Canadian Anti-Hate Network
This article was updated to include comments from a statement by TUPOC Director Kimberley Ward.
A recently registered not-for-profit is purchasing a nearly $6 million deconsecrated church in the capital’s Lowertown neighbourhood. The United People of Canada (TUPOC) denies that it is connected to the so-called "Freedom Convoy," but all three of its directors appear to have voiced support for the far-right protests in January and February that occupied Ottawa’s downtown core.
Billing itself as a “diverse, intergenerational non-governmental organization” the group says it intends to build community “through appreciation and celebration of our unique culture and heritage” in order to solidify a “prosperous future, where all voices are heard.”
After acquiring Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts in Ottawa, TUPOC covered its doors in red paint and hung banners with its logo – a white tree with branches and roots extending outward.
They have dubbed the former church their organization’s “embassy.”
In recent interviews, William Komer, one of three registered directors, has denied any connection between the February blockade protests and his group. According to the CBC, Komer says anyone who says otherwise is “spreading misinformation.”
TUPOC “is not affiliated with the ‘Freedom Convoy’. We’re not racists,” he told the Ottawa Citizen. We’re not Nazis. We’re not white supremacists,” Komer added they have considered legal action against those who suggest otherwise.
However, among its directors you’ll find an “advisor” to convoy organizer Tamara Lich’s husband, public statements and social media posts supporting the convoy, and references to conspiracies.
Dwayne and Tamara Lich pictured together. Dwayne is wearing a red TUPOC branded sweater. Source: Facebook
Dwayne Lich, the husband of perhaps the most public convoy organizer Tamara Lich, seems to be involved with the project, to some degree. Appearing in multiple photographs on social media at the church, Lich also posted video of red shirts and hats being embroidered with the white tree symbol on a production line.
He has directed his followers to TUPOC’s website and posted pictures of the red paint being applied to the once doors of the building.
In another video, he captures the flag of TUPOC waving outside Saint Brigid’s, while also posting pictures from the interior of the building.
Komer says he believes that Lich’s involvement doesn’t mean that TUPOC is convoy associated. However, this is not the only connection to the Lich’s or the convoy.
Of the three listed directors, Kimberley Ward also appeared after Tamara Lich was released on bail in Ottawa.
In a statement, Ward clarifies that she was a spiritual advisor to Dwayne Lich, who had been going through an "extremely hard time due to the hateful comments being made about him and his wife in addition to the struggle that he and his family have faced due to his wife’s arrest."
She added that she is not, "nor have I ever claimed to be," an advisor or spokesperson for Tamara Lich.
Screenshot of Kimberley Ward giving comment to the media after Tamara Lich was released on bail. Source: CTV
Komer himself told news outlets he attended the blockade protests as part of a documentary film crew and disagreed with the narrative presented through the media.
The final board member, Diane Nolan, made numerous public social media posts offering support for the convoy before, during, and after the blockades were dismantled. This includes sharing multiple press conferences and interviews given by Tamara Lich.
Other posts to her personal Facebook page include a podcast episode titled “How to Avoid the Mark of the Beast,” which discussed plans by the “New World Order” to integrate technology into people.
Another post shared by Nolan claimed that “2,300 years ago, long before Islam, Arabs discovered that forcing people to cover their nose and mouths, broke their will and individuality, and depersonalized them. It made them submissive. That's why they imposed on every woman the mandatory use of a fabric over her face.”
When Komer was asked by the CBC about the support from Nolan from the convoy, he denied this means the protest and TUPOC are related.
"Whether somebody does or doesn't personally support something doesn't mean an organization's affiliated with that thing," he is quoted as saying.
"To draw that conclusion would be inappropriate, and to make such a statement would be false in this case."
Komer, Ward and Nolan are all also listed as directors of another organization called the Magna Carta Fund. It was registered on the same day and to the same address as TUPOC.
The purpose of the fund is not clear. According to corporate filings, its intent is to “provide aide, education, and support to defend the rights of individuals.”
Before the recent purchase, Saint Brigid’s served as an arts centre, even housing a pub in the basement, after being purchased and restored by member’s of Ottawa’s Irish community. An article in the Irish Times by the former owner states the church was also the site of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s confirmation as a child.
Komer told the Ottawa Citizen the group is currently doing its due diligence. The newspaper reports the purchase includes the church, and two adjacent buildings, which currently house “artists’ studios, businesses and some residential units.”
The $5.95 million sale is conditional and Komer reportedly told the Ottawa Citizen the purchase was community funded.