OTTAWA, ON: The Justice Centre is pleased to announce that Courtney John Dugas has been cleared of all charges stemming from his arrest at the peaceful Rolling Thunder protest in Ottawa last year. On September 26, after a two-day trial, Justice David Berg of the Ontario Court of Justice acquitted Mr. Dugas of charges of disarming a peace officer and assaulting a peace officer.
“This is one of many acquittals in cases where Canadians were criminally charged for doing nothing other than peacefully exercising their Charter freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly,” stated lawyer and Justice Centre President John Carpay.
On April 29, 2022, Mr. Dugas attended the Rolling Thunder protest in Ottawa, organized to support James Topp and other veterans who had been facing expulsion from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) over their decision in 2021 to not take the Covid vaccine. Mr. Topp, who has been a serving member of the CAF for 28 years, gained national headlines in 2021 for his 4,293 kilometre “Canada marches” walk across the country, in protest of mandatory vaccine mandates, forced quarantines, mandatory testing, and other conditions of employment or provision of services.
In addition to joining the moving protest of motorcycles and other vehicles, Mr. Dugas, a musician appearing under the name Cassius Julius, was scheduled to perform at the protest the following day.
Police officers testified in court that, as they formed a line to clear protestors from Rideau Street on the first day of the event, Mr. Dugas allegedly grabbed an officer’s baton and allegedly threw a punch. However, the officers’ accounts differed with respect to the timing of the alleged assault and the arrest. Mr. Dugas, testifying in his own defence, denied the allegation. His testimony was corroborated in court by a friend who was with him that day.
During the trial, the defence then played video, taken from Rebel News livestreams, that showed the moments leading up to and including the arrest of Mr. Dugas, which corroborated his account of the events. The video evidence, as well as discrepancies in the testimony of the police officers, combined to create sufficient reasonable doubt for the charges to be dropped, the judge ruled.
Mr. Dugas stated, “I thank God for watching over me through these difficult times. I thank my lawyer, Hatim Kheir, and Alexa from Rebel News, for her video, which helped me prove my innocence in court. I also want to thank everyone who has supported me and prayed for me through this time.”
Lawyer Hatim Kheir, in a nod to free and independent media, stated, “We are pleased to see that justice prevailed and that Mr. Dugas was acquitted. This result confirms again the importance of independent journalists who are on the ground recording events. In this case, the video evidence showed that Mr. Dugas was innocent.”
Image by Spencer Colby from The Globe & Mail