Convoy protest trial now on break until Oct. 11


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The trial of convoy protest organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber has begun a scheduled break that will continue until after Thanksgiving.

The court finished hearing the testimony of Serge Arpin, the chief of staff to Ottawa’s former mayor, on Friday.

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He spoke about how the city responded to the protest that overwhelmed the downtown core for three weeks in early 2022.

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Arpin also testified about his interactions with convoy organizers while working out a deal with former mayor Jim Watson to move big-rig trucks out of residential neighbourhoods.

The evidence was originally due to be wrapping up by this point in the trial, which had been scheduled to last 16 days, but Arpin was just the fourth witness to finish his testimony.

The trial was expected to hear from 22 witnesses, leaving the court to ponder how much more time will be needed to reach the finish.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey, who is overseeing the trial, has identified several dates in October and November.

Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer representing Lich, said he did not want to set new court dates until the Crown had established a new, more accurate time estimate for its case.

As of Friday, the trial was expected to resume Oct. 11.

Lich and Barber are charged with mischief and counselling others to commit offences such as mischief and intimidation for their roles in organizing and prolonging the demonstration.

The defence questioned Arpin on Friday about how city council and staff attempted to put an end the protest. As the mayor’s chief of staff, Arpin told the court he sat in on every council meeting.

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He was grilled about a bylaw change on Feb. 9, 2022, that banned idling in a vehicle unless the temperature fell at or below -15 C. The bylaw originally allowed idling if the temperature was below 5 C.

“City council … was attempting to freeze out the truckers and their families,” Greenspon told the court.

Arpin said he believed the intention was to bring the demonstration to an end.

Arpin was also involved in the deal between Watson, Lich and other organizers to move trucks out of residential neighbourhoods and onto Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill.

He texted back and forth with the convoy organizers’ lawyer Keith Wilson on Feb. 14 and 15 in an exchange that was filed as evidence in the trial.

The texts suggested city staff did not give protest organizers or their lawyers a heads-up about plans to file an application for a court injunction against demonstrators who violated city bylaws.

On Feb. 15, Wilson asked if media reports that the city had been granted an injunction against protesters was true and said it could change the terms of their deal.

Arpin testified that he knew about the impending injunction application, but did not tell Wilson until after it was granted by a judge.

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Lawyers representing the convoy organizers were not given an opportunity to oppose the application in court at the time.

The Crown hopes to pick up its case in October with eight witnesses from Ottawa who lived or worked downtown during the protest.

Lich and Barber have already admitted there was mischief taking place in the protest zone.

Greenspon has argued that the testimony of those witnesses would be akin to victim-impact statements and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to be heard during the trial.

Perkins-McVey said she didn’t know if she’d be ready to deliver her decision on that argument before the trial resumed in October.

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