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All 'Freedom Convoy' truckers, donors could be drawn into class-action lawsuit over protest disruption


The lawyer leading a potential class-action lawsuit against the Freedom Convoy wants to expand the list of defendants to include all truckers who occupied Ottawa earlier this year, as well as anyone who donated to the fund the protest.

If successful, the legal manoeuvre could make the owners of approximately 400 trucks and tens of thousands of donors financially liable for a share of $300 million in damages the lawsuit claims.

Lawyer Paul Champ first filed the litigation in February, naming public servant Zexi Li, who lives in downtown Ottawa, as a representative of a class of residents who claim they suffered from the noise and disruption caused by hundreds of trucks parked on city streets for three weeks.

Champ later added representatives plaintiffs of two Ottawa businesses and employees of other downtown businesses as additional classes of plaintiffs — meaning they could share the damages should the court certify the classes, and if the litigation succeeded.

The lawsuit initially named Tamara Lich, Tom Marazzo, Chris Barber and other convoy organizers as defendants, along with unnamed “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” truckers and donors.

Now Champ has brought an unusual motion to add two defendant classes to the litigation, potentially making liable anyone who brought their truck to the Ottawa protest or contributed financially through crowdfunding sites like GiveSendGo or GoFundMe.

In an application filed in Ontario Superior Court, Champ identifies the operator of an Ontario trucking company and a New Brunswick businessman as representatives of the two defendant classes.

The motion identifies Brad Howland, of Kars, N.B., as a representative defendant of a potential donor class. He owns owns Easy Kleen Pressure Systems Ltd., which donated “$75,000 USD on or about February 9, 2022, to GiveSendGo to support, encourage and facilitate” the protest, the motion alleges.

Howland confirmed to CTV News that his company had donated to the convoy but he says he isn’t sure where it ended up.

“The money was to support and pay for expenses for the people that were giving up so much time to put their voice forward and their time forward to explain how we want freedom in the country,” he said.

Howland said he had heard rumours he might be drawn into the litigation but wasn’t certain until contacted by CTV News.

The motion also seeks to add Harold Jonker of Caistor Centre, Ont., as the representative defendant. It claims his company, Jonker Trucking, “owned at least 11 semi-tractor trucks that were driven to Ottawa and used to participate in the tortious activities of the Freedom Convoy protest.”

Jonker could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Many of the convoy defendants to the lawsuit are testifying before the Public Order Emergency Commission currently studying the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to end the protests.

Champ is also appearing at the inquiry on behalf of a coalition of downtown Ottawa residents and businesses. Li testified during the first week of the inquiry hearings.

None of the defendants named in the lawsuit have filed statements-of-defence yet, and none of the allegations have been proved in court.

Champ and other lawyers working on the case have successfully frozen millions of dollars donated through crowdfunding sites. The money is held in escrow pending resolution of the case.

Champ also used the Li lawsuit to successfully obtain an injunction to stop the truckers from blowing truck and train horns.

The plaintiffs still face major legal hurdles, to certify about 24,000 downtown residents as a class, and now, to certify the additional defendant classes.

Even if the plaintiffs eventually win a judgment in court, to collect damages, they will have to prove individuals belong to the defendants classes.

The plaintiffs are expected to rely on the enormous number of pictures and video posted to social media to identify individual truckers who participated in the protests. They could also use donor records from crowdsourcing platforms to identify members of the donor defendant class.




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