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Alberta

Conspiracy charges dropped, Chris Lysak, Jerry Morin released after agreeing to plea deals

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Ray McGinnis

” the Crown dropped conspiracy to commit murder of police, and mischief charges, against both Lysak and Morin. The Crown got a plea deal from Lysak and Morin on minor firearms charges. These charges the two pled guilty to were never part of the original indictment that prompted their arrests. “

Two of the four men at the Coutts blockade arrested in February 2022, accused of conspiracy to commit murder and mischief – Chris Lysak and Jerry Morin – are free men. They were released on February 6, 2024. They remained in custody in remand centres for 723 days. While in custody, Morin was in solitary confinement for 74 days.

After relying on legal aid lawyers with little results, in November 2023 Lysak crowdfunded for better counsel. His new lawyer Daniel Song brought a section 8 charter application to examine the Crown’s case against his client. Suddenly, the Crown dropped conspiracy to commit murder of police, and mischief charges, against both Lysak and Morin. The Crown got a plea deal from Lysak and Morin on minor firearms charges. These charges the two pled guilty to were never part of the original indictment that prompted their arrests.

Lysak and Morin are now reunited with their families and will begin the long journey to rebuild their lives. Both are fathers. Morin is a lineman and Chris Lysak is an electrician.

Lysak pled guilty to improper storage of a firearm which was properly registered under his name and legally purchased. The Crown also dropped charges against Chris Lysak for uttering threats.

Though the RCMP released a shocking photo of a stash of weapons around a table with an RCMP cruiser in the background, the majority of weapons on display turned out to have no connection to any of the four men arrested on conspiracy to commit murder charges. The RCMP photo was taken before Jerry Morin was arrested west of Calgary around noon on February 14, 2022. Morin was on the way to work for a rancher on a farm when he was arrested by a SWAT team.

These men were in deteriorating health and facing financial ruin. And the Crown knew this. Once they pled guilty to the minor charges, they were free men.

Dropping conspiracy to commit murder of police officer charges by the Crown is significant. News of the arrests was pointed to in the Rouleau Report as key to its justifying invocation of the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022, by the Liberal government. Now that these charges are dropped it appears the Crown and the RCMP never had evidence to convict the accused of conspiracy to commit murder. Instead, they put them through gruelling custody in remand centres, hoping to break them. The decision to deny them bail for nearly two years was politically motivated. They were deemed too dangerous to be granted bail on one day. Then on the next they were released and deemed no threat to the public.

Lysak and Morin refused earlier offers to plea guilty. But after two years the strain of the whole ordeal led them to agree to a coerced confession to new charges in order to survive.

The plea deal was struck in a courtroom outside of the courtroom where the pre-trial motions were set to begin at 10 AM on February 6. The dropping of serious charges and confession to new minor firearms charges, and release of these two men came as a surprise.

A friend of Chris Lysak, Fort Macleod councillor Marco Van Huigenbos, said “723 days pretrial is a travesty of justice in Canada, and it has to be treated as such. There has to be a full inquiry into these prosecutions.”

Is all that is required to deny bail for those accused of serious crimes to argue that their release will undermine confidence in the justice system? The justice system is not immune from corruption or politicization. What confidence can citizens have in it? It appears lawfare is alive and well in Canada. The case of the Coutts Four shows that the Crown have the power to lay serious charges against citizens and let them linger for years in custody without bail or trial. 

Is all that is required to make the Crown walk back charges of conspiracy to commit murder a smart lawyer who knows how to make a section 8 charter application?

On January 15 Chris Carbert was denied bail for the second time. The lawyer who successfully represented Chris Lysak, Daniel Song, is now being considered to represent Chris Carbert (along with his existing lawyer) at the upcoming February 20 court hearing. The remaining ‘Coutts Two’ – Chris Carbert and Tony Olienick – will be at that hearing. Olienick has just hired a new lawyer who needs to get up to speed on the details of the case.

Is the Crown now proceeding with a charge of conspiracy to commit murder against Carbert and Olienick, when it has conceded that Lysak and Morin were not part of a conspiracy? Carbert and Olienick are scheduled to stand trial in June.

