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Mountie testifies on conversations with accused at Coutts border blockade trial

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — An RCMP officer testified Tuesday that it was difficult to find anyone in charge in the early days of the COVID-era border blockade at Coutts, Alta., two years ago.

Sgt. Greg Tulloch was called as a witness at the trial of Alex Van Herk, Marco Van Huigenbos and Gerhard (George) Janzen.

The three men have pleaded not guilty to mischief over $5,000. 

Crown prosecutors have told jurors they intend to prove the trio spearheaded the protest that tied up traffic between at the Canada-United States border for two weeks in a protest of COVID-19 rules and restrictions. 

Tulloch testified he and his partner arrived Feb. 1, 2022 to spell off two other officers tasked with communicating with the protesters.

“Generally, the goal was to communicate that the highway needed to be reopened and what that would look like,” Tulloch said.

He said he and another officer entered the Saloon, a meeting place where protesters were gathering, to introduce themselves and say a few words.

“I just went straight in to explaining why we’re there and (that) the purpose of the meeting was to explain it was now time to make arrangements to clear up the highway,” said Tulloch.

“There was one person who came to the front of the crowd and seemed to be speaking on behalf of the crowd. He had things to say. He had questions. I spoke to him and everybody else directly.”

In a video of the encounter, Tulloch can be heard addressing the group of protesters.

“What are you going to do next? How long can you stay?” the officer asks on the video.

A man Tulloch identified as Janzen said they wouldn’t be leaving.

“He appeared to be representing the group as a singular voice for the group,” Tulloch testified.

Tulloch said he met Van Huigenbos and Van Herk a couple days later and that they seemed to emerge as leaders as well.

“I don’t think they were on my radar prior to that. I didn’t know who they were,” Tulloch told the trial.

He said he was able to get impressions from the three men about how the blockade was going.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary 

The Canadian Press

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