Hamilton city prosecutors have dropped trespassing charges against Caryma Sa’d, the Toronto-based attorney who was arrested near an Ontario Progressive Conservative campaign freeze in Hamilton in May.
“I feel kind of validated,” Sa’d told CBC Hamilton on Tuesday morning.
The charges were related to a May 26 Ford rally at Hamilton Airport.
Sa’d said she had agreed to attend the event, which took place ahead of Ontario’s June 2 election. She is known for creating cartoons and videos criticizing politicians and people protesting against public health measures.
Sa’d said she was not there as a protester but as a political commentator. She said someone from Ford’s team asked her to leave and called the police when she refused.
“You are not invited to this event…we know you are not here for the right reasons,” said a person who spoke to Sa’d in a video she posted to Twitter. The person appeared to be wearing an in-ear headset, but their affiliation was unclear.
So far no one has given a legitimate reason why I can’t attend this event. #onpoli #OntarioVoices #Hamilton #GetTheFordOut pic.twitter.com/zXGPoZ7s3H
Hamilton police previously said Sa’d did not go despite multiple chances, leading to an officer arresting her for trespassing – not leaving the premise when instructed.
Sa’d said she was taken off the property before being released and given a $65 ticket.
The airport told CBC Hamilton it was the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) who contacted them, urging airport officials to enforce the Trespass to Property Act (TPA) “to remove protesters from their property.”
OPP said officers were just doing their jobs and enforcing the TPA, which says police must respond to anything the airport has defined as prohibited activity. In this case, OPP says, it was the airport that said protests were banned.
Meanwhile, Hamilton Police, the agency responsible for arresting attorney Sa’d on behalf of the OPP, previously did not answer questions about the situation and said officers were enforcing the TPA.
The arrest had “alarmed” groups like the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA), raising questions about whether Hamilton officials were acting on orders from Premier Doug Ford’s security, whether Sa’d’s charter rights were being violated and what influenced the PC party would have.
“No reasonable likelihood of conviction”
Prosecutor Sean Ramage said Tuesday there was a motion to drop the charges because there was “no reasonable likelihood of a conviction.”
James Bowie, the Ottawa-based attorney representing Sa’d, said someone must have decided that Sa’d was trespassing, but who it was is unclear.
He included notes from the arresting officer, which do not reveal who made the decision.
Bowie said his disclosure request “included a request to the legal occupier, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, to learn which person decided to remove Ms Sa’d.” He also asked if Ford was the one who made the call, he said.
“Our request was never answered. The Ontario Prime Minister refuses to say whether or not he is the one who accused Ms Sa’d of this transgression… Caryma Sa’d has never been told who her accuser is.”
CBC Hamilton contacted the provincial government and Hamilton Police Department for comment.
“I don’t know if the story is over yet”
Sa’d said there were “many unanswered questions” and felt arrested for political dissent.
She said the Ford government’s failure to respond to her lawyer’s plea was “disappointing”.
“The provincial leader should be accessible to his constituents,” she said.
“I don’t know if the story is over yet.”
Sa’d said she is working to determine other legal avenues, including arguing whether her charter rights have been violated.
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