Day five of the Tamara Lich and Chris Barber was almost entirely consumed by a dispute between the prosecution and defence over the admissibility of nine witnesses whose testimony the Crown seeks to enter as evidence on Monday, in Ottawa.
The witnesses — Ottawa residents, business owners, and an Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission employee — would testify to negative impacts they claim to have endured due to 2022's Freedom Convoy.
The prosecution said its intended witnesses would testify to their observations of "mischief" (including public urination and littering), "smells" related to vehicles' exhaust fumes, and the protest's alleged impact on their ability to access property (including vehicles and parking spots).
Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, the judge presiding over the trial, challenged some of the prosecution's stated expectations related to its intended witnesses.
She asked if the alleged public urination and littering was at all connected to the defendants, whether the exhaust fumes could be attributed to vehicles associated with the Freedom Convoy, law enforcement, or general motorists, and the possible transient nature of alleged obstructions to the witnesses' properties.
Lawrence Greenspon, Lich's lawyer, said any evidence — including witness testimony — must adhere to the basic legal tenet of "relevance" to the charges against the defendant in order to be admissible in a trial.
He said the expected testimony of the prosecution's intended witnesses would not go beyond "admissions" the defence already made regarding the prosecution's claims, including the negative impacts some Ottawa residents experienced during the Freedom Convoy demonstration.
If the testimony from a witness does not add relevant information pertaining to matter "requiring to be proved," Greenspon added, then "the evidence is irrelevant and must be excluded."
"The impact [of the Freedom Convoy] isn't relevant," the judge said in relation to her final adjudication of the charges against Barber and Lich.
The judge also noted that evidence and testimony presented by the prosecution contradicted the Crown's characterization of the protests as "anything but peaceful." She recalled a video montage presented by the prosecution last week, emphasizing that the only violence captured in footage was of an officer punching a demonstrator.
She also cited a police officer's testimony that no violence was directed at police officers from Freedom Convoy demonstrators.
Perkins-McVey responded to the Crown's description of her role as a "gatekeeper" overseeing the trial.
"It's going to be a very tight gate, with a lot of locks on the gate," she stated, "if I allow the witnesses to testify."
On Friday, the judge said she was "very unhappy" with the prosecution's attempt to refine some of its evidentiary submissions, adding that such details should have been ironed out by August 1.
The day concluded with the prosecution playing video of a press conference led by Tom Marazzo, a Freedom Convoy volunteer, held towards the end of the demonstration in February 2022.
He repeatedly emphasized the "peaceful" nature of the demonstration while characterizing law enforcement's response as "a misguided aggressive show of force."
"This protest is responsible and safe," Marazzo said in the 2022 press conference, representing Canadians who "just want their freedoms restored." He also highlighted how varying levels of government refused to sit and negotiate with Freedom Convoy representatives.