Concerns as convoy-connected group establishes in Ottawa neighbourhood
The stark red banners hanging from St. Brigid’s church on Saint Patrick Street are nearly impossible to miss; the white insignia of a tree adorned with maple leaves offering neighbours little indication as to who is behind the new developments at the deconsecrated church.
The group is known as The United People of Canada, a self-described federally incorporated “not-for-profit social enterprise organization.”
Corporate documents show three members on the group’s board of directors: Kimberley Ward, William Komer, and Diane Nolan.
Social media posts show all three have close ties to the 'Freedom Convoy' occupation.
Ward has previously told CTV News she is an advisor to Tamara Lich, and gave interviews to multiple media outlets in March when Lich was originally released on bail, saying at the time “she’s happy., everybody’s happy, we did it.”
Ward and Komer can be seen in multiple photos on social media with Lich’s husband, Dwayne Lich, who has also posted significantly about the new organization, as early as this spring.
For her part, Nolan took part in the occupation, live-streaming from the downtown core several times throughout.
In one Jan. 30 livestream, Nolan appears on Parliament Hill and can be heard saying, “Wow, it’s for real. Enough is enough, we’re standing for freedom, we’re standing for what God intended for this country right from the beginning.”
Lowertown residents say they’re concerned with the group’s appearance at the church, and plans to create what TUPC calls “The Embassy;” a downtown location described by the organization’s social media as a “Forum of the People, where all voices have the opportunity to be heard, regardless of how niche the thought, opinion, expression, or belief.”
“I did hear about it being an HQ, an embassy, an office, that kind of thing. That’s the part makes me a little uncertain,” Mohamed Elmekki said.
City officials and community organizations in the area say they’ve been inundated by residents concerned about the usage of the space.
“We’ve looked online at who the group is, tried to find out what their objectives are, so we’re concerned, not terrified, but we’re in a fact finding mission right now, just trying to get a little more information,” Sylvie Bingras, President of the Lowertown Community Association said.
The building, a designated heritage site, is private property and currently listed at a sale price of $5.95 million.
In an email, Komer told CTV News the group plans to “restore and adaptively reuse surplus and under utilized institutional properties into vibrant community spaces.”
CTV News reached out to the owner of the property to inquire about the potential sale, but did not get a response by deadline.
Sources tell CTV News there has been interest from TUPC in the property.
Neighbours say they’re worried the groups connections to the Freedom movement could bring back the tensions of the convoy occupation.
“It’s not a good feeling, not good memories. It was really terrible for a lot of people,” Lise Letellier, who walks past the church almost everyday, said.
“We are still very fragile in terms of having gone through a very difficult time last February, many of our residents went through really difficult - I have sons who live in Lowertown who were harassed, intimidated,” Bingras said.
“I find myself in a very challenging position saying this is a privately owned property yet we’re here from a city point of view we have to maintain public safety and we have to be accountable and responsible to residents concern,” Rideau-Vanier councillor Mathieu Fleury said.
CTV News reached out to each of the directors of The United People of Canada for an interview but did not get a response by deadline.
In an email, Komer wrote “it is unfortunate that our social enterprise organization…has been subject to such hateful, untrue, and defamatory statements as have been circulating on social media recently.”
Komer did not expand on what statements about the group he believed to be untrue.