Court martial planned for soldier who criticized vaccine mandate led march to Ottawa

OTTAWA – The Canadian soldier charged with speaking out against federal vaccine mandates while wearing his uniform and who recently led a march on Ottawa is now facing a court martial.

Petty Officer James Topp’s attorney says the army reservist was recently notified that he will be allowed to hear his case in a military court rather than through his chain of command.

Phillip Millar says the decision marks a second turning point after the military initially offered his client a court-martial but to withdraw the offer and send his case to his unit commanders.

Topp was indicted in February on two charges of conduct against good order and discipline after he publicly criticized federal vaccine requirements while wearing his uniform.

He later led a months-long march from Vancouver that ended last week in Ottawa and was supported by many of the same organizers as this year’s “Freedom Convoy.”

Military law experts say the decision to allow a court martial raises the stakes for Topp by increasing the possible sentences if he is found guilty.

Still, they say this also means his trial will receive much more public attention and he will receive legal representation during the trial, which would not necessarily have been the case had he been tried by his commanding officer.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 5, 2022.

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