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Police testimony resumes in criminal trial of 'Freedom Convoy' organizers

The criminal trial of two "Freedom Convoy" organizers resumed today after a two-week break with testimony from an Ottawa Police Service liaison officer. Chris Barber arrives to the Ottawa Courthouse in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The criminal trial of two "Freedom Convoy" organizers resumed Monday after a two-week break with testimony from an Ottawa police liaison officer. 

Const. Nicole Bach, the primary police contact for organizer Chris Barber during the three-week demonstration that paralyzed downtown Ottawa early last year, wrapped up her testimony as she was cross-examined by the defence. 

Bach is one of three police witnesses to take the stand. Her testimony was paused last month as defence lawyers argued for access to redacted police communications from the protest, including emails, police logs and chat transcripts.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey decided that some of that material would be admitted as evidence.

Bach has already told court that in the protest's early days, Barber warned things were getting "out of control" and said protesters would only leave if the prime minister acknowledged them and lifted all pandemic-related mandates.

On Monday, Bach testified that Barber had helped police in moving some of the trucks which were clogging Ottawa's downtown core, citing at least one conversation she had with the organizer. 

But she pushed back against the characterization by Tamara Lich's lawyer Eric Granger that the convoy protests had been peaceful — an objection that prompted Perkins-McVey to ask her to avoid expressing her opinion. 

Monday's cross-examination also revealed that Bach and other police liaison officers were advised to go home on Feb. 15, the day former Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly resigned. Bach said she returned to work Feb. 18.

Bach had earlier testified in October that Barber warned her a forcible police operation with riot gear would be a "big mistake."

In a text exchange, Barber told Bach "I have a few guys getting ready to move out" and asked about rumours of a tactical police removal operation. 

"The world is watching," Barber warned Bach over text on Nov. 9.  

Barber and Lich face multiple charges, including mischief, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation for their role in the 2022 protests against COVID-19 public-health measures.

The Crown is seeking to prove that Lich and Barber exerted influence over the actions of the protesters.

The trial is scheduled to resume Nov. 27.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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