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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Worrisome Wave of Politicized Prosecutions


19 minute read

Unusual punishment: The 2022 truckers’ protest at the Coutts, Alberta border crossing (top) led to charges against four men (bottom left to right), Chris Carbert, Tony Olienick, Jerry Morin and Chris Lysak; Morin and Lysak were held in custody for almost two years while the other two are still in prison. (Sources of photos: (top) The Canadian Press/Jeff Mcintosh; (bottom) CBC)

From the C2C Journal

By Gwyn Morgan

Shaping criminal charges, bail decisions or prison sentences around an accused person’s political or religious beliefs is utterly odious – a hallmark of tinpot tyrannies and totalitarian hellholes. Such practices have no place in any constitutional nation, let alone a mature democracy that presents itself as a model to the world. But that is increasingly the situation in Canada, writes Gwyn Morgan. Comparing the treatment of protesters accused of minor infractions to those of incorrigible criminals who maim and kill, Morgan finds a yawning mismatch that suggests political motivations are increasingly a factor in today’s criminal justice system.

On January 29, 2022, a small convoy of trucks headed down to the U.S. border crossing at Coutts, Alberta to join in the nationwide protests against the Covid-19 vaccine mandate that the Justin Trudeau government had recently imposed on cross-border truckers – the very people Trudeau had previously described as “heroes” for delivering food and other essentials in the depths of the pandemic. Joined by many locals in pickup trucks and farm machinery, the truckers’ border protest turned into a full-scale blockade that would last 17 days. Just as it appeared to be settling into an extended stalemate, heavily armed police tactical teams swooped down upon several locations and arrested 14 protesters, charging four with the ominous crimes of conspiracy to commit murder (of police officers), mischief, a raft of weapons offences and uttering threats. These were bewildering accusations given the overall context of the event.

As the blockade almost instantly dissolved given that none of the protesters wanted to be linked to potentially violent offenders, the four men – Chris Lysak, Jerry Morin, Chris Carbert and Tony Olienick – were locked away. Lysak and Morin spent 723 days – nearly two years – in pre-trial custody, 74 of which Morin was kept in solitary confinement. Finally, after their new lawyer, Daniel Song, filed a Charter of Rights and Freedoms application demanding that the courts re-examine the case, the Crown suddenly accepted a plea deal on much lesser firearms charges. One month ago – on February 6 – Morin and Lysak were abruptly released. But they had already served the equivalent of a typical sentence for a serious crime in Canada – manslaughter or assault, say. Hard-working tradesmen with young families, Morin and Lysak will never get those two years back. Carbert and Olienick remain in prison and still face the full raft of charges; their trial is to begin in May.

Contrast this with the recent case of a mother and daughter – Carolann Robillard and Sara Miller, 11 – who were fatally stabbed in a horrific random attack outside an Edmonton school. Their accused killer, Muorater Arkangelo Mashar, had a long criminal record of assaults, assault with a weapon and robbery; he had been released from custody 18 days prior to the murders. Such events are no longer exceptions in Canada’s criminal justice system. They’re not cases of someone “falling through the cracks” – getting out due to a glitch or individual act of incompetence. They are routine. This is how things are now done in Canada. Vancouver police, for example, catch and release the same criminal offenders over and over, sometimes close to 100 times, because they always make bail.

By contrast, the four Coutts protesters were repeatedly denied bail despite having no criminal records. For this reason, social media users raised the possibility that they were, in effect, political prisoners being persecuted for having stood up so defiantly against the vaccine mandate and embarrassing Trudeau. Just a week or so following their arrests, over 3,000 km away on Parliament Hill, the Trudeau government moved against a peaceful protest that was breaking no significant laws other than, possibly, some municipal noise ordnances and parking bylaws. Police arrested and incarcerated four prominent protesters whom there was no credible basis to imprison and hold without bail. Of the four, Chris Barber was released within a day. Pat King and George Billings, however, were denied bail despite facing only minor mischief charges; they would spend months in jail. Billings eventually pled guilty to one charge and was released, while King’s trial has yet to begin.

Political prisoners: At the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa (top), police arrested (bottom left to right) Chris Barber, Pat King and George Billings; Barber was released but King and Billings were denied bail despite facing only minor mischief charges. (Sources of photos: (top) Maksim Sokolov (Maxergon), licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0; (bottom left) Public Order Emergency Commission; (bottom middle) Calgary Herald; (bottom right) The South Peace News)

The treatment of the fourth prominent protester was especially egregious. The day before police wielding the draconian powers of the federal Emergencies Act moved in to forcibly break up and disperse the Ottawa protesters from Parliament Hill and Wellington Street, they arrested a woman who had journeyed across the country to serve as co-organizer and spokesperson for the protesting truckers. Tamara Lich, a Métis grandmother from Alberta, was criminally charged with “one count each of mischief, intimidation, obstructing a highway and obstructing a police officer, as well as five counts of counselling others to commit those same charges.” It’s hard to imagine how this petite, soft-spoken woman could “obstruct police or intimidate” anyone. Handcuffed between two towering federal police officers, Lich was placed in solitary confinement in a dungeon-like cell with a tiny window 5 metres above her head.

