Convoy class action delayed by appeal

Freedom Convoy supporters continue to demonstrate (more quietly) in Ottawa. Some of their signs in front of the Ottawa Courthouse on May 13, the first day of Pat King's trial. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)
Freedom Convoy supporters continue to demonstrate (more quietly) in Ottawa. Some of their signs in front of the Ottawa Courthouse on May 13, the first day of Pat King’s criminal trial. King is also a defendant in the class action. (Alayne McGregor/The BUZZ)

Alayne McGregor

The next step in the class action against the organizers of the Freedom Convoy won’t happen until October.

The organizers (the defendants in the class action) had made a motion which argued that the convoy occupation of Ottawa was an exercise of free speech, and that the class action sought to shut down debate on a matter of public interest as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP).

In February, Justice Calum MacLeod of the Ontario Superior Court rejected that motion and ruled that the class action could continue. The defendants have now appealed that ruling; the appeal will be heard on October 15.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, the next step in the class action will be a certification hearing to determine whether that there is a basis for action. If that is successful, then a civil trial on the “common issues” identified in the hearing, to determine whether the defendants are liable for the identified damages, would follow. It’s not clear what the timeline for that will be.

The $290 million class action seeks damages on behalf of residents, employees, and businesses downtown for costs and injuries sustained during the occupation, which gridlocked much of Ottawa’s downtown for three weeks in late January and February 2022, filling streets with trucks. It inflicted horns blaring for hours, diesel fumes, and on-street harassment of many residents. Essential services like Para Transpo could not access the area.

The defendants have also sought to have the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) held responsible for paying any damages assessed in the class action. Their lawyer submitted a “third-party claim” in February which argued that the Ottawa police were responsible for directing trucks to park downtown at the beginning of the Freedom Convoy protest. Without the trucks being there, all the other activities mentioned by the class action could not have occurred, the claim contends.

In March, the OPSB formally notified the court that it intends to defend itself against this action.

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