A high-profile member of the Freedom Convoy is released from jail, mask mandates are dropping, and the price at the pumps skyrockets.
CTVNewsOttawa.ca takes a look at the top five stories on our website this week.
Tamara Lich released from custody
A high-profile organizer and public face of the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration that occupied Ottawa for three weeks was released from jail this week.
Tamara Lich was arrested on Feb. 17 and charged with counseling to commit mischief in relation to the protest and blockade of downtown Ottawa that opposed COVID-19 mandates and the federal Liberal government. A judge denied Lich bail the following week, arguing she would be at a risk to reoffend if released.
Lich requested a review, which was heard March 2. A decision was delivered March 7, in which the reviewing judge found that the previous judge made an error in law when denying Lich bail. Lich was released on a $25,000 bond, and ordered to leave Ottawa and Ontario and return to her home de ella in Alberta. She is also prohibited from posting on social media or engaging with future COVID-19 protests.
She has yet to face trial.
‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich appears in court Monday, March 7, 2022, as seen in this courtroom sketch by illustrator Greg Banning. Lich was released from custody on a $25,000 bond following a bail review. (Image: Greg Banning)
Mask mandate coming down, but school board wants to keep it
The Ontario government announced this week that the provincial mask mandate would come to an end in most settings, including schools, as of March 21.
However, trustees with Ottawa’s largest school board will be holding a special meeting Monday to discuss next steps. Several trustees with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have asked whether the board has the authority to institute its own masking requirements.
School boards in Toronto and Hamilton have also pushed back against removing the mandate the Monday after March Break, but Premier Doug Ford argued that the province’s chief medical officer of health did his due diligence. The premier expects mandates to end March 21, leaving it up to parents and students to decide whether to continue mask use at school.
The city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, said this week she does not have the authority to impose a mask mandate on schools.
Ottawa woman held captive by Taliban released
An Ottawa woman who was arrested at gunpoint by the Taliban in Afghanistan nearly a month ago is free.
The family of Nadima Noor confirmed to CTV News Ottawa on Wednesday that she had been released.
Noor, 38, is a well-known voice in Afghanistan. She co-founded a non-governmental organization (NGO) and chose to remain in the country and work even after the Taliban’s takeover.
Her family say members of the Taliban forced her out of her office at gunpoint on Feb. 13, with no explanation.
Her brother told CTV News on Tuesday it was difficult to get a straight answer as to why his sister was detained or when she would be let go, but welcome news came just a day later.
Dastaan Noor told CTV Ottawa’s Stefan Keyes on Wednesday that his sister was free.
He credits media coverage of Nadima’s story for her release.
“I thank all the Canadian outlets that got on it and released the news that a Canadian was held in Afghanistan without charges for 24 days,” he said.
Nadima Noor was arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan on Feb. 13, 2022. Her family says she was released after 24 days, with no explanation as to why she was arrested. (Supplied)
A Canadian’s escape from Ukraine
A Canadian English teacher has made it home to the Ottawa region after traveling about 800 kilometers to escape Ukraine.
Brian Blair is one of the two million people estimated to have fled Ukraine during the invasion of Russian forces.
Blair, who has taught English in Ukraine since 2013, said he woke up to the sounds of bombs in the distance and knew he had to leave. He left his life in a Ukrainian village with a single duffel bag, posting photos to social media in case anyone spotted him on the way and could offer help.
Blair arrived at the Ottawa train station Sunday night. Although he said he was grateful to be greeted and embraced by friends, he was also plagued with guilt remembering people he left behind.
Blair said he traveled about 800 kilometers to leave Ukraine, a journey that saw him hopping between cities and villages, hitchhiking for rides, and walking. I have acknowledged he wasn’t sure he would make it.
Canadian teacher Brian Blair traveled about 800 kilometers to leave Ukraine. He posted photos on social media at the beginning of his journey. (Courtesy Brian Blair)
Gas prices hit record highs
Gas prices in the capital hit record highs this week, putting the squeeze on drivers and organizations that rely on vehicles.
The hike in prices is partly linked to the effect the Russian invasion of Ukraine is having on global oil markets.
Professional drivers say the hike in prices is eating into their bottom lines, while not-for-profits that rely on vehicles, like Meals on Wheels, say the extra costs will also affect their efforts.
The prices have many drivers considering a switch to electric vehicles as well.
There was a drop in the price on Friday and Saturday, but gas price expert Dan McTeague expects the price will rise again Sunday.
The price of gas in Ottawa, March 7, 2022. (Dave Charbonneau/CTV News Ottawa)