An Ottawa resident said she felt fearful of being out and about in downtown Ottawa – where she lives and works – during the Freedom Convoy demonstration of 2022, while testifying as a witness for the prosecution on Thursday, the fifteenth day of the trial of Chris Barber and Tamara Lich in Ottawa, ON.
Barber and Lich and being charged with crimes related to their roles as organizers of the Freedom Convoy in the winter of 2022.
Both are charges with mischief, intimidation, obstruction of police, and counselling others to commit mischief, intimidation, and obstruction of police.
"I felt scared," Sarah Gawman, said of her sense of intimidation amid the peaceful protest. She added, "I didn't feel comfortable."
Gawman said she wore a mask while walking outside and was hassled by demonstrators for doing so.
"When I went on my walk, I did wear my mask," she stated, adding that protesters told her to take her mask off. When asked if she interacted with protesters, she replied, "Not particularly."
Gawman said the "non-stop honking" was "intolerable."
"I wasn't sleeping properly," she testified. She said it was "very difficult to concentrate" while doing her work, which she described as "very analytical." "I felt anxious in relation to trying to do my job."
After an objection raised by Lawrence Greenspon, Lich's defence attorney, against some of Gawman's testimony, Gawman was temporarily excused from the courtroom for the defence and Crown to resolve their dispute with the judge.
"She may have felt a certain way, but that may not have been the reality," Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, who is presiding over the trial, said of Gawman's testimony. Perkins-McVey continued, "She's giving very general evidence."
"Findings of fact can't be based on feelings," Perkins-McVey emphasized on the trial's twelfth day in relation to testimony from Serge Arpin, who worked as chief of staff for Jim Watson, who was Ottawa's mayor during the time of Freedom Convoy. Arpin testified that he felt "uncomfortable" walking downtown streets in the nation's capital during the peaceful demonstration.
Gawman confirmed that she is part of a $290 million class-action lawsuit seeking damages from several parties, including Barber and Lich.
The Canadian Press reported that Zexi Li, the lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit, is expected to testify.
Thursday's second witness was Vivian Leir, an administrator at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Ottawa's downtown. She testified that she has observed men urinating on church property on at least three separate occasions during the Freedom Convoy.
"The noise, the diesel smell … infiltrated the church," Leir stated.
"The whole environment of the church was brutally altered by this [protest]."
She said a hat and scarf had been hung over a statue of Jesus on the church's property and that church signage had been covered with messaging linked to the protest, including "Freedom."
Leir said she was unsure if she had seen an "F Trudeau" message displacing regularly church signage.
Leir testified that the church grounds were often affected by litter and garbage. They were fouling it and they were rude," she said. She described the protest as an "occupation." She said she was subjected to profanities when she challenged people during the aforementioned events.
Stephane Bellfoy, the third and final witness of Thursday's proceedings, testified that he experienced significant delays in his commutes during the Freedom Convoy demonstration.
He also said his two sons were mocked by passersby on downtown streets for walking home from hockey practice while wearing their gear due to his inability to drive his sons promptly because of traffic congestion as a function of the protest.