June 15th, 2024

Coutts protesters in court

By Lethbridge Herald on June 12, 2023.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Residents gather outside the Lethbridge Courthouse Monday morning for a peaceful protest in support of four man from Coutts accused of conspiracy to commit murder.

Delon Shurtz and Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

A judge has reserved his decision on whether to order a ban prohibiting the publication of information relating to search warrants executed during the protest at the Coutts border last year.

During a hearing Monday in Lethbridge Court of King’s Bench, Calgary lawyer Katherin Beyak, who represents one of four men charged with conspiracy to commit murder, said the court should issue a publication ban on information RCMP used to apply for search warrants, which ultimately resulted in the seizure of weapons and ammunition. The ban would include information already unsealed and released to the public previously by another judge.

However, Tess Layton, a lawyer for several media outlets, argued there should not be a publication ban, and pointed out there is not rationale to support a sealing order and publication ban, especially since the information is already out in the public domain.

“From my perspective it is very difficult to see how’s there any increased risk in trial fairness, given the amount of publicity that this case has already received,” Tess told Justice David Labrenz.

Beyak told court her client is concerned the evidence will be prejudicial should jury members have access to the information before it is presented at trial. She said the information police provide a judge to obtain search warrants is one-sided and little more than theory, hearsay and conjecture, all of which has not been tested in court.

Crown Prosecutor Stephen Johnston opposes a ban, as well, and suggested one way to avoid juror bias is to allow a challenge for cause, which is allows lawyers to remove prospective jurors who can’t render a fair and impartial verdict.

The Previously unsealed court documents revealed more details about the RCMP investigation that led to criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, during the border blockade in February.

The most serious charges were laid against Christopher Lysak of Lethbridge, Anthony Olienick of Claresholm, Chris Carbert of Lethbridge, and Jerry Morin of Olds.

The men are set to stand trial, but will first sit through two or three weeks of pre-trial motions and applications during a voir dire; a mini-trial within a trial that is typically subject to a publication ban because the jury is not present.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse a group of nearly 120 people wearing white shirts gathered in solidarity. At some point they prayed and sang together while members of the Lethbridge Police Service were on site to maintain public safety.

LPS Sergeant in charge of the downtown police unit and public order unit, Ryan Darroch, said several resources were deployed to the area.

“Including members of the downtown police units, public order units, traffic section, patrol division, we’re working hand in hand with the Alberta sheriffs here at the courthouse to maintain public safety and support everyone’s right for a lawful and peaceful public display of their rights to protest,” said Darroch.

He said they had no incidents that involved any police deployment of interaction at all.

The street in front of the courthouse was blocked off and Derroch said it was to allow protesters extra access in case they needed it, as LPS was not aware of how many people were going to be there.

“We weren’t sure how many people are going to show up today, if we did have a larger crowd, we wanted a safe and secure location for them to display their democratic right for a peaceful protest, which is what this is all about, so we blocked off the road. They run some porta-potties and they had some space in case they needed it as they have in the past, but didn’t require it today.”

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Southern Albertan

…..serious charges laid against these men, indeed! Including alleged conspiracy to commit murder, which, if generates a guilty verdict, can be punishable by life in prison. For some of us Alberta hayseeds, this whole thing has been nothing less than shocking. For myself, I would be very leery of being influenced by a possible situation of sedition, which very much comes to my mind here.

Last edited 1 year ago by Southern Albertan
pursuit diver

I am all for protesting, legally protesting that is. What we saw in Ottawa and at the Coutts border was not legally protesting.
I have been in several protests and they were done legally, respectfully and were effective. I do not, nor would I ever condone illegal activities to get points across.
How can one believe it is okay to arm and plan on shooting police and think that it is okay? Have we sunk that far into the abyss from such a great country that for many decades stood for peace and freedom?
Our country has been fractured by all the radical groups! The once great country so many sought to live in as a dream worldwide is no longer that peaceful, respectful country.
Here is a reminder of the Charter rights to protest and given analysis:
-Section 2(c) includes the right to participate in peaceful demonstrations, protests, parades, meetings, picketing and other assemblies. (Dielemansupra; R. v. Collins, [1982] O.J. No. 2506 (Co. Ct.); Fraser v. Nova Scotia (A.G.) (1986), 30 D.L.R. (4th) 340 (N.S.S.C.)
-Section 2(c) guarantees the right to peaceful assembly; it does not protect riots and gatherings that seriously disturb the peace: R. v. Lecompte, [2000] J.Q. No. 2452 (Que. C.A.)
It has been stated that the right to freedom of assembly, along with freedom of expression, does not include the right to physically impede or blockade lawful activities: Guelph (City) v. Soltys, [2009] O.J. No. 3369 (Ont. Sup. Ct. Jus), at paragraph 26.
I have no pity for those who would take up arms in Canada to protest and with the intent on using them on police! To support the people who are willing to perpetrate such crimes, believing they have the right to do so, shows radicals are growing in this country and endanger us all!

Last edited 1 year ago by pursuit diver