Freedom Convoy Canada: Court asks to release money
Organizers of the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa have asked a court to release $450,000 in donations they received so they can pay lawyers to represent them at an upcoming public inquiry into the Measures Act emergency.
Money donated to the convoy through crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and GiveSendGo has been placed in receivership under a court order, pending a proposed class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Ottawa residents and businesses.
Protest organizer Tamara Lich is among a group of 10 defendants named in the lawsuit who want some of the blocked funds released to pay for their participation in the Emergency Public Order Commission, which will hold hearings into the Liberal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act starting this fall.
Their motion request, filed Friday in Ontario Superior Court, also shows that more than $1.3 million in donations ended up in two bank accounts in Lich’s name, money that has also been frozen. . She is currently awaiting trial on criminal charges related to the convoy.
In their motion request, the defendants say they need $450,400 for legal representation at the inquest, including anonymous lead counsel at a rate of $350 per hour.
Their proposed budget includes $83,000 in travel and accommodation costs to send them and other witnesses to Ottawa for 39 days of hearings.
The defendants are represented in the civil action by Keith Wilson of the Alberta legal charity Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). The defendants have standing to appear before the inquest but have not received funding.
The defendants have « significant concerns about their ability to be adequately represented and to participate fully on the Commission without access to funding, » they argue in the motion request.
They say the JCCF can no longer fund their representation.
« The Commission’s demands are far greater than expected, » they argue, saying they « will be significantly harmed without access to legal representation funds. »
The defendants argue they are disadvantaged because attorney Paul Champ, who represents the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit, received funding to appear before the commission on behalf of a group called the Coalition of Residents and Businesses of Ottawa, which includes community associations and business improvement associations.
The lawsuit was first launched in February on behalf of downtown resident Zexi Li and later expanded to include other plaintiffs. He is seeking more than $300 million in damages on behalf of those who live and work in the city during the three-week occupation by anti-mandate protesters in January and February.
Earlier this year, Champ successfully obtained court orders to hold more than $5 million in cash and crypto donated to the convoy, pending resolution of the case.
Court documents filed by the group show that the receivership includes:
- $1,393,399 received via GoFundMe and direct email transfers, held in two accounts in Lich’s name;
- $3,777,843 donated via payment processor Stripe to Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms, a federal corporation created by protest organizers;
- $141,482 in an RBC account linked to Chris Garrah;
- $10,000 held by the Freedom 2022 company in the Steinbach Credit Union; and
- various forms of cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The court had previously agreed to release $100,000 of the receiver’s funds so that the defendants could pay for their legal defense in the civil suit.
Along with Lich, the group represented by Wilson includes: Daniel Bulford, Dale Enns, Chris Garrah, Miranda Gasior, Joe Jansen, Tom Marazzo, Ryan Mihilewicz, Sean Tiessen and the company Freedom 2022.
A hearing date on the motion to release the money has yet to be set.
With files from CTV News producer Mackenzie Gray