OTTAWA—The leader of a Quebec-based group that opposes COVID-19 health measures is the latest alleged organizer of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests to be released on bail from police custody.
Steeve “L’Artiss” Charland, the spokesperson for a group called “Les Farfadaas,” was released from jail Monday under a pledge of $27,000 and a series of court-imposed conditions. These included a ban from social media and participating or organizing any protests linked with opposition to pandemic health measures or the convoy cause that paralyzed the streets around Parliament Hill and inspired border blockades across Canada last month.
Charland was arrested on Feb. 26 and charged with mischief and counseling to commit mischief in relation to his role in the protests, according to Ottawa police.
Evidence outlined in court during Charland’s bail hearing last week is secret under a publication ban ordered by Justice of the Peace Jocelyne St. Jean.
In granting Charland bail on Monday, St. Jean ordered him to pledge $5,000 for his release on top of $22,000 pledged by his two sureties, individuals who committed to helping make sure he follows his bail conditions while he faces criminal charges.
At the time of his arrest, Charland had posted a video to his Facebook page that showed him speaking about meeting with other convoy organizers to discuss in Vankleek Hill, a town east of Ottawa where some participants had de-camped after police cleared the occupation around Parliament Hill a few days earlier. Charland says in the video that they were there to discuss “certain plans” for their movement.
During the protests, the Farfadaas set up a protest camp in Gatineau, Que., the city across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.
The 48-year-old was a core organizer with a Quebec far-right group called La Meute before he became a key figure with Farfadaas, which experts describe as a loose organization created during the pandemic to oppose public health restrictions that were imposed to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Alongside the bans on social media use and participating in convoy-related protests, St. Jean ordered Charland not to enter the area along Ottawa’s Wellington Street where the convoy occupation took place last month, and to refrain from communicating with 10 other protest organizers including those also facing charges: Pat King, Tamara Lich, Chris Barber and Tyson Billings.
Barber, a trucker from Swift Current, Sask., was released on bail shortly after his arrest, while Lich — a convoy spokesperson and fundraiser from Alberta — was originally denied bail but ultimately released on March 7 after she appealed that decision
King, a far-right influencer whose repertoire of online videos includes racist comments and a warning that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be shot, was denied bail on Feb. 25.
He appeared again briefly by video in court on Monday, where King indicated he is trying to connect with new lawyers before his next hearing was scheduled for Thursday.
Billings, who is reportedly known as “Freedom George,” was also denied bail on March 14 while he faces charges linked to the convoy demonstrations, and is slated to return to court in early April, court documents show.
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