Monday, July 15, 2024
Protest at Coutts, Alberta February 2022. Image: Twitter
Guest ContributionsOpinion/ColumnTrucking

Coutts protesters still sitting in jail while violent criminals walk free in Canada

A trial was supposed to begin today for four Alberta men who’ve been held without bail for 18 months. It’s now been postponed until 2024.

Left to right: Chris Carbert, Jerry Morin, Tony Olienick, Chris Lysak. Arrested mid-February 2022. Denied bail. Nearing 500 days behind bars. No trial yet scheduled. Photo: TYT

by Donna Laframboise

Gord Macgill is a Canadian currently working and living in the US. He’s been a trucker for 26 years and says he’s been “everywhere in Canada and US, even drove truck in New Zealand and Australia.”

His podcast is called Voice of Go(r)d. The most recent episode is titled On the Coutts 4 – Political Prisoners in Canada with Granny Mackay. I have no firsthand knowledge of what transpired in Coutts, Alberta at the time the Freedom Convoy protest was happening in Ottawa. At the moment, my own plate is too full with other matters to delve into it.

But please consider taking 50 minutes of your time to listen to this (audio only) discussion between Gord and his guest – Albertan Margaret ‘Granny’ Mackay. She traveled to Ottawa as part of the Convoy and stayed for the duration. After returning home, she learned that four Alberta men who’d been arrested in February 2022 in connection with the Coutts protest had been denied bail and remained in custody. It’s now been 18 months. Those men are still behind bars.

Margaret describes them as “two single fathers, an only child to an 80-year-old mother, and a husband and father.” She says “two of them have lost their businesses. They’ve sold off their gravel trucks, their landscaping equipment.” One of them, she reports, “lost his bank account” and has been advised the bank won’t be renewing his mortgage. Between them, these men have seven children.

In present day Canada, career criminals get arrested, are swiftly granted bail, and are back on the streets within hours or days. These men are not career criminals. Margaret says three of them have never received so much as a speeding ticket before. One, she says, “might have a juvenile record” of some kind.

After she tells us they’ve been charged with “conspiracy to murder RCMP officers – a very serious federal charge,” Gord says you’d think “the government would be in a humongous hurry” to make the evidence public in order to reinforce its narrative that the protesters were terrorists.

But crown prosecutors apparently aren’t ready yet. Margaret says the trial for these four men was supposed to start today, but has been postponed to a yet-to-be-decided date in 2024.

I wrote frequently about the wrongfully convicted early on in my journalism career and, based on the info in this podcast, it’s fair to say my alarm bells are ringing. This smells. It looks and feels like political persecution – something that’s not supposed to happen in countries like Canada.

Two of the men are in custody in Lethbridge. Apparently, the petty tyrants in charge of that facility have “held back hundreds of letters” sent to them. “You have to put it on white paper,” Margaret explains. “White envelope. No stickers. No decals. Blue ink. Black ink. No gel pens.”

A simple greeting card is apparently also forbidden. Seriously. This is Alberta, Canada. In 2023.

Is there more to this story? Are there details about which Margaret, Gord, and the rest of us may not be aware? That’s plausible. But in Margaret’s words:

“You gotta remember. I saw the government lie. I saw the media lie. I saw the police brutality in Ottawa. So in my mind, I’m thinking why would it be any different at the Coutts demonstration?

“It was the same type of people. It was the same shenanigans going on. So then I started saying ‘Innocent until proven guilty.’

These men have been denied anything resembling a timely trial. If they can be held without bail or trial for years, so can any other Canadian. This is not OK. Please listen to this podcast for yourself here.

*****

Alberta Political Prisoners is a Facebook page started by Margaret Mackay. She sells bumper stickers on behalf of the Coutts 4 on her website here and has set up a GiveSendGo fundraiser here

Gord’s Substack is here. You can find him on Twitter here. His podcast is on Spotify here.

*****

Donna Laframboise writes a daily blog at  ThankYouTruckers.substack.comIt is a first draft of her upcoming book that focuses on interviews with Freedom Convoy truckers. She is a former National Post and Toronto Star columnist, and a former Vice President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.