Black community shows support for embattled judge ahead of disciplinary hearing
Justice Donald McLeod accused of failing to uphold integrity, impartiality and independence of judiciary
Thousands of black Canadians have been expressing solidarity with Donald McLeod, an embattled judge with the Ontario Court of Justice who faces a disciplinary hearing on Friday.
In 2016, Justice McLeod founded the Federation of Black Canadians — 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.
But McLeod's action resulted in a complaint 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. He appears before the Ontario Judicial Council today.
The council can dismiss the complaint, issue a warning or a reprimand, or even recommend his removal from the bench.
McLeod did get approval from an ethics committee to do his work. But the complainant, who is unidentified, says he didn't fully describe his role. McLeod left the organization in June.
Show of support
Dahabo Omer, a member of an Ottawa-based black citizens group, was among hundreds who met in Toronto Thursday night at Nelson Mandela Park Public School to show support for McLeod.
"We want to make sure that the community, as well as the panel hear that everyone here does not believe that the complaint should have been filed," Omer told CBC Toronto.
"The work that Justice McLeod has been doing before he was a judge, and afterwards, really speaks for our community. It takes someone who has lived the experiences of blacks in Canada to tell their story and to really create awareness and education around some of those challenges and issues."
McLeod has also been accused of inappropriately using the power and prestige of his judicial office to advance the interest, and the fundraising, of the Federation of Black Canadians.
But Omer said the work that Justice McLeod has done for the federation was never under his title.
"If anything he's always gone out of his way in any public engagement session to say, 'I'm not here as a judge, please do not call me Justice McLeod, I'm here as an individual ...,'" Omer explained.
"He's always made sure to create those boundaries and stay within the parameters of his employment. So we don't believe that the work that he's been doing goes against that."
Among others showing support for the embattled judge was Chantelle Morris, who said McLeod taught her in Grade 8 and has been a role model and a great source of inspiration.
"I came out because of Donald; he's a great man, a great pillar of this community and I feel like this situation, it shouldn't be happening to him," Morris told CBC Toronto.
"This shouldn't be happening, because I don't see why something that's doing good for the community should be an issue."
Meanwhile, Louis March, the founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement, says he's been working with McLeod for the last few years.
"He's been a great leader in terms of mobilizing different community organizations … and I just can't see why someone sees this as an affront," March told CBC Toronto.
Omer said similar community gatherings have been held across the country — including in Vancouver and Ottawa — and they have gathered more than 5,000 signatures in support of McLeod.
"The support has been really phenomenal," Omer said.
"The campaign has been running for a little over two weeks and so to have that many signatures and that much support in such short amount of time, shows you how critical this is."
With files from Taylor Simmons