“Freedom Convoy” organizer Pat King has been scheduled to stand trial beginning Nov. 27, andnow says he wants to be judged by a jury of his peers.
King was an influential figure in the convoy movement that occupied the streets of downtown Ottawa for three weeks in 2022 to protest COVID-19 public health measures and the Liberal government.
A convoy of thousands of big rigs and other trucks began to roll into Ottawa on Jan. 27 last year and quickly blocked major roads and intersections in the core. Soon, similar protests were stood up at several international border crossings.
City councillors declared that the streets around Parliament Hill had become lawless, as protesters set up camps with open fires, cookouts and dancing. Some businesses closed while residents were subjected to fumes and loud honking from idling vehicles at all hours of the day and night.
King was arrested on Feb. 18, the same day police launched a major operation to remove protesters from downtown.
He was charged with mischief, counselling to commit mischief, counselling to disobey a court order and counselling to obstruct police in connection to his actions during the protest.
He was also charged with perjury and obstruction of justice after taking the stand at his bail hearing.
King was held in jail for five months after his arrest, before he was eventually granted bail and returned to Alberta.
During the protests, King had livestreamed his activities to supporters and fellow protesters. Videos he posted on social media are expected to feature heavily during the trial.
King initially opted not to have a jury trial, but he has since changed his mind. He’s also requesting that his trial be moved out of Ottawa, because he said he feels an Ottawa judge and jury would be too biased to offer him a fair hearing.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland is expected to hear arguments on Aug. 21 from the Crown and King’s lawyer, Natasha Calvino, about the trial’s location and whether a jury should be allowed.
The justice will also need to decide the extent which he can consider the findings of Justice Paul Rouleau, who was tasked with leading an inquiry into the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act during the protest.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered the law for the first time when he declared a public order emergency on Feb. 24, 2022. With that move, the federal Liberals granted temporary powers to police and banks, including the ability to freeze assets and prohibit public assemblies.
King was one of 13 convoy participants who testified at the inquiry, along with police officers, politicians and local Ottawa residents.
Rouleau’s report, which is more than 2,000 pages long and was delivered in February, describes in painstaking detail the genesis of the protests, the response by police and different levels of government and the actions of the protesters.
It included insights into the role social media and false information played in fuelling the demonstrations.
The burden of proof in an inquiry is different than in a criminal trial, Calvino said in court Monday, because when someone is accused of a crime the Crown must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
King is also named in a $290-million lawsuit filed by local Ottawa residents against convoy organizers.