Group representing Manitoba churches in COVID-19 challenge reinstates president who had judge followed

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A group representing several churches across the nation fighting COVID-19 public health stipulations declared on Monday that its president has returned after taking leave upon revealing he recruited private investigators to tail both a judge moderating a case in Manitoba and some senior government officers.

On Monday the Alberta-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) stated that its founder, John Carpay, a Calgary-based lawyer, would be “welcomed back” to continue his responsibilities as president.

“The board recognizes that the organization needs to end the uncertainty that comes with temporary leadership, to enable the Justice Centre to work more effectively in dealing with unprecedented challenges in our society,” the JCCF revealed in a news release Monday.

“The board is also seeking to streamline and refresh its membership to better respond to demands on the organization.”

Repeated endeavours by CBC News to contact the JCCF for additional information on Monday were not returned.

Investigator tried to catch the judge breaking COVID rules

Carpay established the JCCF in 2010 and the organization describes itself as on a mission to defend “the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education.”

The JCCF had declared in mid-July that Carpay was going on indefinite leave and the interim president, Lisa Bildy, would take over.

The declaration came after Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench stated he had been followed by a private investigator in an effort to catch him trespassing COVID-19 rules and eventually embarrass him while he presided over a court case related to the region‘s lockdown measures. 

Joyal disclosed this information during a hearing for the case that was brought forward by seven remote Manitoba churches represented by the JCCF.

The judge revealed he noticed he was being followed by a car when leaving the Manitoba Courts building in downtown Winnipeg and driving around the town

The private investigator even tailed Joyal to his home and had a young lad ring his doorbell while he wasn’t home in an effort to confirm where he lives. Joyal said the private investigator also followed him to his cottage. 

JCCF board said it didn’t know what Carpay had done

At the beginning of the hearing, Joyal stated he did not know who recruited the private investigation agency and that it declined to reveal that information. He also revealed Winnipeg police were looking into it

However, after a break in the case, Carpay disclosed it was his organization that had hired the private investigator to tail Joyal as part of their attempt to hold government officials accountable. 

Carpay then apologized for the lapse in judgment.

Another lawyer representing the JCCF in the court case, Jay Cameron, became aware of the surveillance a few weeks back and also apologized to Joyal.

The JCCF board stated it was oblivious to the fact that Carpay had employed private investigators and were against it.

“Surveilling public officials is not what we do. We condemn what was done without reservation,” the JCCF board stated in a release at the time and apologized to Joyal “for the alarm, disturbance, and violation of privacy.

“All such activity has ceased and will not reoccur in future.”

Allegations that Carpay breached lawyers’ codes of conduct

Carpay’s moves raised questions on whether he had breached region’s law societies’ codes of conduct, which indicate a lawyer can’t recruit anyone to attempt and influence a court or judge and could see him warned, fined or even disbarred. 

Richard Warman, an Ottawa human rights lawyer filed a complaint with the law societies of Manitoba and Alberta about the occurrence, calling it the “most egregious case of professional misconduct” he had encountered in quite some time.

Others queried whether Carpay’s actions could have negative outcomes for the JCCF’s status as a registered charity.

Blumberg states the charity sector must retain public trust, and incidents like this can sabotage that.

Carpay is an ex-provincial director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

He formerly made headlines for contrasting Nazi swastikas to LGBTQ pride flags, and challenging gay-straight alliances — peer-support groups that are intended to tackle bullying and give supportive environments for LGBTQ students — as “ideological sexual clubs.”

Before he became premier of Alberta in 2017, Jason Kenney compared Carpay’s work to that of civil rights icon Rosa Parks — however, he has since condemned remarks made by Carpay.

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