I absolutely abhorred the truckers’ so-called Freedom Convoy that occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks beginning Jan. 28.
And, since police didn’t appear to have the will and/or the courage to attempt to get the truckers out, I fully supported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invoking of the Emergency Act to give the federal government temporary powers to handle ongoing blockades and protests against pandemic restrictions.
It got the job done.
But although the Emergency Act has long gone away, some of the results of its use linger and not in a good way.
Pat King, one of the leaders of the convoy who lives in Alberta but has a Sault background, as of this writing remains in jail 125 days after being arrested for his role in the protest.
He has been denied bail.
I have to ask, as some of his supporters have, why?
Tamara Lich, charged with counselling to commit mischief as she was behind the halted GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $10 million to support the protests, was arrested Feb. 17 but was released on bail on March 7 on the condition she leave Ottawa within 24 hours, refrain from using social media and have no contact with certain co-organizers.
Chris Barber, another key organizer, was arrested at the same time as Lich but released a day later under similar conditions. Barber faced charges including counselling to commit mischief, counselling to disobey a court order, counselling to obstruct police, and mischief that interferes with the use and enjoyment of property.
If they could get bail, why couldn’t King?
When King first applied for bail Justice of the Peace Andrew Seymour said he wasn’t satisfied that King, if released, wouldn’t commit offences similar to those he’s accused of. In delivering his ruling, Seymour said the evidence submitted by the Crown “paints a portrait of an individual who has clear intention to continue his protest and is indifferent to the consequences.”
But that was then and this is now. The protest is becoming distant memory.
Tyson “Freedom George” Billings, co-accused with King, was released on June 15 after having spent 116 days in jail. He got out by pleading guilty to counselling to commit mischief. The Crown withdrew other charges, including intimidation, obstructing police, mischief and disobeying a court order.
Billings was sentenced to time served and six-months probation under the condition that he keeps the peace.
King faces charges of intimidation, obstructing police, disobeying a court order, counselling intimidation, mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to obstruct police and counselling to disobey a court order.
You will note that although he faces more charges than Billings did, they are all pretty much the same.
The Crown should be offering the same deal to King; plead guilty to mischief and be on your way.
After all, to put things in perspective, it is not as if King or any of the leaders of the protest were charged with causing or attempting to cause physical harm to anyone, as was the case with a fellow who got bail recently in the Sault.
Travis Parsons, one of two men involved in a shooting on Beverley Street on May 29 that put a man in hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds, was granted bail, much to the chagrin of many in this city.
If you can get bail on a charge of attempted murder, the charge Parsons faces, surely you should be able to get it on the much-weaker charges King still faces.
Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger said he agreed to release Billings at the joint request of the Crown and defence because Billings accepted responsibility.
He said sentencing is not about retribution. He also said that it was OK to believe in a cause but that it can “get out of hand.”
Crown counsel Moiz Karimjee said in court he could have sought to prove the other allegations made against Billings and thus obtain a lengthier jail sentence but opted not to in light of the fact that Billings is the first figure in the convoy to accept responsibility for his actions.
“I don’t regret it. I’m a freedom fighter,” Billings said outside the courthouse, minutes after his release, to the jubilation of about 50 supporters, including some who took part in the February protests.
According to the agreed statement of facts read out in court, Billings was captured in social media videos disobeying police checkpoints designed to keep people out of downtown Ottawa during the protest and encouraging others to thwart the checkpoints too.
Billings also recorded himself being belligerent toward police and encouraging other protesters to “hold the line.”
Billings said he “went to jail for the kids,” to have mask mandates repealed in schools.
But there’s the rub in all of this.
You don’t take your complaints about masking and vaccines to the federal government, or in this case the Governor-General; they are the purview of provincial governments. One would think that someone among the hundred of protesters involved would have twigged to that.
All evidence presented at King’s bail review remains subject to a publication ban so we are not privy to what the Crown is producing in the way of evidence that would allow a judge to go along with keeping King in jail.
According to a legal expert, King has likely already served more jail time awaiting trial than he would if convicted and sentenced.
“We are already reaching a period of prior detention that overpasses the possible punishment,” said Joao Velloso, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.
Canada purports to be a nation of justice.
I don’t see where justice is being served by denying Pat King bail. I believe it goes against everything we in this nation stand for.
Make it right.