Public Order highlights: Thursday, November 3

On day 16, the Commission began with a presentation of the commission counsel of the various convoy fundraising campaigns.

Ultimately, approximately $24 million was raised through various means, including e-transfers, GiveSendGo, GoFundMe and cryptocurrency.

GoFundMe funds were released to a TD account opened by Tamara Lich and Chris Garrah on February 1, 2022, then later to Tamara Lich and Chris Barber in another TD account. TD later placed holds on these accounts. The fundraising companies expressed concerns that funds may be used for unlawful purposes. When the GoFundMe campaign was eventually closed, supporters then sent funds to the GiveSendGo crowdfunding campaign.

Most fundraising platforms rely on Stripe - a payment processor - which requires users to have a Stripe account attached to a bank account. Once organizers had a Stripe account attached to a bank account, funds would flow to their bank account. Cryptocurrencies were also used to fund the protest. 

Court orders were used to prevent funds from moving to the convoy organizers. A Restraint Order was obtained by the government: it is an order obtained when there is a concern that property may be used in furtherance of an indictable offence.

A Mareva order was also obtained to freeze funds so that plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the convoy organizers could access them later if a lawsuit is successful. 

As a result of the Restraint Order, Stripe froze some accounts (where jurisdiction was not an issue). A Mareva order was also used to freeze funds. Consequently, funds remained in various bank accounts. Some funds were refunded to donors by crowdfunding platforms. Some funds were placed in an escrow account. 

Benjamin Dichter then gave evidence at the Commission. He is a truck driver and a podcaster. He became involved with the protest when Tamara Lich contacted him in January 2022 for help with the GoFundMe campaign. He is vaccinated but saw the stress the mandates were having on truckers. He wanted to help get a positive message out. He described disagreements with other members of the convoy organizers. He reiterated that he made public statements that the convoy was not there to "overthrow the government." 

When asked about Pat King and his offensive rhetoric, Mr. Dichter said that he believed Mr. King's offensive statements would reflect poorly on the convoy as the rhetoric of Mr. King did not align with the goals of the convoy. He stated that the media made many attempts to connect Mr. King and Mr. Bauder to the convoy, but they had very little to do with it.

He said that he told organizers that Pat King "had to go." They distributed a press release stating that Pat King represents only himself. He believed this to be necessary because of the false narrative put out by the government and legacy media. He said the protest was a "cry for help" and that the truckers wanted to be heard by the government.

Mr. Dichter testified that he did not see any harassing or anti-social behaviour personally. He agreed that after the convoy arrived, the truckers were honking.

He claimed that he only heard frequent honking for the first few days. He was staying in a hotel two blocks from the core, however, and did not experience issues with the frequent honking. He said that honking memes became more popular following the injunction against honking since the protesters were no longer permitted to actually honk. He said he was never approached by anyone from the Premier's office or the Prime Minister's office to discuss a peaceful resolution. 

James Bauder was the next witness. He testified that he was a truck driver and a convoy participant. He considered the mandates to be unlawful, and he began planning a convoy to Ottawa in August 2021. He formed a group called "Canada Unity" to oppose vaccine passports, mandates, and lockdowns. He helped author the MOU, which proposed that the "Operation Bear Hug" protest would end once vaccine mandates and other restrictions were ended. However, he withdrew the MOU on February 8, 2022, because it was causing problems for convoy organizers. He said that it was not the intention of the MOU to replace a democratically elected government. He was not aware that it was used by the federal government as a justification for invoking the Emergencies Act.

He said as the convoy approached Ottawa, they were in contact with the police and obeyed the law. He added that the convoy was permitted by police to proceed to Wellington street. 

He recalled hearing about firearms being seized in Peterborough. When he became concerned that weapons may have been present, he immediately notified the police. 

Mr. Bauder agreed that he never called for the violent overthrow or sabotage of the government. He did not call for the destruction of property. He said that he did not have a lawyer help prepare the MOU: it was written by two truck drivers.

Lastly, he stated that he did not organize any other protest in any part of the country.

Tamara Lich was the final witness of the day. She stated that prior to her involvement in the convoy, she worked in the oil & gas industry. She was politically active with the Wexit movement and the yellow vest movement. 

