A key organizer of the trucker protest that besieged Canada’s capital city was denied bail Tuesday as police kept a strict checkpoint system in place to prevent demonstrators from retaking the downtown streets.
Tamara Lich, who was the public face of the convoy and helped it crowdfund millions in donations, was rebuffed by an Ontario Superior Court judge who concluded she was evasive during her testimony and was likely to re-offend if released, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and other news outlets. She was arrested Thursday and remains in detention on a charge of counseling to commit mischief.
Though Ottawa has now been cleared of the semis and other trucks that blockaded the city for three weeks in protest against COVID-related public health measures, dozens of the vehicles used in the protest are still in the area, parked at private farms outside the city. One demonstrator told the Globe and Mail he and others left the city to “regroup,” not to give up.
The emergency powers invoked last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are still in place, having been approved by a majority of elected lawmakers in a vote Monday night. Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have said they still need the emergency powers in case the truckers attempt any more blockades, which not only disrupted daily life in Ottawa for weeks but shocked the Canadian economy and supply chains by bringing important U.S. border crossings to a standstill.
Nearly 200 arrests
Two other high-profile protest organizers have also been arrested over the past week. Chris Barber, a trucker, was released on bail Friday on the condition he leave Ottawa immediately and not further promote the convoy in any way. Pat King, who has hundreds of thousands of social media followers, was in court on Tuesday arguing for his own release on bail. He faces four charges, including mischief, counseling to commit mischief, counseling to disobey a court order, and counseling to obstruct police.
As of Monday, police had made a total of 196 arrests related to the Ottawa protest and laid criminal charges against 110 people. They had towed 115 vehicles.
Police are also using the emergency powers to target the flow of funding to protest organizers and put financial pressure on trucking companies to prevent their vehicles from being used in blockades.
The financial dragnet has been criticized as overreach by the main opposition Conservatives. It has also raised the ire of trucking companies whose rigs were involved in the protest.
“I am extremely disappointed in our government,” Len Petkau, owner of Manitoba-based Terrain Transport, said by phone. “We’ll keep fighting for our rights as best as we can but it is very clear we’re under siege here, our freedom is.”