Trucker convoy: Organizers facing lawsuit

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Organizers of the Freedom Convoy that has gridlocked downtown Ottawa for the last week are facing a $9.8-million class-action lawsuit over relentless horn noise, filed on behalf of residents of the city’s downtown core.

According to a statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday by lawyer Paul Champ, the lawsuit is seeking $4.8 million for “private nuisance” and another $5 million in “punitive damages.”

In the statement of claim, the plaintiff focuses on one of the main tactics convoy participants have used to make their presence known: the continuous honking of their vehicle horns.

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“The Freedom Convoy horn protest organized by the defendants has caused significant mental distress, suffering and torment to the plaintiff and the proposed class members,” reads the statement of claim.

The case could come to court as early as Saturday, as the plaintiff is seeking an injunction calling for an end to the continued “nuisance” being experienced by downtown residents that have now faced a week of disruptions due to the ongoing demonstration.

The statement of claim names Chris Barber, Benjamin Ditcher, Tamara Lich and Patrick King as convoy organizers, but also leaves the opportunity for up to 60 other defendants to be named, should the drivers of the semi-trucks who are parked downtown and blasting their horns in protest, be identified.

Lead plaintiff Zexi Li is a 21-year-old public servant who lives within five blocks of Parliament Hill, though class certification is being sought, with “all persons who reside in Ottawa, Ontario, from Bay Street to Elgin Street and Lisgar Street to Wellington Street” being considered potential members of the class action.

The court filing alleges that the horns on semi-trucks emit noise in the range of 100 to 150 decibels and are not meant to be used for longer than a few seconds because the sound levels are dangerous and can cause permanent damage to the human ear.

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“Despite these dangers, the Freedom Convoy trucks have been blasting these dangerous horns continuously for 12 to 16 hours per day,” the statement of claim reads.

It also notes that many of the residents who live downtown and specifically around Parliament Hill are no strangers to political protests and understand the importance of freedom of association, assembly and expression, however they “have never experienced anything like the constant and excruciatingly loud horns of the defendants’ Freedom Convoy.”

From the nearly around-the-clock honking of truck horns, to being advised to avoid the downtown streets still packed with protesters given the security risks, there have been numerous calls for officials to step in and put an end to what many are considering an occupation of the area surrounding Parliament Hill.

Reports of residents being harassed and threatened for wearing masks or being accosted while walking in their neighbourhoods have caused uproar on social media and led to tense questions between city councillors, the police, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

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Parts of the convoy arrived in Ottawa last Friday ahead of a big rally on Parliament Hill Saturday in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers and broader public health measures.

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On Thursday, some of the main organizers for the “Freedom Convoy” announced their intention to stay encamped in downtown Ottawa until all COVID-19 mandates are lifted, and decried that they had been painted in a bad light by the examples of bad behaviour of some protesters.

Organizers also suggested that they have received support from locals and the residents who feel their presence is an “inconvenience,” should take it up with their elected officials because the politicians have not yielded to their demands.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said Friday that while officials are bracing for an increase in protesters coming into the city over the weekend, they are now working with police forces and governments at all levels to “effect a safe, timely, and lawful end to this unlawful and unacceptably dangerous demonstration.”

Through a GoFundMe page the convoy has raised nearly $10.1 million in donations but earlier this week the company suspended the “Freedom Convoy” fundraiser, halting the ability for any further donations to be made while a compliance review takes place.

City officials have called for the funding to be withheld until the protesters clear the city, while members of Parliament have called for GoFundMe officials to testify before a House of Commons committee about what safeguards it has in place when it comes to releasing the money.

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CTV News is reaching out to convoy organizers for comment. The claims made have not been proven in court.

More to come…

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