OTTAWA — An Ontario court judge says he's unlikely to grant "Freedom Convoy" organizer Pat King's request to move his criminal trial out of Ottawa.
King was among the original group of organizers that brought big-rigs and other trucks to the capital city to protest COVID-19 public health restrictions in early 2022.
His lawyer, Natasha Calvinho, told the court Tuesday that his name has been highly publicized ever since. She made a second attempt to convince a judge to move the trial away from Ottawa and argued King is so notorious he would not have a chance at a fair trial in the city.
Several people charged during the demonstration have been denied similar requests, including convoy organizer James Bauder and former Ontario MPP Randy Hillier.
Calvinho argued King had a greater notoriety than most other convoy organizers and even Hillier, who represented an Ottawa-area riding for about 15 years.
King "was and still is more highly publicized than most other peoples involved in the Freedom Convoy," she told the court.
The exceptions, she said, are protest organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, whose joint criminal trial began in September.
The Crown argued King's situation more closely resembles that of Bauder, whose request to move his trial was denied in part because he wasn't a well-known person.
The Crown has asked for the request to be dismissed, and Calvinho acknowledged in court that King's request would be an "uphill battle" for her to argue.
Justice Charles Hackland said during Tuesday's court proceeding, which took place via video conference, that he would probably dismiss the request, though he wants to think more carefully about the issue before handing down his final decision.
He said the amount of media or social media coverage of the accused isn't the main issue, because that problem would not be solved by moving the trial out of Ottawa.
"The real issue is, what about potential jurors who reside in the downtown Ottawa area or who might otherwise have been indirectly involved in the convoy? Those are the people that have to be handled very carefully, I think, to avoid a risk of prejudice," Hackland said.
The convoy blocked city streets, with people and vehicles remaining in the downtown core for three weeks. Residents have described a state of lawlessness as they were subjected to air horns at all hours of the day and night, open fires in the streets and diesel fumes.
The protest cost the city $7 million, and police initially estimated it cost $55 million to patrol and ultimately end the demonstration.
The Liberal government also invoked the Emergencies Act in an effort to quell the protest in Ottawa and at several Canada-U.S. border crossings.
King is charged with mischief and other charges related to counselling others to mischief, disobeying a court order and obstructing police for his role in the convoy.
The arguments Tuesday were part of a four day pretrial hearing on several issues related to King's case, most of which cannot be reported because of a publication ban.
King's trial is scheduled to begin at the end of November.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press