The sixteenth day of the Chris Barber and Tamara Lich trial on Friday, in Ottawa, ON, saw two Ottawans invited by the prosecution to testify to harms they claim to have suffered as a function of the Freedom Convoy protest in 2022.
Both Barber and Lich are co-defendants being charged with crimes linked to their roles as Freedom Convoy organizers. The two are charged with mischief, intimidation, obstruction of police, and counselling others to commit mischief, intimidation, and obstruction of police.
Chantal Biro, an Ottawa resident who runs what she described as an "upscale" clothing store for women near the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, said her retail business experienced a significant decrease in sales during the protest due to logistical difficulties for customers.
"My in-store sales dropped dramatically," Biro said. She added, "'Customers were not able to come to my shop easily." The day-to-day atmosphere of working was made unpleasant by the protest, she maintained. "Constant horns, constant megahorns, [and] loud music playing continuously" made work unpleasant, she said, and undermined sales by being off-putting to customers.
Biro said she heard "a lot of swearing, [and] a lot of the f-word, especially towards [Justin] Trudeau."
The business operator said she was ridiculed, mocked, and harassed by protesters for wearing a mask in her store and while walking from her parking spot to her business.
"[Protesters] laughed at me and told me to f off," Biro testified. She went on, "I was called a 'fucking cunt,' which was pleasant." She stated that she was subjected to "some insults or some snickering because I was wearing a mask from my garage to my store."
She continued, "I saw our city seized and completely overtaken by these so-called protesters." Biro also referred to the demonstration as "the so-called Freedom Convoy."
The day's final witness was Natalie Huneault, an events coordinator with OC Transpo – Ottawa's local government-run bus service – whose role is to adjust bus routes in response to large events such as sporting events, concerts, construction projects, and large demonstrations such as the Freedom Convoy.
Huneault detailed the changes she made to bus routes in response to what she said were "road closures." She testified several times to these "road closures" being functions of law enforcement directives.
"Road closures were implemented by Ottawa Police Services," Huneault said. At one point in her testimony, she implied uncertainty regarding Ottawa police's authority and responsibility for road closures. Lawrence Greenspon, the lead attorney representing Lich, recalled during cross-examination that Huneault had previously testified in a pre-trial statement that road closures were directed by local law enforcement.
Greenspon quoted Huneault's pre-trial statement, "'This was a police decision.'"
The proceedings concluded on a note of dispute between the Crown and defence attorneys regarding a matter of disclosure. The Crown has not yet released several hundred pages of emails containing encrypted communications sent via the Signal app from Police Liaison Team (PLT) officers, presumably including messages to Barber, Lich, and others associated with the Freedom Convoy.
After the prosecution described the Signal messages as irrelevant, Greenspon replied that he and his counterpart, Diane Magas, who is representing Chris Barber, should be able to determine relevance for themselves via full disclosure.
Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, the judge presiding over the trial, said full disclosure of the encrypted PLT messages to the defence is a preferable outcome, with possible irrelevance to be determined by her within the context of the trial if such information is used by either prosecution or defence.
The trial will resume and enter its fourth week on Monday.