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Freedom Convoy-affiliated group refusing to leave Ottawa church after eviction notice


Members of a Freedom Convoy-affiliated group remain at an Ottawa church one day after the owner of the historic property moved to evict them over unpaid rent.

The bailiff who issued the eviction notice on the doors of St. Brigid's Church in Lowertown told CTV News Ottawa that people refusing to leave the church are "squatting" and need to leave. But those still at the church remained defiant Friday afternoon.

"They have no lawful authority to be asking us to leave, that's our understanding and that's been confirmed with our legal team," William Komer of The United People of Canada told reporters outside the church. "We're not going to be leaving this property while we have an active lawful lease on it."

On Thursday, a bailiff with Cease Bailiff Services delivered a "Notice of Termination of Tenant" to St. Brigid's Church on St. Patrick Street, which stated the landlord had terminated the occupancy of the United People of Canada under the Commercial Tenancies Act.

The notice says the landlord has terminated the lease, effective Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, as a result of "arrears of payment of rent in the amount of $10,000" and "failure to provide proof of liability insurance in the minimum of $5 million." Another notice on the door says the tenants are in violation of the Ontario Heritage Act and failed to obtain necessary permits for construction under the Ontario Building Code Act.

"Our lease is active, it's not been terminated," Komer said, insisting The United People of Canada's lease for the church has a notice period of termination.

Dave of Cease Bailiff Services was at the church on Friday, while an Ottawa Bylaw officer was issuing tickets for parking violations along St. Patrick Street. The locks have been changed on the Art Rectory Building and garage on the adjacent property, which is owned by the same owner of the church.

The historic church in Ottawa has been for sale for over a year, with an asking price of $5.9 million.

When CTV News Ottawa's Jeremie Charron asked Komer if The United People of Canada is able to show proof of payment for the rent, Komer said, "We've provided the appropriate documentation to the police and they're doing investigation right now."

On Thursday, The United People of Canada said the attempt to "unlawfully evict" the group from the historic church was in retaliation for complaints.

In July, The United People of Canada moved into St. Brigid's Church, saying it planned to purchase the church for its "Embassy." There were red banners hanging from the front of the church.

The largest financial backer for the group is Tony Cuzzocrea, President of Planmar Financial Corp. based in London, Ont.

Documents obtained by CTV News shows the sale of St. Brigid's Church to the United People of Canada has fallen through. The church was conditionally sold to the group on June 15, but as of Aug. 12, real estate listing documents show the property was listed as "back on the market."

On Friday, Komer insisted the group is still in the process of purchasing St. Brigid's Church.

"There's been attempt from the property owners to no longer do business with us in contravention of the Ontario Human Rights Code," Komer said. "So we raised a concern under the Ontario Human Rights Code and strictly following we've been fraudulently attempted to be evicted here. They don't want to do business with us because we've raised human rights concerns, is our understanding."

Komer said there is "a lot of discrimination that's going on in the neighbourhood", referencing pushback from residents in Lowertown.

"We have people saying, 'St. Brigid's is for the community, not the convoy' or things like that. We are not affiliated with the Freedom Convoy whatsoever but there are persons that have attended the Freedom Convoy come here and do attend events, do volunteer and those sorts of things, as well as everybody in the community is welcome.

"Because we've standed firm that everybody's welcome here, we feel like we've been subject to a lot of discrimination. People actually come here hostile to us."

Mayor Jim Watson called The United People of Canada group "nutty."

"The best word to describe it is bizarre, to be perfectly honest. I think the people that are trying to buy it seem to be a bit nutty; they are going around calling themselves ambassadors and it's an Embassy and so on, it's really a joke," Watson told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"They're clearly connected to the convoy people, for them to keep denying that is disingenuous."

Watson has a message for the owner of the historic church property trying to evict the group for not paying the rent - "don't deal with this group."

"My hope is that the Irish group says, 'you know enough is enough, we're not going to deal with these wackos.'"

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Jeremie Charron and CTV News' Mackenzie Gray Top Stories

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