Two of the four men at the Coutts blockade arrested in February 2022, accused of conspiracy to commit murder and mischief – Chris Lysak and Jerry Morin – are free men. They were released on February 6, 2024. They remained in custody in remand centres for 723 days. While in custody, Morin was in solitary confinement for 74 days.
After relying on legal aid lawyers with little results, in November 2023 Lysak crowdfunded for better counsel. His new lawyer Daniel Song brought a section 8 charter application to examine the Crown’s case against his client. Suddenly, the Crown dropped conspiracy to commit murder of police, and mischief charges, against both Lysak and Morin. The Crown got a plea deal from Lysak and Morin on minor firearms charges. These charges the two pled guilty to were never part of the original indictment that prompted their arrests.
Lysak and Morin are now reunited with their families and will begin the long journey to rebuild their lives. Both are fathers. Morin is a lineman and Chris Lysak is an electrician.
Lysak pled guilty to improper storage of a firearm which was properly registered under his name and legally purchased. The Crown also dropped charges against Chris Lysak for uttering threats.
Though the RCMP released a shocking photo of a stash of weapons around a table with an RCMP cruiser in the background, the majority of weapons on display turned out to have no connection to any of the four men arrested on conspiracy to commit murder charges. The RCMP photo was taken before Jerry Morin was arrested west of Calgary around noon on February 14, 2022. Morin was on the way to work for a rancher on a farm when he was arrested by a SWAT team.
These men were in deteriorating health and facing financial ruin. And the Crown knew this. Once they pled guilty to the minor charges, they were free men.
Dropping conspiracy to commit murder of police officer charges by the Crown is significant. News of the arrests was pointed to in the Rouleau Report as key to its justifying invocation of the Emergencies Act on February 14, 2022, by the Liberal government. Now that these charges are dropped it appears the Crown and the RCMP never had evidence to convict the accused of conspiracy to commit murder. Instead, they put them through gruelling custody in remand centres, hoping to break them. The decision to deny them bail for nearly two years was politically motivated. They were deemed too dangerous to be granted bail on one day. Then on the next they were released and deemed no threat to the public.
Lysak and Morin refused earlier offers to plea guilty. But after two years the strain of the whole ordeal led them to agree to a coerced confession to new charges in order to survive.
The plea deal was struck in a courtroom outside of the courtroom where the pre-trial motions were set to begin at 10 AM on February 6. The dropping of serious charges and confession to new minor firearms charges, and release of these two men came as a surprise.
A friend of Chris Lysak, Fort Macleod councillor Marco Van Huigenbos, said “723 days pretrial is a travesty of justice in Canada, and it has to be treated as such. There has to be a full inquiry into these prosecutions.”
Is all that is required to deny bail for those accused of serious crimes to argue that their release will undermine confidence in the justice system? The justice system is not immune from corruption or politicization. What confidence can citizens have in it? It appears lawfare is alive and well in Canada. The case of the Coutts Four shows that the Crown have the power to lay serious charges against citizens and let them linger for years in custody without bail or trial.
This Is all that is required to make the Crown walk back charges of conspiracy to commit murder a smart lawyer who knows how to make a section 8 charter application?
On January 15 Chris Carbert was denied bail for the second time. The lawyer who successfully represented Chris Lysak, Daniel Song, is now being considered to represent Chris Carbert (along with his existing lawyer) at the upcoming February 20 court hearing. The remaining ‘Coutts Two’ – Chris Carbert and Tony Olienick – will be at that hearing. Olienick has just hired a new lawyer who needs to get up to speed on the details of the case.
Is the Crown now proceeding with a charge of conspiracy to commit murder against Carbert and Olienick, when it has conceded that Lysak and Morin were not part of a conspiracy? Carbert and Olienick are scheduled to stand trial in June.
Ray McGinnis is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. His forthcoming book is Unjustified: The Emergencies Act and the Inquiry that Got It Wrong
Watch Ray McGinnis on Leaders on the Frontier here. September 27, 2023 (70 minutes)