Canada dispatch: Ottawa judge orders ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters to silence horns for 10 days
© WikiMedia (Emilijaknezevic)
Canada dispatch: Ottawa judge orders ‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters to silence horns for 10 days

Law students from the University of Ottawa are filing dispatches for JURIST on the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Canada’s capital that has paralyzed the city for over a week. Here, 3L Amanda Werger reports.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice Monday granted a 10-day injunction preventing truckers and others participating in the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration from constantly honking their horns. Presiding Justice Hugh McLean said “Tooting a horn is not an expression of any great thought I’m aware of.”

The request for an injunction came as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed with the Court by lawyer Paul Champ on behalf of client Zexi Li. The proposed class members are “all persons who reside in Ottawa, Ontario, from Bay Street to Elgin Street and Lisgar Street to Wellington Street.” Champ has said that his client has received death threats since launching the lawsuit, as someone posted her phone number online.

A first hearing on the injunction was held Saturday, but the proceeding was adjourned until Monday. This was because Keith Wilson, lawyer for the defendants, said that the convoy organizers were negotiating to limit the use of horns to only 8 AM through 8 PM.

On Saturday evening, Champ tweeted a waiver to the protestors, saying that if they left by 10 AM on February 7 they would not be named as part of the lawsuit. Ottawa City Councillor Catherine McKenney was subsequently seen downtown encouraging protestors to sign Champ’s waiver and leave Ottawa. As of Monday morning, one downtown city block at Kent and Somerset had been reclaimed from the demonstration. Tweets reported that several truckers left just before 10 AM, although it is unclear whether this was connected to the lawsuit deadline.

In granting the injunction Monday, Justice McLean agreed with the plaintiff that the issue was the harm the noise was causing rather than the demonstrators’ right to protest. In the statement of claim for the suit, the plaintiff asserted that the blasting of vehicle horns non-stop is a key tactic being used by the convoy. The applicants also asserted that air horns and train horns were being used as well, which produce noise in the range of 100 to 150 decibels. Demonstrators have continued to blast these horns for 12 to 16 hours per day, despite the dangers and permanent ear damage that can be caused by continuous exposure to such sound levels.

Justice McLean said that the injunction is temporary because he needs to hear more evidence, but he has heard enough to determine that the blaring of horns was impacting residents, and that their right to “quiet” trumped the truckers’ right to protest. The hearing adjourned, and the court is now scheduled to hear more about how the injunction will be enforced.

The defendants requested that protestors be allowed to blast their horns for 5 minutes at a designated time despite the order. Justice McLean did not grant this request, and stated that the order was effective immediately. As the injunction is a civil contempt matter, the judge explained that those who violate the order will be brought before the court to answer for breach of an injunction.