Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin remain in custody

Article originally appeared in: CBC
View Article
Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin remain in custody

Meghan Grant · CBC News · Posted: Jun 13, 2023 5:48 PM MDT | Last Updated: June 13

People gather to show support outside the Lethbridge courthouse on the first day of pre-trail for four men charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers during the Coutts blockade. (Ose Irete/CBC)

On what was supposed to be the first week of trial, lawyers for the four men accused of conspiring to murder RCMP officers during the border blockade and protests at Coutts, Alta., have asked a judge for an adjournment. Court also heard there will be an application to move the trial from Lethbridge to a different city.

Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak, Anthony Olienick and Jerry Morin were charged in February 2022. At the time charges were laid, RCMP said they had seized a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition in trailers near the protest site.

The three-week trial was supposed to begin Monday. Instead, the men are making a series of pre-trial applications before Court of King's Bench Justice David Labrenz.

A new date for the trial has not yet been set.

Dozens gather at Lethbridge courthouse

The 2022 blockade paralyzed the busy U.S. border crossing at Coutts for more than two weeks as protesters railed against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and broader pandemic health restrictions.

Besides the four men facing the conspiracy charges, more than a dozen others were also arrested and charged with less serious offences. Some of the charges have since been dropped. Two men have been convicted, and several others have yet to go on trial.

On Monday, dozens of supporters gathered at the Lethbridge courthouse for the beginning of the court case, prompting an increase in the presence of sheriffs and police. 

From left to right: Chris Carbert, Anthony Olienick, Jerry Morin and Christopher Lysak are each accused of conspiring to murder RCMP officers near Coutts, Alta., during the 2022 border blockade and protests. (Carbert/Facebook, Coutts Convoy Restart/Facebook, Morin/Facebook, Instagram)

On Tuesday, defence lawyer Greg Dunn, who represents Morin, asked the judge for an adjournment related to an allegation prosecutors have not yet handed over all of the evidence connected to the investigation and that some disclosure came as late as Friday. 

Labrenz was told on Tuesday that lawyers will also ask for the court case to be moved from Lethbridge.

Dunn argued the men's constitutional rights have been violated because they are unable to make full answer and defence due to late and incomplete disclosure.

Disclosure is the evidence and information police and prosecutors have compiled to make a case against a person accused of a crime. The accused person's lawyer is entitled to that information so they can defend the client.

Dunn told the judge there have been 13 disclosure packages handed over from the Crown to defence lawyers, the most recent of which was on Friday.

Alberta RCMP submitted this photo of what they say is a cache of firearms and ammunition found in three trailers near a 2022 blockade of the Canada-U.S. border. (Submitted by Alberta RCMP)

RCMP Supt. Kevin Kunetzki, who was the deputy criminal operations officer for the Alberta RCMP when the Coutts protests occurred, testified in the adjournment application. 

He said that when he arrived in the area from Edmonton, he found the magnitude of the situation "almost unbelievable."

On weekends, the protest crowds swelled to about 1,000 people, said Kunetzki.

Undercover op kept 'pretty tight'

Kunetzki said the RCMP's objective was to support a peaceful and lawful protest, recognizing the Charter right to peacefully assemble, but he said the situation had become unsafe.

One of Kunetzki's first tasks was to find an alternative site where protesters would have good visibility but were not physically on the highway. 

Shortly after arriving, Kunetzki said, he learned of a high-risk situation that "got everyone's attention" — RCMP believed some of the protesters had a "stash of guns" and "thousands of rounds of ammunition."

That's when RCMP set up an imminent harm wiretap, meaning they could listen to conversations without getting a judge's sign-off. 

At the time, police also had an undercover investigation underway that was kept "pretty tight" to avoid inadvertent leaks, said Kunetzki.

Defence lawyer Tonii Roulston is now in the process of cross-examining Kunetzki on the notes he took during his time in Coutts.