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'Freedom Convoy' organizer James Bauder wants trial moved from Ottawa

The founder of Canada Unity, a group that called for an end to all vaccine mandates, is facing four charges related to the winter protest

James Bauder, the head of a group called Canada Unity, is representing himself in court.
James Bauder, the head of a group called Canada Unity, is representing himself in court. Photo by Facebook photo

One of the organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” protest last winter wants his trial moved away from Ottawa.

James Ralph Bauder, 52, of Calgary, appeared in an Ottawa courtroom Friday and said he planned to make an application to change the venue for his trial on charges related to his participation in the convoy.

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A one-day hearing was scheduled for Feb. 3, 2023 to hear the application.

Bauder’s trial is expected to take two weeks. No date was finalized, but discussion at the Friday hearing suggested it may be as early as March 2023.

Bauder, who appeared at a hearing held on Zoom, said he was representing himself.

Justice Robert Pelletier of the Superior Court of Justice told Bauder he should familiarize himself with the requirements of the law regarding changes of venue.

Self-representation is allowed, but Pelletier said in his experience as a justice and a prosecutor he had not seen a change of venue hearing without counsel presenting the case.

“Are you up to speed on what that involves?”

“Yes, I have researched extensively, your honour,” replied Bauder.

Said Pelletier: “You cannot attend this change of venue application and simply say ‘this case drew so much attention and media focus that I couldn’t get a fair trial here in Ottawa, period, and just sit down and expect the judge to rule.

“It’s not just a question of arguing that ‘in fairness, the trial should perhaps be elsewhere.’ But based on what information? On what evidence? That is going to be your challenge.”

Change of venue applications are rarely granted, according to Steps to Justice, an online guide to the law sponsored by various organization, including the Attorney General, Legal Aid Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.

“Your lawyer must show that it would be hard to find a jury that would try your case fairly,” said the guide. “This might be the case if there have been many news stories about your case, and the place where the charges were made has a small population.”

Bauder was arrested in Ottawa on Feb. 20, as police from across Canada were removing convoy protesters who had blocked streets downtown for three weeks.

He faces charges of mischief to obstruct property, disobeying a lawful court order and obstruct/resist a peace officer.

Sandra Bauder, James Bauder’s wife, was also charged with four similar counts on Feb. 20.

Both the Bauders were released on a promise to appear later in court, with conditions not to return to downtown Ottawa.

Sandra Bauder’s charge sheet included this handwritten note next to her signature: “Signed subject to my rights under Habeus Corpus and Indigenous Law. I do not recognise the courts outside of Indigenous Law on unceded land. Signed under duress.”

The charges against Sandra Bauder were stayed on May 16, according to court records.

James Bauder is the founder of Canada Unity, an organization that gathered signatures on a petition that called for governments to end all vaccine mandates, passports and other “discriminatory regulations and initiatives” and for a “cease and desist order” to be issued to elected members of parliament.

Canada Unity’s “memorandum of understanding” document is hard to decipher but suggested an agreement would be signed between the Senate, the Governor General and James and Sandra Bauder in order to implement the plan.

Canada Unity later withdrew the memorandum and said it supported the democratic process.

Some others within the grassroots “freedom convoy” movement disassociated themselves from the Canada Unity memo, saying they did not support the overthrow of the Canadian government.

James and Sandra Bauder drove their RV dubbed “Unity 1” from Alberta for the Ottawa protest, urging others to join the convoy.

After they were arrested, the Bauders retrieved their impounded RV and headed west. They have promoted various “freedom” protests in B.C. and elsewhere since then.

The Canada Unity campaign against vaccines and mandates has expanded to include various other causes and conspiracies, such as the belief that the World Economic Forum and the UN are plotting to establish a world government.

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