Section 515 of the Criminal Code of Canada covers Judicial Interim Release – the formal term for bail – and states in part: “…the justice shall, unless a plea of guilty by the accused is accepted, make a release order in respect of that offence, without conditions, unless the prosecutor, having been given a reasonable opportunity to do so, shows cause, in respect of that offence, why the detention of the accused in custody is justified or why an order under any other provision of this section should be made.” The Criminal Code also specifies that bail should be granted with the fewest conditions possible and should consider the person’s background, criminal record and any threat their release might pose to the public.

Lich spent two weeks in jail and was then released under strict and stifling bail conditions that went beyond what is typically imposed even on accused bank robbers or murderers, including a prohibition against using social media and orders not to communicate with anyone associated with the convoy. That summer, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms selected Lich as the 2022 recipient of its annual George Jonas Freedom Award “in recognition of her outstanding dedication to the cause of freedom.” At the awards ceremony in Toronto, Lich was photographed with another person associated with the convoy. She was then rearrested in Alberta, handcuffed and shackled, and flown back to Ottawa. She spent another 30 days in prison before again being released on bail after a different judge ruled that there had been “no significant interaction” at the awards ceremony – though the judge did not strike any of the oppressive bail conditions themselves.

Convoy organizer Tamara Lich, a Métis grandmother from Alberta, was put in solitary confinement on charges of mischief and “intimidation” then released with draconian bail restrictions; she was later re-arrested after a gala in Toronto (right) and sent back to jail for 30 days. (Sources of photos: (left) X; (right) Facebook/Stacey Kauder)

Around the same time, Randall McKenzie, a habitual offender charged with weapons violations and assaulting a police officer, was set free with no conditions other than periodically reporting to his parole officer. On December 27, 2022, Ontario Provincial Police Constable Greg Pierzchala was murdered in an ambush-style attack; McKenzie and his girlfriend stand accused of the horrific crime. Again, such events now occur with sickening regularity. Just three months previously, habitual violent offender Myles Sanderson went on one of Canada’s worse-ever rampages, stabbing 10 people to death, including his own brother, and wounding another 18 on the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Over the years Sanderson had racked up the impossible-sounding total of 125 criminal charges plus numerous parole violations, but had been again let out because a parole board member deemed he “will not present an undue risk to society.”

In stark contrast to the treatment of freedom protesters, hardened criminals such as (left to right) Muorater Arkangelo Mashar, Randall McKenzie and Myles Sanderson have been routinely set free with no enforcement of their bail conditions, and then go on to commit more horrific crimes. (Sources of photos: (left to right) Global NewsThe Hamilton SpectatorCBC)

In contrast to Mashar, McKenzie, Sanderson and many hundreds of other criminals, it is inconceivable that Tamara Lich could be considered a risk to anyone. She has no criminal record. And under Canada’s warped justice system her Indigenous background should have worked to her advantage in providing even lighter than normal treatment. Lich would probably recoil at asking for such a thing, but the Crown and court are obliged to consider it.

All of that went out the window in Lich’s case, however. In opposing bail at one of her several such hearings, Crown Prosecutor Moiz Karimjee told the judge the government might well seek a prison sentence of 10 years – something never previously imposed in Canada for a mischief charge and fully in keeping with sentences for murder, bank robbery or violent sexual assault. It is difficult to avoid concluding that people in high office wanted the court to teach Lich and the others a lesson – and send a message to dissidents across the country.

Whether or not there has been direct political interference, Canada’s justice system is no longer entirely trustworthy. Just two months after the forcible takedown of the Ottawa protests, no less a figure than Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, described the Freedom Convoy protest as “the beginning of anarchy where some people have decided to take other citizens hostage.” It was a grotesque exaggeration, but it wasn’t all that Canada’s highest-ranked impartial jurist had to say. “Forced blows against the state, justice and democratic institutions like the one delivered by protesters,” he declared, “should be denounced with force by all figures of power in the country.” Who outside a dictatorship even talks that way?

Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner speaks during a welcoming ceremony, Thursday, October 28, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Lich’s trial, together with that of convoy co-organizer Barber, finally began last September in the Ontario Court of Justice. It was expected to finish by mid-October but has been taking much longer. After adjourning in December, it resumed in January but was interrupted again after one day. Further hearings are to be held this week. The completion date is uncertain due to limited court time and the tenacious, tireless defence by the formidable Lawrence Greenspon, which appears to have rattled the prosecution.

Tamara Lich, Pat King, George Billings, Chris Lysak, Jerry Morin, Chris Carbert and Tony Olienick have spent a cumulative total of more than 3,200 days in jail – nearly 9 years – and this total will climb further because two of them remain in prison awaiting trial. Meanwhile, Canada’s bail laws continue to allow violent habitual offenders loose after just a few days in custody, while the parole system leaks like a poisonous sieve.

One of the cornerstones separating a democracy from a dictatorship is the prohibition of government interference in the judicial process. But in 2013, the then-aspiring political leader Justin Trudeau stated, “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China[’s]…basic dictatorship.” Even worse, Trudeau named China as the government he admired most in the world. Since then, Canadians have been given reason to believe he meant this literally.

Punishing dissent: The treatment of the freedom protesters under Justin Trudeau’s government seems disturbingly similar to the behaviour of totalitarian regimes in China, Russia and the former Soviet Bloc. Shown at top, Chinese Christians (left) and Uyghur inmates (right) jailed in China; at bottom, political dissidents in Russia (left) and Kazakhstan (right). (Sources of photos: (top right) The Guardian; (bottom left) Ilya Pitalev/RIA Novosti; (bottom right) Epa-Efe/Igor Kovalenko)

Given the facts at hand, given the Prime Minister’s venomous rhetoric against his opponents, given his repeated ethical lapses, and given that he has interfered in at least one prosecution before, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Lich and the others are political prisoners being persecuted at the behest of the Trudeau government. Whether this is due to key players in the justice system reading the implicit signals and acting accordingly, or due to direct interference, we cannot say – and might never know for sure. Either way, Canadians should be revolted. One thing we do know: news of yet another murder or egregious assault by a violent offender out on bail will come all too soon.

Gwyn Morgan is a retired business leader who was a director of five global corporations.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

‘Hottest Year in History’ Alarms are False

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Ian Madsen

It’s that time of year for breathless reports about planetary heating. Multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, recently made worldwide headlines, proclaiming 2023 as the hottest year in history.

The increase in average temperature, versus the longer-term average from 1850 to 1900, was a rise of 1.48 degrees Celsius. However, with the considerable difficulty of having truly comparable sets of measurements (from different sites in different years), one should treat such claims carefully.  Interested parties use them to promote ‘solutions’ that could do more harm than good. It is notable that this new ‘high’ temperature was only 0.17 degree Celsius higher than in 2016.

NASA notes five factors explaining higher temperatures.  Only one is the ‘usual suspect,’ greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide, ‘CO2’). The other four are:  the El Niño Southern Oscillation, ‘ENSO’, cycle; aerosol levels (such as smoke, dust and air pollution); volcanic eruptions; and general ocean temperature level and trends. NASA says the first and last of these affect current overall temperature.

The world has been in what meteorologists call an El Niño phase, which brings much higher temperatures to most of the world when it prevails.  The oceans have also been gradually warming for decades, with occasional pauses, as  in the period 1998-2013.

There are other major reasons to make an observer skeptical of extreme claims. The first is that this is a ‘history’ that is relatively short; i.e., the past 150 years (or even, in practice, much less).  A second reason is that wide-scale, reliable global satellite temperature measurement has only been possible since the 1970’s. Before that, temperature monitoring was not systematic.

Until the 1880’s, temperature recordings were mostly in either North America or Europe, and hence show major data biases.  Another crucial bias was that many weather stations are in or close to cities, which grew and warmed as they burned more coal (and, later on, more oil and natural gas), causing the heat island effect.  The cities, growing gently warmer, also grew toward the weather stations, usually located on the outskirts of cities, especially the stations at airports.

For example, there are two weather stations in Winnipeg – one at the wind-swept airport and the other in the heart of downtown at the Forks.  An analysis back in 2007 showed the temperature difference between the two locations to be 1.57 degrees warmer at the Forks.  So closing or ignoring the airport temperature measurement location would “on paper” show warming in Winnipeg. It will be the same with most major Canadian airports.

Another valid way to challenge an assertion that 2023 was history’s hottest year, is to examine other time periods to see if one was hotter. The most well known such period came in the 1930’s, which was hotter and drier than the decades before or after. High temperatures set many new records that remain unbroken. The 1970’s were cool, despite rising COemissions.

