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Court rules residents can testify in convoy trial

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey has ruled residents and business owners impacted by what became known as the Freedom Convoy can testify in the criminal trial of two leaders of the protests.

Trial continues after sitting 13 days in September

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Justice Heather Perkins-McVey has ruled residents and business owners impacted by what became known as the Freedom Convoy can testify in the criminal trial of two of the protest's organizers.

Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are charged with mischief, counselling others to commit mischief, intimidation and obstructing police for their role in the weeks-long protest in January and February of 2022.

Crown lawyers argued the testimony of eight witnesses, including business owners and residents, was needed to illustrate the scope, nature and consequences of the protests to "rebut" any suggestion it was peaceful.

The eight people were identified using survey information provided by Ottawa police that asked how they were impacted by the protests, including verbally and physically.

But the defence had argued Lich and Barber were prepared to admit that actions of certain individuals participating in the protests resulted in interference with the lawful use or enjoyment of certain properties and businesses.

The defence was prepared to admit that residents and businesses were interfered with, and public transportation disrupted as a result protesters' actions.

Crown lawyers contended they were trying to prove more than what was covered in those admissions, leading to McVey-Perkins being required to rule on whether the testimony would be allowed.

As the trial resumed for its 14th day, she ruled the residents and businesses could testify, citing a well-known principle in law that the Crown should be able to call a case "as it sees it" and is not required to accept admissions from the accused.

Defence counsel had also argued the court should exercise its case management powers to prevent the Crown from calling the witnesses and prevent further delays to make sure the trial is proceeding in an effective and orderly fashion.

McVey-Perkins said this power is not a licence to exclude otherwise relevant and material evidence in the name of efficiency.

She said preventing the witnesses from testifying "goes beyond the case management" powers and would stop the Crown from calling the case as it sees fit.

But she said she would still be limiting the evidence provided from the witnesses and would only be accepting what was relevant.

Her lengthy decision, delivered after court started an hour late because of technical delays, was made in front of a mostly full Ottawa courtroom.

The trial sat for 13 days in September and was originally scheduled to take 16 in total, but the Crown's case has moved at a slow pace and additional dates are being added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Fraser

Reporter

David Fraser is an Ottawa-based journalist for CBC News who previously reported in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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