Truckers Right to Protest Is Protected by the Law
By Noé Chartier
As police step up efforts to deter the Freedom Convoy demonstration in Ottawa, the legal group representing the truckers is urging the authorities to respect their charter right to peacefully protest.
In recent days police have seized fuel and arrested individuals in relation to the transportation of fuel to supply the convoy.
“It is winter in Canada. Protesting publicly in freezing temperatures requires the truckers to have fuel to stay warm. Confiscation of fuel jeopardizes the personal safety of the peaceful protesters,” said lawyer Jay Cameron, litigation director at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), in a statement issued Feb. 8.
In efforts to end the ongoing demonstration, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) had initially targeted the truckers’ funds by lobbying crowdsourcing platform GoFundMe to cancel the Freedom Convoy’s fundraiser. In recent days the OPS has moved to disrupt the truckers’ fuel supply.
On Feb. 6, the OPS said on Twitter that “anyone attempting to bring material supports (gas, etc.) to the demonstrators could be subject to arrest. Enforcement is underway.”
The OPS said on Feb. 8 it had arrested 23 individuals on various criminal charges, some in relation to the transportation of gas, who were charged under “mischief.”
Section 430 of the Criminal Code defines “mischief” as wilfully destroying or damaging property; rendering property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective; and interfering with the lawful use and enjoyment or operation of property.
“Taking fuel from Canadian citizens in the downtown Ottawa area is an illegal seizure in a context where no crimes are being committed,” said lawyer Nicholas Wansbutter, counsel for the JCCF.
“In my view, the truckers are not doing anything illegal by protesting peacefully against the 23 months of politicians restricting our Charter freedoms. Citizens have every right to bring food, water, fuel, and other necessities of life in the winter to other Canadians, including truckers.”
Authorities have not suggested the possibility of a negotiated solution to the impasse, with the truckers saying they’re determined to stay until COVID-19 mandates are lifted.
On Feb. 6, dozens of heavily armed police raided the truckers’ supply base on Coventry Road and confiscated at least one tanker of fuel.