The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms says it’s welcoming back its president.
The centre is representing a group of churches in Manitoba challenging COVID-19 public health orders, and John Carpay stepped away as president after admitting in court to hiring a private investigator to follow the judge presiding over the case.
The centre says in a news release it’s pleased to welcome back Carpay, who it says was on “a leave of absence.”
It says the board is taking steps to “strengthen governance” and to increase independence between the organization’s litigation and educational activities.
Carpay was placed on a leave of absence in July.
“Surveilling public officials is not what we do. We condemn what was done without reservation,” the Centre’s board said.
Carpay’s admission that he hired someone to watch a judge overseeing a case in Manitoba was widely condemned and prompted formal complaints of misconduct.
Chief Justice Glenn Joyal held a special hearing after learning a private investigator had been hired to find embarrassing information about him breaking public health regulations.
Joyal has yet to rule on the case involving seven Manitoba churches, represented by the Justice Centre, who are challenging public health orders. He said his decision would not be influenced by his experience of being followed by the private investigator.
He admonished Carpay for interfering in the administration of justice.
“If we are now in an era where a sitting judge, in the middle of a case, can have his or her privacy compromised as part of an attempt to gather information intended to embarrass him or her, and perhaps even attempt to influence or shape a legal outcome, then we are, indeed, in unchartered waters,” Joyal said.
The Justice Centre’s board said at the time it was not aware of Carpay’s plan. It said if the board had known “it would have immediately brought it to an end.”
Read Joyals’ full statement here:
The Law Society of Manitoba said it was looking into what happened, but would not comment on specifics of the case because investigations and complaints are confidential.
The most likely outcomes of an investigation would be fines, suspension or even disbarment.
University of Manitoba ethicist Arthur Schafer told Global News it’s possible laws may have been broken as well.
“Hiring private investigators to invade the privacy of justice officials is not just shabby ethics, it may be shabby law as well,” Schafer said.
“In other words, they may have committed a criminal offence. We’ll see.”
Carpay, who was called to the bar in 1999, had a career in and out of politics for decades before founding the Justice Centre in 2010.
— with files from Brittany Greenslade
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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