Coutts Three convicted of mischief over $5,000 for serving as liaisons between protesters and police

Ray McGinnis: Coutts Three guilty verdict sparks debate over the wisdom of assisting policeTwelve jurors have found the Coutts Three guilty of mischief over $5,000 at a courthouse in Lethbridge, Alta. on Apr. 16, 2024. Marco Van Huigenbois, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen will appear again in court on July 22 for sentencing.

Van Huigenbois, Van Herk and Janzen were each protesting at the Coutts Blockade in 2022. A traffic blockade near the Coutts-Sweetgrass Canada-U.S. border crossing of Alberta Highway 4 began on Jan. 29, 2022. The protests were in support of the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa.

Protests began due to the vaccine mandates imposed on truckers entering Canada and lockdown measures that led to the bankruptcy of 120,000 small businesses. Government officials ostensibly enacted these edicts to safeguard public health by curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Yet in Aug. 2021, Dr. Rachel Wallensky of the CDC acknowledged on CNN that the vaccine did not prevent infection or halt transmission.

In February 2022, a U.S. court forced Pfizer to release its “Cumulative Analysis of Post-Authorization Adverse Event Reports,” which disclosed that by the end of February 2021, the company was aware that 1,223 people had experienced a “fatal” outcome after receiving the company’s vaccine.

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On Feb. 14, 2022, three men addressed the Coutts protesters following the display of a cache of weapons by the RCMP, which was related to the arrest of the Coutts Four. Van Huigenbos and others convinced the protesters to vacate Coutts, and they complied by Feb. 15, 2022.

During the trial, several RCMP officers acknowledged that the Coutts Three co-operated in their dealings with the law. Moreover, there appeared to be no validity to the claim that Van Huigenbos, Van Herk, and Janzen were leaders of the protest.

RCMP officer Greg Tulloch testified that there were several “factions” within the larger protest group. These factions had strong disagreements about how to proceed with the protest. The Crown contended the Coutts Three were the leaders of the protest.

During his testimony, Tulloch recalled how Van Huigenbos and Janzen assisted him in getting past the “vehicle blockade to enter Coutts at a time during the protest when access to Coutts from the north via the AB-4 highway was blocked.” Tulloch also testified that Janzen and Van Huigenbos helped handle RCMP negotiations with the protesters. Tulloch credited these two “being able to help move vehicles at times to open lanes on the AB-4 highway to facilitate the flow of traffic in both directions.”

During a cross-examination by George Janzen’s lawyer, Alan Honner, Tulloch stated that he had noticed two of the defendants assisting RCMP with reopening the highway in both directions. In summary, Honner said, “(Marco Van Huigenbos and George Janzen) didn’t close the road; they opened it.”

Mark Wielgosz, an RCMP officer with over 20 years of experience, served as a liaison between law enforcement and protesters at the Coutts blockade. Testifying, he agreed that there was significant disagreement among the Coutts protesters regarding the direction of their demonstration. Video clips from Rebel News, submitted by both the Crown and defence teams, captured these disagreements as demonstrators gathered in the Smuggler’s Saloon, where many protesters convened to discuss and debate their demonstration. Despite his efforts as an RCMP liaison with the protesters, Wielgosz was unable to identify the protest’s leaders.

The Crown, however, continued to maintain that the protest unlawfully obstructed people’s access to property on Highway 4.

Canada’s Criminal Code defines mischief as follows in Section 430:

Every one commits mischief who wilfully:
(a) destroys or damages property;
(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

Rebel News reporter Robert Kraychik reported that “RCMP Superintendent Gordon Corbett … cried while testifying about a female RCMP officer (who) was startled by the movement of a tractor with a large blade during the Coutts blockade/protest.” This was the climax of the trial: A tractor moving some distance away from an officer in rural Alberta, with blades.

The shock of it all.

In light of the verdict, and given the Crown’s own portrayal of the Coutts Three as protest leaders for volunteering to liaise with the RCMP, who among us will be willing to act as a liaison with the policing authorities at any future peaceful, non-violent protest?

Ray McGinnis is a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His forthcoming book is Unjustified: The Emergencies Act and the Inquiry that Got It Wrong.

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