Hearing for judge accused of perjury over Black federation role begins

Judge Donald McLeod is accused of lying about his involvement in the Federation of Black Canadians.

Judge Donald McLeod accused of lying about his involvement in Federation of Black Canadians

An Ontario Judicial Council panel is examining evidence on whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

A disciplinary hearing for a judge accused of lying about his involvement in a Black activist organization has begun.

The four-person panel of the Ontario Judicial Council is examining evidence on whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians.

In 2016, McLeod founded the federation — which describes itself as a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization to advance the social, economic, political and cultural interests of Canadians of African descent.

Later, a complaint was made against him, accusing him of failing to uphold the integrity, impartiality and independence of the judiciary when he communicated with and met with politicians on behalf of the federation.

McLeod was cleared in the earlier process and denies the current unproven allegations.

At a judicial tribunal hearing there is no prosecutor, instead presenting counsel laid out the evidence today and gave it context for the panel.

Presenting counsel Guy Pratte says that more than a dozen witnesses will appear before the hearing that is scheduled to end on Dec. 23.

Defence lawyer Sheila Block made her opening statement in the afternoon, arguing that McLeod had removed himself from the Federation of Black Canadians' advocacy work and had not perjured himself.

Block said McLeod, the only Black judge in Peel Region, has been off the bench for more than a year.

She added that McLeod is facing grave charges with his professional reputation hanging in the balance.

Panel dismissed initial complaint in 2018 

If the complaints are proven, the panel could impose punishment up to suspension with or without pay. The tribunal could also recommend to the attorney general that McLeod be forced from the Ontario court bench.

In its notice of hearing filed earlier this year, the council alleges the judge behaved in a manner "incompatible with the due execution of the duties of his office."

The earlier hearing focused on McLeod's involvement with the non-profit federation, which advocates on legal and policy issues affecting the community. His role was key in the group's advocacy related to a Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.

In December 2018, the panel dismissed the complaint based on an agreed statement of facts and McLeod's evidence that he was no longer involved in Abdi advocacy.

That wasn't true, the new complaint alleges.

Among other things, McLeod is alleged to have either arranged or taken part in a meeting with then-refugee minister, Ahmed Hussen, on the federation's behalf.

Both Pratte and Block expressed concern over inflammatory posts on social media about McLeod's case made by members of the public.

Justice Janet Simmons, the panel's chair, said the tribunal was not aware of the content of those posts and that it hoped the public would let justice be done.