The twentieth day of the trial of Chris Barber and Tamara Lich on Thursday in Ottawa dealt with one Crown witness, Const. Nicole Bach, an officer with the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) who corresponded with Barber during the Freedom Convoy.
Bach works with a Police Liaison Team (PLT), a group of officers who liaise with stakeholders to coordinate public safety and security for special events, including demonstrations and their organizers.
Both Barber and Lich are charged with crimes associated with their roles of organizers in the 2022 Freedom Convoy, a peaceful protest of civil disobedience opposed to decrees, edicts, orders, and mandates issued by government and marketed as "public health" measures to address the spread of COVID-19.
The two co-defendants are accused of committing mischief, intimidation, obstruction of police, and counseling others to commit mischief, intimidation, and obstruction of police.
Bach testified about her communications with Barber and her observations of the Freedom Convoy's vehicle "footprint" in downtown Ottawa. She relayed messages of cooperation from Barber, as well as warnings he communicated to her based on his assessment of motorist and trucker protesters' frustration with some conduct from government and law enforcement.
"I observed agitated people who were not willing to work with police," Lach said of protesters in February of 2022, when demonstrators were not permitted to consolidate their vehicles on and near Wellington St. – where Parliament Hill is located – as road vacancies opened up following protester attrition.
Frustrated protesters were "upset that they couldn't get closer to Parliament," Bach said of those wishing to join the protest with vehicles.
Bach testified that Barber worried the Freedom Convoy might fall "out of control" and PLTs refused to allow them to reposition their vehicles in late January and into February 2022. At this time, Bach said Barber was "more inclined to work with us in order to resolve these issues." She said Barber worried the demonstrators had "lost sight of the original intent of what it was meant for."
The PLT officer stated that Barber warned her, "It would be a big mistake to move in with riot gear." She said Barber said the Freedom Convoy protesters would "not [be] leaving until things change," which included a demand for the government to "lift the mandates."
Bach also noted that her work phone was "wiped" after the Freedom Convoy was forcefully put down by police officers due to an "update" or "upgrade" required by her department. "All my texting and information, I lost it all, [because of] upgrading or changing software by the IT department."
"I lost all of the content," she said when cross-examined by Diane Magas, Barber's lead defence attorney, about lost police records on her work phone. On Thursday, Const. Isabelle Cyr – another OPS officer assigned to a PLT – also testified that her work phone had its content erased via an IT-directed system update or upgrade.
The matter of lost digital content on Bach's phone came to the attention of the court when Justice Heather Perkins-McVey asked the witness about PLT logs and other work records on her mobile device.
Bach stated, "All my texting and information, I lost it all [because of] upgrading or changing software by the IT department."
When lead prosecutor Tim Radcliffe asked Bach if the OPS's PLTs discussed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, she answered in the affirmative. Immediately afterwards, Perkins-McVey questioned Radcliffe of the relevance of this line of inquiry.
Radcliffe later questioned the judge's interjections, and stated that his line of questioning of Bach regarding PLT discussion of Trudeau relates to a mischief charge of obstructing or blocking highways. Radcliffe and the judge decided to table their dispute until Friday.