On Day 20 of the Lich and Barber trial, the crown called PLT (police liaison team) officer Bach as their next witness. Bach stated that she is a current member of OPS and has served for 5 years, with the last 2 years as PLT.
The crown provided a copy of the recently disclosed internal PLT Signal group chat to Bach for her to use in refreshing her memory. Bach testified that she conducted a vehicle count on February 1, 2022, and there were 633 tractor trailers and 73 personal vehicles on roads. She noted that emergency lanes she observed were open on all streets she recorded, except for Kent. Bach said she observed "agitated people who were not willing to cooperate with police." Bach testified she posted the total number of trucks at the airport gas station on January 28, 2022 on the Signal chat, and that there were 248 total vehicles, but she admitted she did not know how many of these vehicles were affiliated with the convoy.
Bach recalled a conversation with Barber on January 31, 2022, where she testified he told her that the protesters would be "doing rolling convoys" and that he was using 2 hotels he called ‘war rooms’. Bach said she does not recall if Barber clarified what he meant by "rolling convoys". On February 2, 2022, Bach testified she had a conversation with Barber about making the roads "safer". Barber gave examples of how to do that, but stated that he felt the convoy was becoming unsafe and due to this, was more willing to work with PLT. Bach testified that Barber also said he would be attending a meeting with PLT at the Arc Hotel and that he believed that the convoy had "lost sight of its original intent."
The crown asked Bach to look at text messages from February 4, 2022, and specifically screenshots she shared with Barber from social media. Bach stated that she could not confirm that these were the same screenshots in her phone records, and that her phone records were not produced in disclosure because her phone had been ‘wiped’.
Bach testified that Barber told her, on a number of other occasions, that he was willing to negotiate moving vehicles. On February 7, 2022, Bach observed that there were no lanes open on Kent Street (from Wellington to Gloucester).
On February 8, 2022, Bach said she spoke with Barber at 3 pm, and Barber was, again, talking to her about strategy to "move vehicles out" and utilize staging areas as opposed to remaining in the ‘downtown core’. She said Barber also told her that he had moved his truck outside the city. Bach said that Barber told her where his truck was located before moving out of the city, but she could not recall where. She said Barber stated that the convoy is not leaving any time soon and that they would require acknowledgement from "the leader" and that this would include the prime minister. She testified Barber told her that 3000 more trucks were ready to attend Ottawa at a moment's notice.
The crown then showed Bach a TikTok video from Feb 7, 2022, in which Barber can be heard saying, “This street looks lonely … Do you think we can fix that?”. The crown presented a text conversation between Bach and Barber about the TikTok video. Bach said that Barber stated in the conversation that he is the guy who stirs the pot and that he will say one thing and do another. She said he maintained that he would collaborate with police to clear trucks from downtown. In another conversation, Bach said that Barber was assisting in relocating vehicles, but he also stated that if police were to arrive in riot gear, it would be "a big mistake", and the only thing that would 'fix' things would be a meeting with the prime minister and lifting the mandates.
On February 9, 2022, Bach said there were more discussions between her and Barber about relocating trucks. Bach said that he called it a 'cat and mouse' game and that he was uncertain where trucks could be moved to. She noted that portions of Kent Street were still blocked as of February 9, 2022. During a February 13, 2022 conversation with Barber, Bach testified he was 'panicking' about interactions with the counter-protesters. He received reports from protesters citing incidents of vandalism. She said Barber added that he was going to city hall for a 'secret meeting'.
She stated that during a conversation on February 15, 2022, Barber let Bach know that he was ready to begin moving trucks that day. Bach said that she told him that it was "a one-day agreement" which ended the previous day. Bach clarified with Barber that she no longer had "authorization" to move any trucks. She said Barber then told her that based on the lack of police willingness to move trucks, "he no longer cared" about the ‘plan’. In another conversation on February 15, 2022, Bach said the conversation was about reconciling from the previous day and that it ended abruptly because he had a scheduled radio interview. She stated that following this conversation, she attended the downtown area to tell protesters to "leave or you will be arrested". Bach said she 'gave this message easily upwards of one hundred times'.
During the cross-examination, Bach claimed that there was a work-related software update which ‘wiped’ her phone and she lost all her messages and contacts.
She said she asked for assistance from the OPS IT department to recover her information, but she was unable to recover any information through following ITs prescribed steps. She also admitted that she had other conversations with other protesters that would have been lost when her phone was ‘wiped’. Bach said that she never ‘text messaged’ police, that all internal PLT communication was conducted via the Signal chat. Bach also admitted that she had access to the Signal chats on her personal phone (which remained intact) prior to and throughout the trial. Of note, the Signal chats were not provided to defence until three weeks into the trial. The reason these messages were not produced until this late stage remains unclear.
Bach further admitted that she was aware of a number of discrepancies between the PLT log - which was another internal PLT communication medium - and the Signal chat. She added that she did not become aware of the discrepancies between these two documents until the beginning of the trial - September 2023. When asked why she didn’t investigate these documents for discrepancies earlier, she stated that she ‘was assured’ that there were ‘no discrepancies’ between them. She admitted that she does not remember who ‘assured’ her that there were no discrepancies.
Disclaimer: Please remember this update is given for information purposes only. It is not legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should consult a lawyer for specific advice.