony Olienick, Toni Roulston, cross-examined Kunetzki on the notes he took during the Coutts blockade.
An application to change the venue of the four men’s trial from Lethbridge to another city has not yet been scheduled.
The four men then sat through two or three weeks of pre-trial motions and applications during a voir dire — a mini-trial inside the main trial, generally subject to a media ban as the jury isn’t present.
"During Tuesday’s hearing, the court heard the defence applications for more disclosure and the adjournment of a significant portion of the remaining applications and motions being heard during the ongoing voir dire.”
Trial dates for the four men have yet to be determined.
The four men were arrested on February 13 and 14, 2022, during the Coutts border blockade, where truckers and farmers blocked the main crossing between Alberta and Montana in protest of COVID mandates. They face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose, and mischief over $5,000.
Many argue the right to a timely trial and bail has been violated for the accused. All four men were denied bail in 2022, with the reasons for the decision protected by a publication ban.
“All of the arguments, evidence and judge's reasons for detention are protected by a publication ban.”