Hamilton police reviewing alleged donation by officer to anti-mandate convoy

Hamilton Police Service's (HPS) professional standards unit is reviewing whether an officer donated money to the anti-vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa.

HPS say another officer attended Ottawa protest but did so while on leave

Hamilton police is reviewing allegations of an officer donating to the so-called Freedom Convoy. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Hamilton Police Service's (HPS) professional standards unit is reviewing an allegation that an officer donated money to the anti-vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa.

Spokesperson Jackie Penman said on Wednesday HPS was unaware of any officers donating, but started a review Thursday after CBC Hamilton showed the service a social media post with the allegations.

This comes after data — which was hacked illegally and then released — appears to identify thousands of people who donated to the protests through the website GiveSendGo.

A check by CBC News found that multiple names in the hacked data set correspond to names, dates and donation amounts collected independently by CBC News as the donations rolled in to GiveSendGo.

The donation in question by Hamilton police, which appears in the data set viewed by CBC, is for $100 and was submitted with the same name as a local officer and with a self-reported local postal code. It also included a comment in which the donor says the amount comes "from a serving police officer in Ontario." 

CBC has not been able to independently confirm if the person named did in fact donate to the Freedom Convoy.

This comes as the Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police Service and Windsor Police Service are also reviewing potential donations by officers.

What does the Police Services Act say?

Penman said the Police Services Act states officers are allowed to be a member of or hold office in a political party or other organizations engaged in political activity. They can donate to political parties or groups engaged in political activity, it says.

The act also states off-duty members who aren't in uniform are allowed to express views on any issue unrelated to their responsibility as an officer as long as they don't associate the job with their views or represent their views as those of the police service.

Penman said police haven't confirmed if the allegation is true. She added she couldn't comment on the officer under review.

CBC Hamilton contacted the email attached to the donation but didn't receive a response.

The Hamilton Police Association didn't respond to a request for comment.

Hamilton officer on leave participated in Ottawa protest

Penman also told CBC Hamilton a police officer on an unpaid leave of absence attended the protest in Ottawa on or around Feb. 12 "to express views related to vaccination mandates."

On that day in Ottawa, thousands of demonstrators flooded the area near Parliament Hill, erecting tents, a stage, a large video screen and even a hot tub. Ottawa police described it as an "unlawful occupation" at the time.

There were also protests at border crossings like the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., and near the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont.

But Penman said the officer's visit didn't prompt a review from the professional standards unit because the officer was on leave.

Meanwhile, Ottawa's interim police chief, Steve Bell, had strong words during a special police services board meeting on Thursday. 

He praised the professionalism of his officers, but also cautioned any member who may have donated money to occupiers or otherwise helped them during the protests.

"If you helped support the illegal occupation, there is not room for you in this organization," said Bell, adding there are "ongoing internal reviews" around potential conduct of members "that we take very seriously."

"Those will be investigated and reported on as those investigations unfold."


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

with files from Shaamini Yogaretnam