The nightmare in Ottawa. Credit: Patrick McCurdy Credit: Patrick McCurdy

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ filed a statement of claim in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice yesterday seeking $4.8 million in damages for “private nuisance” and $5 million in punitive damages for the beleaguered residents of the national capital’s downtown core from the outlaw truckers occupying the city. 

The $9.8-million class action lawsuit focuses on the sustained air horn abuse by the far-right truckers who arrived unimpeded in Ottawa’s downtown last weekend demanding the lawfully elected government of Canada be deposed, supposedly because they were fed up with provincial COVID-19 vaccine mandates. 

Accumulating evidence suggests, however, the protest has a much broader extreme-right agenda and benefited from funding and advice from outside the country. 

While many of the threatening and noisy protesters are sure to stick around—organizers have vowed to stay until their absurd demands have been met—the smart ones may try to get out of town with their license plates unnoticed when they give some thought to the implications of Champ’s suit and the others that are sure to follow. 

Champ is a high-profile litigator specializing in human rights, employment, labour, and constitutional law from offices near Parliament Hill. 

Ottawa media reported yesterday evening that Champ’s statement of claim names protest organizers Chris Barber, Benjamin Ditcher, Tamara Lich, and Patrick King as defendants, but leaves the door open to naming up to 60 additional defendants if the operators of the trucks harassing residents can be identified.

Downtown Ottawa resident Zexi Li, a public employee who lives near Parliament Hill, was named as the lead plaintiff. But Champ will seek the approval of the court to include “all persons who reside in Ottawa, Ontario, from Bay Street to Elgin Street and Lisgar Street to Wellington Street” in the class action. 

Champ’s case—in which he is also seeking an injunction to immediately stop the horn-blowing—was set to commence in court Friday, CTV reported

The filing comes just days after I wrote, “What’s the first thing citizens do in a society where the rule of law prevails when they are faced, individually or collectively, with an intolerable situation? They call a lawyer and they file a lawsuit, of course.”

I argued that the mysteriously sourced $9.5-million slush fund that had by then been collected by the GoFundMe crowd-funding site from supporters of the insurrectionists holding the city hostage would be a tempting target for harassed Ottawans and their lawyers. 

But also yesterday evening, with contributions at more than $10-million, shut down the account and announced that after its initial distribution of $1 million to the organizers, it would no longer distribute any of the funds to them since “the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”

GoFundMe said “we will work with organizers to send all remaining funds to credible and established charities chosen by the … organizers and verified by GoFundMe.”

One wonders if GoFundMe was as fearful of getting tangled in a web of litigation as it was concerned about the official assessment of the protest. This means organizers and participants won’t have the huge slush fund they may have anticipated to defend themselves against legal proceedings of all sorts. 

CBC reported that Tamara Lich, one of the organizers of the original crowdfunding effort, “posted a video message on Friday evening directing supporters to a new online fundraiser hosted by GiveSendGo,” a Christian site blocked by PayPal last year because it raised money for participants in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington D.C.

Over the weekend, Lich resigned her position as secretary of the Western separatist Maverick Party, the political entity formerly known as Wexit. 

Last night, the party’s website page devoted to short biographies of its leadership cadre read, “sorry this service is currently unavailable.” A news release quoting leader Jay Hill, a former Conservative Party of Canada MP, said: “It is with regret that we accept the resignation of Tamara Lich, who has been instrumental in organizing the Truckers Freedom Convoy, as she is committed to remaining in Ottawa until all restrictions are lifted.”

If Champ’s name sounds familiar to readers of this blog, it is because he drafted the letter to Jason Kenney in November that advised the Alberta premier he would be personally sued for defamation by five Canadian environmental organizations if he didn’t retract and apologize for claims he made about them in comments about the report of the so-called “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.”

That letter gave Kenney until Nov. 30 to apologize. 

In the event, a statement of claim in the case wasn’t filed until Thursday this week in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton.

The suit names Kenney and the Government of Alberta and is seeking $15,000 for each organization in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages from Kenney.

Meanwhile, in Quebec City, authorities sensibly blocked off the Old City with heavy equipment and Quebec Premier Francois Legault signalled that heavy-duty tow trucks were standing by and a blockade like the one Ottawa Police allowed to dig in will not be tolerated. 

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...