Months after the Freedom Convoy was cleared from the streets of Ottawa, some of its leaders remain behind bars with no end in sight, and an expert says they are likely serving more jail time awaiting trial than they will not do so if found guilty.
Pat King, one of the convoy leaders, remains in jail for 113 days after being arrested for his role in the protest that occupied the streets of downtown Ottawa for more than a month.
King is co-accused with Tyson George Billings, who was arrested on similar charges last weekend as police cleared protesters.
Often seen alongside King, Billings is known among his followers as “Freedom George” and gained notoriety during the February protests for his resounding chants of “Let’s go!” and “Freedom!”
Billings has been behind bars for 112 days.
Both continue to be denied bail.
Police have never released the full list of those arrested and charged in the wake of the freedom convoy, but at least a handful of lesser-known people involved remain in jail.
According to a legal expert, King and Billings have likely already served more jail time awaiting trial than they will if convicted and sentenced.
“We are already reaching a pre-custody period that exceeds the possible sentence,” said Joao Velloso, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.
Others arrested at the protest, such as Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, are awaiting trial on bail. However, they are active on social media to promote adjacent movements, including election campaigns and future protests.
King ‘beaten enough’ in prison
A pastor who tries to visit King regularly in jail at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center questions the length of his incarceration.
“He’s pretty downcast,” says Melissa McKee, pastor at Capital City Bikers’ Church in Ottawa, which offered sanctuary space during its regular hours to protesters during the Freedom Convoy.
King continues to be frustrated with the justice system – he used a series of lawyers before hiring his current representative, Natasha Calvinho, but continues to face charges of mischief, counseling to commit mischief, advice to commit the offense of disobeying a court order, and advice to obstruct the police.
Amid a bail review hearing in April, King was charged with obstruction of justice and perjury.
All evidence presented at the bail review remains subject to a publication ban, which is often requested and granted to prevent potential jurors from being prejudiced before trial.
Supporters question the justice of the detention
Supporters regularly seek out the latest information on King, and many continue to regard him as an inspirational figure in the Freedom Convoy and the ongoing movement he inspired.
McKee says that no matter what people may think of him, being in jail that long is not fair.
“I don’t measure Pat against Tamara or Chris Barber, I measure what he did, what did he do? He did Facebook live videos bringing people together, he knew it was a possibility that he could be arrested, but  days?”
McKee says she regularly attends to people who need what she calls “heart care” or “spiritual care.”
“I literally do the same thing with Pat King that I would do with anyone who knocked on our door,” she said, adding that God had called on her life to help broken people.
Earlier this month, after King spent more than 100 days in jail, a group advocating on his behalf launched a letter-writing campaign asking people to send him notes of support in jail.
“After more than 100 mentally exhausted days in prison, Pat King is being pressured to accept a gag order to silence his voice upon his release. Send letters of support to Pat King at the address below, the encouraging to hold the line!” wrote David Paisley, who runs the popular “Live from the Shed” social media channel.
Billings’ supporters continue to solicit funds for him through online fundraising – in late May, a post on his Facebook page, supposedly led by his daughter, said Billings needed repairs on his “Freedom truck” and suggested that his release was imminent. .
“Any small amount helps. Thank you all for all you have done and continue to do for Freedom George, he thanks everyone for the cards and the support you all have given him. He loves you all so much,” said read part of this message. .
Billings’ legal counsel did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Most adults in prison are awaiting trial, sentencing
Legal expert Velloso notes that about 80% of the prison population is in a situation similar to King’s: waiting for a trial for a case that will be decided in a month or even a week, because people have already served any potential punishment that would end up being given to them.
According to Statistics Canada, since 2004, the average number of adults awaiting trial or sentencing in provincial services has been higher than the average number of adults sentenced to custody — in recent years it has been around 70% higher.
In Ontario and most provinces, more than half of those incarcerated are awaiting trial or sentencing.
“For King … he’s going to be in protective custody for a while, and if you look at the general trends in criminal sanctions in Canada, he’s probably already served his sentence,” Velloso said.