The Medieval Warm Period, approximately AD 750-1350, was much warmer than today. Farming was commonplace in Greenland, and vineyards grew in Britain.  Industrialization began in the 1750’s, so, increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions could not and did not cause ancient warming.  Nor did lower CO2 emissions cause the subsequent cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere, which culminated in what is now called the Little Ice Age, AD 1350-1850, from which we are still emerging.

According to interested parties the past year may have set records, but  there is no evidence that it was the ‘hottest’.

Its summer time. Enjoy the hot weather.  Ignore the climate doomsters.

Ian Madsen is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Federal government’s bloated bureaucracy needs an immediate overhaul

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By David Leis

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the Honourable Preston Manning about the ever-growing size of Canada’s federal bureaucracy. Manning, a seasoned politician with an impressive legacy of public service, recently wrote a compelling column urging the next government to rein in the federal bureaucracy.

Our conversation highlighted the need for a strategic approach to managing the state’s size and ensuring efficient and effective government operations and democratic accountability. This issue is relevant to Canadians as the size of government in Canada continues to increase at historic levels and acts as a major impediment to our nation’s productivity, standard of living and quality of life.

The size of the state has also led to a change in our culture. Some assume that the government will do everything, which, of course, has never worked.

During our conversation, Manning highlighted the dramatic growth of the federal civil service, which has nearly doubled during the Trudeau years. This expansion, he said, poses a significant challenge for any new government trying to control this vast machinery by elected representatives. His central argument was clear: a new government must be prepared with a solid plan to manage and, where necessary, reduce the federal bureaucracy’s size to ensure its effectiveness and that it serves the needs of Canadians.

One of his primary suggestions was a return to merit-based hiring. The current emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, he pointed out, sometimes comes at the expense of efficiency and effectiveness. While acknowledging the importance of a diverse workforce, Manning stressed that competence and capability, not ideology, should be the core criteria for hiring civil servants. This approach, he said, would ensure that the government is staffed by professionals who can deliver high-quality public services.

Privatization also came up as a key theme in our conversation. Manning pointed out that certain government functions could be better managed by the private sector. He said that by contracting out services that the private sector can deliver more cost-effectively, the government can reduce its size and focus on its core responsibilities. This shift would not only decrease public expenditure but also enhance the efficiency of service delivery to the public.

We also discussed the issue of federal encroachment into provincial jurisdictions and the need for it to focus on its own responsibilities, many of which are underperforming. The Trudeau government has been overstepping its constitutional boundaries in areas like healthcare, natural resources, and municipal governance. By respecting provincial jurisdictions, the federal government could reduce its role and the size of its bureaucracy while empowering those levels of government closer to the people. This decentralization would enable the provincial governments to manage their affairs more effectively, leading to a more balanced and efficient federation.

Building public support for reducing the size of the government was another crucial point in our conversation as Canadians struggle with high taxation and affordability. Survey after survey suggests a low level of trust in government as they witness high levels of deficits and debt as their standard of living continues to fall. Manning pointed out that, during the formation of the Reform Party, there was initially little public support for balancing the budget. However, through persistent efforts, public awareness and support for fiscal responsibility significantly increased. Similar efforts are needed today, he said, to educate the public about the importance of controlling government size and spending to serve Canadians better.

Our conversation also delved into the rule of law and the need for greater transparency to the public to ensure stronger accountability. Canada has one of the most secretive approaches to handling government documents in the Western world. Many documents are held indefinitely when they should be released publicly. Ironically, this secrecy has created a challenge for historians who seek to research past government decisions and can find few original documents because they are not public.

Manning also recommended periodically reviewing programs and either renewing or discontinuing them based on their effectiveness. This approach, he said, would enhance accountability and prevent the perpetuation of ineffective programs that no longer serve any purpose.

A particularly striking part of our discussion was the concept of a vertical political culture, where an elite class wields significant power, often at the expense of ordinary citizens. Manning argued that this description of elites and power is more relevant today than the traditional left-right political spectrum. The public must elect representatives committed to empowering citizens rather than perpetuating elite control, particularly within a massive, complex state bureaucracy.

Manning urged voters to ask candidates specific questions about how they plan to reduce the size of the federal civil service and manage public spending. By holding elected officials accountable, citizens can ensure that their concerns are addressed and that the government remains responsive to their needs, he said.

My discussion with Preston Manning highlighted the urgent need for strategic planning and public engagement in managing the size of Canada’s federal bureaucracy to ensure democratic control. His call for a return to merit-based hiring, increased privatization, respect for provincial jurisdictions, and greater transparency offers a roadmap for a more efficient and effective government.

As Canada faces increasing fiscal challenges and public dissatisfaction, his insights provide a timely reminder of the importance of prudent governance and active citizenship.

David Leis is the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s vice president for development and engagement and host of the Leaders on the Frontier podcast.

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