Most key participants in Ottawa convoy protest not yet charged
Ottawa police have so far released names of just 6 people charged
Many of the leading participants in the convoy protest have yet to face criminal charges more than a month after downtown Ottawa streets were cleared, according to the latest information made public by Ottawa police.
The Ottawa Police Service says of the 230 arrests made so far, 118 people — just over half — have been charged with a total of more than 400 offences, in addition to the hundreds of provincial notices issued.
Police have only disclosed the names of six people charged for their role.
Several key figures involved in the so-called Freedom Convoy have yet to be named by police as being charged, including one high-profile bitcoin fundraiser, several truck drivers and "logistic captains" tasked with arranging meal and fuel deliveries.
"I find it strange that the police are not releasing all of the information as to who has been charged," said Michael Kempa, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa.
Kempa says he expects more material will be released in the "upcoming weeks" with "many more charges" laid.
A civil suit responsible for getting the injunction that stopped the incessant honking lists the names of dozens of other individuals who allegedly played key roles in the "Freedom Convoy."
But of the more than 40 individuals named in the civil suit, CBC was unable to confirm charges for most of them. Some are believed to be under investigation by a joint-force investigation with Ottawa police, Ontario police and the RCMP.
Nicholas St. Louis, for example, said in a sworn affidavit his house had been raided by police as part of an investigation into money laundering tied to the protests.
The Ottawa resident ran a popular social media channel about bitcoin and was a self-described "liaison between the bitcoin community and directors of the Freedom Convoy nonprofit organization."
Daniel Bulford — a former RCMP officer who helped organize the convoy by acting as a liaison with police and ensuring trucks were fuelled and protesters were fed — was arrested but released without charges. He has not faced any charges to this point.
Police never publicized his arrest, but it was widely shared on social media. He's included on the "no contact" list included in the bail conditions for organizers who have been charged, including Lich and King.
In other instances, police laid charges against key people involved in the protest but did not announce them. That includes a popular trucker from Windsor, Ont., arrested Feb. 19 who faces several charges including obstructing a peace officer.
A 51-year-old man responsible for creating the Canada Unity group and website that helped develop the initial plan to come to Ottawa was also arrested on Feb. 20. Police did not make that public.
He has since been participating in convoy-adjacent protests since leaving Ottawa in February.
Police not naming everyone charged
Outside of the six people named by police, there has been no public disclosure of the names of other individuals accused of protest participation.
That goes against a previous statement from interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell.
"At the time of any charges laid … we do release the names of those who are charged in a public release," he said. "We will continue to do that as we move ahead, particularly as it relates to any charges around the convoy."
According to a statement from Ottawa police, "a fulsome list of persons arrested during the unlawful convoy is not available."
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 is going to be charged.
"That's the challenge. They need to go through mountains of videos and other evidence they have to determine what are the particular charges that can be laid against each particular individual," he said.
He pointed to riots in Vancouver following the Canucks 2011 Stanley Cup loss. The investigation took about four years to conclude.
Champ said it is a common tactic of police to arrest leaders of a protest first, in hopes it will assist efforts to disperse the larger crowd.
"When the protest is over, you've got a lot more time to sift through the evidence and get all the different charges you're going to lay," he said.
"Essentially when the crime is still being committed, no doubt that was a factor they chose to prosecute some of the leaders then, as well."
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Champ said people should not assume the majority of charges have been laid at this point, just over a month after the occupation was dismantled.
"It seems the police are being methodical and reviewing the evidence they have, and I would fully expect in the weeks, and likely the months, if not longer, to come we will see a lot more charges," he said.
"The police do like to promote when they have laid certain charges, and given the high level of public interest in the Ottawa occupation from the convoy, I think it would be appreciated if they publicly made it clear."