July 16, 2021
The Manitoba government has asked the provincial law society to investigate the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) for hiring a private investigator to follow a judge who was hearing a COVID-19 rights case.
The JCCF said the move calls into question the integrity of all its lawyers working on numerous Constitutional cases across the country.
“I have written to the Law Society of Manitoba to request that it initiate an investigation into the conduct of lawyers associated with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms,” said Justice Minister Cameron Friesen.
“It is gravely concerning that a private investigator was hired to conduct surveillance of a member of the judiciary, ostensibly to embarrass or intimidate the judge. This is an obvious invasion of privacy and it is difficult to believe that these actions were not intended to influence the outcome of the court case.
“The lawyers involved must be held accountable for their actions, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, to protect the integrity of our independent judiciary and uphold the rule of law in Canada.”
Friesen named JCCF Manitoba counsel Allison Pejovic to be investigated.
The head of the JCCF, John Carpay, admitted earlier this week he made a unilateral decision to hire the PI and has taken an indefinite leave from the organization.
“These efforts to damage the professional reputations of our lawyers are groundless and unjustified. None of our staff lawyers or outside counsel, including Ms. Pejovic, had knowledge of or involvement in the surveillance of officials,” said the JCCF board in a Friday statement.
“The Justice Centre has a growing team of courageous, principled, capable, ethical, and professional lawyers who work hard every day to defend the Charter-guaranteed rights and freedoms of ordinary Canadians against government overreach.
“Mr. Carpay has owned this mistake and will deal with whatever flows from it. In the meantime, many people in this country are counting on the Justice Centre to continue its work. The organization will use this opportunity to implement improvements in operations and decision-making processes, refocus on our mission, and continue our important legal battles on behalf of Canadians.”
In May, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal heard a constitutional challenge from seven rural Manitoba churches represented by the JCCF, arguing COVID-19 restrictions violated their right to worship and assemble. His ruling is expected soon.
In a virtual hearing Monday, Joyal said his ruling will not be influenced by the private investigator debacle, but that it would be “unthinkable” not to share the information with the court because it could be viewed as an obstruction of justice, direct or indirect.