Sale of Ottawa church to 'Freedom Convoy'-affiliated group falls through, but leader says deal is still on
The current purchase of a historic Ottawa church slated to become an "embassy" for a group affiliated with the Freedom Convoy has fallen through, according to documents obtained by CTV News.
St. Brigid's Church was conditionally sold to a group called The United People of Canada on June 15 but as of Aug. 12, real estate listing documents show the property was listed as "back on the market."
The documents did not say what potential conditions were not met that could have caused the deal to collapse.
When reached by CTV News, The United People of Canada director William Komer said it was his understanding the deal was still in place.
"There's no deal that has fallen through to our knowledge and perspective," said Komer, who added the owner of the property had not informed him of any changes to the sale.
CTV News reached out to both the owner of the property and the listing agent but neither commented about the status of the property.
The church, located 1.3 kilometres from Parliament Hill, had been on the market since July 2021 prior to the conditional sale and had a $5.95-million price tag.
While attempting to satisfy the conditions of purchasing the church, The United People of Canada had been renting the space. On Wednesday, a bailiff unsuccessfully attempted to evict the group from the church after alleging they had not been paying rent.
On Thursday, a "Notice of Termination of Tenant" was posted on the front door of the church stating the group’s lease had been terminated due to $10,000 in unpaid rent and "failure to provide proof of liability insurance in the minimum of $5 million." A second notice posted on the door said the group was in violation of the Ontario Heritage Act and did not obtain necessary permits for construction under the Ontario Building Code Act.
Komer said in a Facebook post that the eviction notice was "unlawful."
"As you can see from the actions of property owners, they do seem to be wishing to no longer do business with us," said Komer.
One of the group’s largest financial backers, London, Ont.-based investment adviser Tony Cuzzocrea, told CTV News that it was a "lie" that The United People of Canada had not paid their rent on time.
"We have proof that have paid every money, as it it was due at a certain amount of time," said Cuzzocrea.
Komer told CTV News in June the group planned to turn the church into an “embassy” that would serve as a community space.
"Just looking to create a unique and inclusive space where people of all different backgrounds and beliefs are welcome to participate in dialogue, participate in co-working, access a community cafe, venue space and we're hosting a number of community conversations," said Komer.
Fellow United People of Canada director Kimberley Ward has admitted to being an adviser to Dwayne Lich, the partner of "Freedom Convoy" organizer Tamara Lich. Ward also was outside the Ottawa courthouse on March 7 to celebrate the first release of Tamara Lich on bail, but despite that, the group denies connections to the occupation.
The ties with the Lich family and the group’s presence at the church had concerned community groups.
"We're concerned about their links to the community, what their objectives are and establishing headquarters for this organization in our community," said Sylvie Bigras of the Lowertown Community Association.
With files from CTV News' Jeremie Charron, Josh Pringle and Newstalk 580 CFRA's Andrew Pinsent