She testified that she did not meet Pat King until the convoy protest.

Ms. Lich became involved in the convoy after witnessing Canadians living under lockdowns; she felt she needed to exercise her right to assembly. She and her husband lost their jobs due to COVID-19-related restrictions. She and her parents had difficulty travelling to see relatives. She witnessed families torn apart, suicides and elderly people dying alone. Her elderly mother lost two years of her life while locked in her apartment. She was upset that the Prime Minister referred to her as a racist and someone who should not be tolerated. She did not want this type of country for her children. She believed that if she were able to have discussions with government representatives, it would help alleviate some of the protesters' concerns. 

On January 14, 2022, she started a GoFundMe page for fundraising. When donations reached $1 million, Ms. Lich testified that she felt anxious about being solely responsible for that amount of money. Shortly thereafter, Chris Barber was added to the bank account to share the responsibility. She discovered that TD had frozen her bank account when she attempted to make a wire transfer to Northern Air for a flight that brought Mr. Wilson to Ottawa.

When asked about her role during the protest, she stated that all she wanted to do was help and that she did not see her position as having more authority than any other protester. She observed that power struggles had developed amongst the protesters. 

Ms. Lich met Keith Wilson for the first time on February 2, 2022. She conducted a news conference with him on February 3, 2022. She felt as though she was being "thrown to the wolves" as she had no media training. She described the JCCF and Keith Wilson as being extremely helpful.

Regarding her responsibilities, Ms. Lich stated that she would participate in briefing meetings each morning, promoting safety and keeping emergency lanes open. She stated that she was responsible for finances.

When asked if she still considers Mr. Dichter to be a friend, she responded, "I'm not allowed to speak with him anymore." She stated that she asked Mr. Dichter to assist her with her Twitter account in order to continue showing the progress of the convoy. 

She received numerous messages expressing concerns about Pat King's involvement in the convoy. She was concerned that Mr. King's involvement would negatively affect the convoy and that some people would not join if he was involved with the convoy. She recalled that she told him not to come to Ottawa, but he came despite her request.

She stated that a code of conduct was distributed to the truckers. However, given the number of participants, it was difficult to get it to everyone. She encouraged peaceful behaviour through her live streams. She heard that Antifa may have infiltrated the protesters and would cause trouble.

She recounted being thanked by Ottawa residents and federal employees who brought food and fuel to truckers. She said everyone shared the message of hope. She testified that she did not personally witness any threatening or harassing behaviour and noted that there was misinformation about Russian state interference and arson. Her goal was to keep emergency lanes open and obey the horn injunction.

She said that, on or about February 4, 2022, her Facebook page was disabled. She stated that the road captains were told to reduce the honking. On January 30, 2022, she attended a press conference with Mr. Barber and Mr. Dichter. She said that it was important for them to remain non-partisan.

She did not have communications with protesters at other protest locations.

Ms. Lich testified that Mr. King was not present in the convoy organizer meetings.

After the declaration of a public order emergency, she encouraged people to leave, though she still believed she had a right to protest peacefully.

She was arrested on February 17, 2022. She went to the war memorial to attend religious services, then walked the streets speaking to people. She said that the protesters did an excellent job of remaining peaceful. She was arrested while walking on the street that evening. 

When asked about the impact of being arrested, she said she lost her job, freedom of speech, and her ability to communicate with her friends, and she had to be careful of her every move. She was arrested for an alleged breach. She worries about her daughter being seen with her. She has yet to see the particulars of the mischief she was alleged to have committed. She said her trial is a year away: she must live with these conditions until then. She denounced the divisive rhetoric coming from the prime minister. 

It is important to recall that, in order to justify its declaration of a public order emergency under the Emergencies Act, the government must establish, on reasonable grounds, that a public order emergency exists and necessitates the taking of special, temporary measures for dealing with the emergency. The situation must be so dire that it cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.

The definition of a public order emergency is an emergency that arises from threats to the security of Canada and that is so serious as to be a national emergency.

Threats to the security of Canada is defined, in the Canadian Security Intelligence Services Act as: (a) espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage, (b) foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person, (c) activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state, and (d) activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of, the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

*All quotes are subject to revision as Commission video and transcripts become available.

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