Most key participants in Ottawa convoy protest not yet charged

Many of the leading participants in the convoy protest are facing criminal charges more than a month after streets in downtown Ottawa were cleared, according to the latest information released by the Ottawa Police Department.

Ottawa police say that of the 230 arrests made so far, 118 people – just over half – have been charged with a total of more than 400 offenses, in addition to hundreds of provincial warrants issued.

Police have only released the names of six people charged for their roles.

Several key figures involved in the so-called Freedom Convoy have yet to be named by police as indicted, including a high-profile bitcoin fundraiser, several truck drivers and “logistics captains” tasked with arranging meal and fuel deliveries.

“I find it strange that the police are not releasing all the information about who has been charged,” said Michael Kempa, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa.

Kempa says he expects more material to be released with “many more indictments” in the “coming weeks”.

VIEW | A criminologist on what could happen:

Why haven’t the Ottawa police filed charges against more convoy protesters?

Many leading figures in the convoy protest have not faced criminal charges more than a month after police cleared downtown streets. But University of Ottawa criminologist Michael Kempa says it may be only a matter of time. 1:01

Some high-profile figures of the convoy, such as Tamara Lich and Pat King, had their charges made public by the police.

A civil suit responsible for getting the order to stop the incessant honking lists the names of dozens of other individuals believed to have played key roles in the “Freedom Convoy.”

Tamara Lich and Pat King are among two of those charged by the Ottawa police for their role in the so-called Freedom Convoy. (CBC)

But of the more than 40 individuals named in the civil suit, CBC was unable to confirm the charges for most of them. Some are believed to be under investigation by a joint investigation with Ottawa Police, Ontario Police and the RCMP.

Nicholas St. Louis, for example, said in an affidavit that his home had been raided by police as part of an investigation into money laundering linked to the protests.

The Ottawa native had a popular social media outlet about bitcoin and was a self-described “liaison between the bitcoin community and directors of the Freedom Convoy nonprofit.”

Ottawa-based and self-proclaimed crypto organizer Nicholas St. Louis hands over an envelope containing what he says is information for $8,000 in bitcoin to a fellow protester during a livestream on Feb. 16. (YouTube)

Daniel Bulford – a former RCMP officer who helped organize the convoy by acting as a liaison with police and ensuring trucks were refueled and protesters were fed – was arrested but released without charge. He has not had any charges so far.

Police never published his arrest, but it was widely shared on social media. He is on the “no contact” list included in the bail conditions for organizers charged, including Lich and King.

In other cases, police have filed charges against key figures involved in the protest, but have not disclosed them. That includes a popular Windsor, Ontario truck driver who was arrested on Feb. 19 and faces several charges, including obstructing a peace officer.

A 51-year-old man responsible for setting up the Canada Unity group and website that helped develop the original plan to come to Ottawa was also arrested on Feb. 20. The police did not make that public.

He has since taken part in protests near convoys since he left Ottawa in February.

Police do not name all accused

Other than the six people named by police, the names of other individuals accused of participating in protests have not been made public.

That contradicts an earlier statement by Ottawa’s interim police chief Steve Bell.

“As soon as charges are filed…we will release the names of those charged in a public release,” he said. “We will continue to do that as we move forward, especially when it comes to any attacks around the convoy.”

Ottawa Interim Police Chief Steve Bell says all suspects in the convoy protest will be publicly named. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

According to a statement from the Ottawa Police Department, “there is no complete list of those arrested during the illegal convoy.”

Investigations take time

Paul Champ, one of the lawyers involved in the civil claim against convoy protesters, says it takes time for investigators to decide who will be charged.

“That’s the challenge. They have to go through mountains of videos and other evidence to determine the specific charges that can be brought against each specific individual,” he said.

He pointed to riots in Vancouver after the 2011 Stanley Cup loss to the Canucks. The investigation took about four years.

Champ said it is a common police tactic to arrest protest leaders first, hoping it will help disperse the larger crowd.

“Once the protest is over, you’ll have a lot more time to dig through the evidence and get all the different charges you’re going to file,” he said.

“Essentially when the crime is still being committed, that was undoubtedly a factor they chose to prosecute some of the leaders back then as well.”

Champ said people should not assume that most of the charges have been filed at this point, just over a month after the occupation was dismantled.

“It seems that the police are being methodical and looking at the evidence they have, and I expect to see many more charges in the coming weeks, and probably months, if not longer,” he said.

“Police like to advertise when they have filed certain charges, and given the great public interest in the occupation of Ottawa from the convoy from the convoy, I think it would be appreciated if they made this clear publicly.”

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