The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has reviewed the decision of Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips regarding the appeal of Tamara Lich’s bail conditions. Ms. Lich was one of the participants of the peaceful protest in Ottawa against vaccine passports this past February. In a decision given orally on May 25, 2022, Justice Phillips said the Courts are not “thought police” and are not in the business of controlling political views. While Justice Phillips upheld a sweeping social media ban which Ms. Lich’s lawyer objected to, he also said that Ms. Lich has the presumption of innocence, and did not find that she violated any of her previous bail conditions.
Given the changes in circumstances since her release in March, Justice Philips set new bail conditions for Tamara Lich: keep the peace and be of good behavior; Ms. Lich is prohibited from communicating with other pro-freedom activists, using social media, organizing or aiding protests, and entering the downtown part of Ottawa unless for court.
During the bail appeal hearing that took place on May 19 and 20, 2022, Assistant Crown Attorney Moiz Karimjee argued that Ms. Lich should be put back in jail because she had accepted the Justice Centre’s 2022 George Jonas Freedom Award. Mr. Karimjee suggested that Ms. Lich had breached her bail conditions by agreeing to attend the June 16 Justice Centre’s George Jonas Freedom Award dinner in Toronto, however there was no evidence before the Court that she planned to attend in person.
When Ottawa police sergeant Mahad Hassan was called to give evidence for the Crown, he had no evidence other than a post on the Justice Centre website about the June 16 dinner. Sgt. Hassan speculated with his own opinion that it was a reasonable inference that Ms. Lich was attending at the annual award, which features VIP tickets to meet the keynote speaker, Rex Murphy, famous National Post columnist.
Lawrence Greenspon, counsel for Ms. Lich, argued for the lifting of the bail conditions, specifically the ban on social media, which prevented Ms. Lich from exercising her Charter freedoms of expression and association. He argued that a finding in favour of the Crown would put the criminal justice system in disrepute.
Justice Philips said, “No court will ever seek to control the manifestation of political views. The courts are not the thought police and are only meant to control conduct.” However, Justice Philips justified leaving the complete social media ban in an attempt to “prevent toxic group think.”
On February 17, 2022, Ms. Lich was charged with counselling to commit mischief and obstructing police, among other charges. The day before Ms. Lich was charged and jailed, Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean had decreed that Ms. Lich and other Defendants in a civil action to stop honking in downtown Ottawa were "at liberty to engage in a peaceful, lawful and safe protest.” The Prime Minister declared a national emergency on February 14, in spite of the fact that Ottawa police had not arrested any of the peaceful protesters or charged anyone with a crime in the preceding weeks.
Ms. Lich was jailed for 18 days, and eventually released on bail conditions that prohibited her from using social media and from exercising her Charter rights and freedoms to oppose vaccine passports and lockdown policies.
“In our criminal justice system – innocent until proven guilty – and for someone with no previous criminal charges, it is our view that these revised bail conditions still excessively restrict Ms. Lich’s fundamental Charter rights of speech, assembly, association, and political advocacy,” said Eva Chipiuk, Justice Centre lawyer.
“The extent to which the Crown has pursued Ms. Lich is troubling. Homicide detectives, crown attorneys, and scarce court time are being expended on persecuting Ms. Lich and her peaceful activism against two years of repressive government lockdowns and mandatory vaccination policies," added Ms. Chipiuk.