 

Ray McGinnis is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His forthcoming book is Unjustified: The Emergencies Act and the Inquiry that Got It Wrong

Watch Ray McGinnis on Leaders on the Frontier here. September 27, 2023 (70 minutes)

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Alberta

TDF funds defence of the “Coutts Three”

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The “Coutts Three,” Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen

News release from The Democracy Fund

A jury trial is expected to proceed after pretrial applications.

LETHBRIDGE: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is funding the defence of three men charged with mischief in Lethbridge, Alberta. The men, known as the “Coutts Three,” are Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen. All three are alleged to have been leaders of the 17-day trucker protest against COVID-19 restrictions that shut down the Coutts border in February 2022.

The matter is expected to proceed to a jury trial after pretrial applications are heard over the next few days. Jury trials are only available for serious criminal matters where the accused faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or more.

The men should not be confused with the “Coutts Four,” who were among the twelve persons arrested in connection to an RCMP raid that resulted in the seizure of weapons and the end of the protest. According to Van Huigenbos, the message of the Coutts protesters “had been lost” following the arrests and the border blockade was voluntarily dismantled.

Donations for the three men can be made on this page.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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Alberta

Low emissions, Indigenous-owned Cascade Power Project to boost Alberta electrical grid reliability

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The Cascade Power Project. Photo courtesy Kinetcor

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

New 900-megawatt natural gas-fired facility to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s power needs

Alberta’s electrical grid is about to get a boost in reliability from a major new natural gas-fired power plant owned in part by Indigenous communities.  

Next month operations are scheduled to start at the Cascade Power Project, which will have enough capacity to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s energy needs.  

It’s good news in a province where just over one month ago an emergency alert suddenly blared on cell phones and other electronic devices warning residents to immediately reduce electricity use to avoid outages.  

“Living in an energy-rich province, we sometimes take electricity for granted,” says Chana Martineau, CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) and member of the Frog Lake First Nation.  

“Given much of the province was dealing with -40C weather at the time, that alert was a vivid reminder of the importance of having a reliable electrical grid.” 

Cascade Power was the first project to receive funding through the AIOC, the provincial corporation established in 2020 to provide loan guarantees for Indigenous groups seeking partnerships in major development projects. 

So far, the AIOC has underwritten more than $500 million in support. This year it has $3 billion  available, up from $2 billion in 2023.  

In August 2020 it provided a $93 million loan guarantee to the Indigenous Communities Consortium — comprised of the Alexis Nakota Sioux NationEnoch Cree NationKehewin Cree NationOChiese First NationPaul First Nation, and Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation — to become equity owners. 

The 900-megawatt, $1.5-billion facility is scheduled to come online in March. 

“It’s personally gratifying for me to see how we moved from having Indigenous communities being seen as obstacles to partners in a generation,” says Martineau. 

The added capacity brought by Cascade is welcomed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), which is responsible for the provinces electrical grid. =

“The AESO welcomes all new forms of generation into the Alberta marketplace, including renewables, thermal, storage, and others,” said Diane Kossman, a spokeswoman for the agency.  

“It is imperative that Alberta continue to have sufficient dispatchable generation to serve load during peak demand periods when other forms of generation are not able to contribute in a meaningful way.” 

The Cascade project also provides environmental benefits. It is a so-called “combined cycle” power facility, meaning it uses both a gas turbine and a steam turbine simultaneously to produce up to 50 per cent more electricity from the same amount of fuel than a traditional facility.  

Once complete, Cascade is expected to be the largest and most efficient combined cycle power plant in Alberta, producing 62 per cent less CO2 than a coal-fired power plant and 30 per cent less CO2 than a typical coal-to-gas conversion.  

“This project really is aligned with the goals of Indigenous communities on environmental performance,” says Martineau. 

The partnership behind the power plant includes Axium InfrastructureDIF Capital Partners  and Kineticor Resource Corp. along with the Indigenous Communities Consortium. 

The nations invested through a partnership with OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.  

“Innovation is not just what we invest in, but it is also how we invest,” said James Davis, OPTrust’s chief investment officer. 

“The participation of six First Nations in the Cascade Power Project is a prime example of what is possible when investors, the government and local communities work together.” 

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