Manitoba

Manitoba justice minister wants Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms lawyers investigated

Manitoba's justice minister says he wants the Law Society of Manitoba to investigate lawyers with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, after it was revealed the centre's president and founder hired a private investigator to follow Manitoba's chief justice.

Justice Centre fires back at 'groundless and unjustified' investigation request

Manitoba Justice Minister Cameron Friesen says he wanted the Law Society of Manitoba to investigate lawyers associated with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's justice minister says he wants the Law Society of Manitoba to investigate lawyers with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, after it was revealed the centre's president and founder hired a private investigator to follow Manitoba's chief justice. 

Earlier this week, John Carpay, the head of the organization, admitted in court that he hired someone to tail Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, who is presiding over a court challenge the group is involved in regarding Manitoba's pandemic regulations.

In an emailed statement, Cameron Friesen said the lawyers involved must be held accountable for their actions. 

"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," Friesen said. 

"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."

A spokesperson for the Law Society of Manitoba said they've received the request and are figuring out their next steps, since this is a complex, multi-jurisdictional matter, because some of the lawyers are from other provinces. 

"The Law Society's role is to regulate the profession in the public interest. Conduct that calls into question the integrity of a lawyer matter are taken very seriously," said Deirdre O'Reilly via email. 

At a hearing on Monday, Joyal said he believed he was followed in an attempt to catch him violating the province's COVID-19 regulations, which Carpay later admitted was the case.

Joyal told the court the revelation will not influence his decision in the case, but it would be "unthinkable" not to share it with the court because of the potential implications on the administration of justice. 

He said the surveillance of his home and intrusion of his privacy raise serious concerns about the privacy and safety of judges generally. This type of activity could also be seen as obstruction of justice, either direct or indirect, Joyal said during the hearing on Monday.

Justice Centre claims complaint overreaches

The new interim president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a statement Friesen's request to have all its lawyers investigated was going too far. 

"These efforts to damage the professional reputations of our lawyers are groundless and unjustified," Lisa Bildy said. 

A complaint against Manitoba counsel Allison Pejovic was also made through the Manitoba law society, Bildy said, despite the fact it was Carpay's unilateral decision to engage surveillance. 

"None of our staff lawyers or outside counsel, including Ms. Pejovic, had knowledge of or involvement in the surveillance of officials," Bildy said, adding Carpay made "an egregiously poor decision."

"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," Bildy said.  

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