A Montreal lawyer and former Toronto police officer are expressing criticism over over the process that led to a plea deal for two members of the Coutts Four.
Jerry Morin and Christopher Lysak were part of a demonstration at the Coutts, AB border crossing at the Canada/US border
Morin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic firearms. Lysak pleaded guilty to unauthorized possession of a handgun, an offence that was not on the original indictment. Charges of conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon and mischief were all withdrawn by the Crown.
In a rant on YouTube, David Freiheit, better known as Viva Frei, said the convictions were "relatively serious" but also "relatively innocuous" compared to the accusations used to justify two years of imprisonment without bail.
"It's not nothing that Jerry Morin and Chris Lysak pleaded guilty to firearm-related charges. It's not nothing but it has nothing to do with the original charges of conspiracy to commit homicide against an RCMP officer," he said.
"I have long said the Canadian gun laws are intended to criminalize possession not protect the public."
Frei did not know details at the time of his commentary, having only heard on social media reports that the two had pled guilty to gun possession charges and that neither had pled guilty to conspiracy to murder or to mischief.
According to an agreed statement of facts, an emergency wire tap revealed that conversations between Morin and people at the Coutts Blockades "disclosed a conspiracy to deliver firearms, ammunition and other equipment...to the Co-Conspirators, knowing that they sought the Firearms and Equipment for a criminal purpose."
One of the co-conspirators, named 'X' told Morin on February 9 "there was an RCMP checkpoint at Milk River, AB and numerous police present. 'X,' using coded language, asked if Morin could bring him his 'guitar and amplifier.' This was coded language for firearms and ammunition. Morin agreed to do so."
Even so, Frei said the plea deal represented a "full capitulation" by the Crown.
"Where was this offer two years ago? This is not the sign of a Crown that had a strong case,'" Frei said.
Frei pointed out that the inquiry by Justice Roleau that justified Trudeau's invocation of the War Measures (Emergencies) Act did so partly due to the alleged conspiracy to commit homicide at Coutts.
"Bear in mind that there was a very important publication ban gag order on this trial so that people were left thinking, 'Holy crap this was so serious, there must be some damning information in there.'"
Former Toronto police officer and current independent journalist Donald Best, expressed his own skepticism on Twitter ("X"). He said police officers would not be outraged at a failure to prosecute because he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to lay the charges in the first place.
"Only two days ago Chris Lysak and Jerry Morin were said to be terrorists and too dangerous to release on bail under any circumstances… but once they signed their confessions they were free to go," wrote Best.
"Thus the courts and both governments admitted that denying bail to the Coutts accused was a political decision and act."
Frei predicted the two remaining members of the Coutts Four would also likely reach a plea deal. However, he said "everyone should be up in arms" at the process prior to this resolution and that it deserved full exposure.
"There needs to be an investigation as to how this prosecution happened in the first place, and you Trudeau-loving sycophants who might think Justice was served, 'Oh, they learned a lesson,' this is not how a free country can work," Frei said.
"There needs to be political hell to pay for whoever was responsible for this because these two men had two years of their lives stolen, their kids had two years of parenthood stolen. There are still two more sitting rotting away in jail. But if I can predict anything, I'm predicting that these two are going to strike a deal as well."
Frei said the series of events compared poorly to the actions of the Liberal government regarding Canadian Omar Khadr.
"If the Liberal government's got $10 million for Omar Khadr, they had better start thinking about ponying up the dough now," Frei said.
Khadr pleaded guilty to the murder of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer and other charges, for incidents in Afghanistan that happened in 2002 when Khadr was 15 years old. He spent ten years in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for his conviction. In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that Canada had a "duty to protect" Khadr and should seek his return to Canada.
A plea deal in 2010 allowed Khadr's return, which took place in 2012. In 2015, he received bail. In 2019, he was judged to be a free man. In 2013, he sued the Canadian government for $20 million, alleging a conspiracy with the US government against him.
In 2014, then-US special forces medic Layne Morris, who was allegedly blinded in one eye and Speer's widow Tabitha Speer filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr. In 2015, a Utah judge granted them a US$134 million award after Khadr did not respond to the suit, but an application to enforce the judgment in Canada did not succeed. In 2017, Ottawa apologized to Khadr and gave him $10.5 million in compensation.