John Carpay Banned From Practicing Law In Manitoba After Hiring Private Investigator To Follow Judge

JCCF President John Carpay and another lawyer working with the organization must also pay a fine of $5,000 each.

Peter Smith
Canadian Anti-Hate Network


Manitoba Courthouse In Winnipeg. Source: Wikicommons


Manitoba’s legal regulator has handed down a decision stripping two lawyers, one of whom is the current president of the Justice Centre For Constitutional Freedoms, of the ability to practice law within the province and ordering them to pay fines of $5,000. 

According to the CBC, the Law Society of Manitoba (LSM) barred Alberta lawyers John Carpay and Randal Jay Cameron, from practicing within its borders in an August 21 decision. The ruling relates to complaints of a private investigator being hired to investigate a provincial judge. 

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Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) board member Richard Warman filed a complaint with the LSM against the lawyers, independently of his work with CAHN. In the complaint he alleges that they breached “provisions of the Law Society of Manitoba Code of Professional Conduct, “including the Rules relating to integrity, competency, honesty and candour, conflict of interest, encouraging respect for the administration of justice, and harassment.” 

At the time of the incident, the JCCF was representing seven Manitoba churches opposing public health orders. Arguing in court the orders preventing gatherings violated religious freedom, the investigator was hired to find evidence the justice was breaking COVID rules. 

 

Portrait photograph of John Carpay, president of the JCCF. Source: JCCF.

 

Chief Justice Glenn Joyal revealed that he had been followed by an investigator from the courthouse to his residence and cottage. He also alleges a young boy, around 14-years-old, approached his home and attempted to confirm with his daughter if it was the justice’s residence.

According to the Law Society, a disciplinary hearing was held on August 21. Carpay entered a guilty plea for conduct unbecoming a lawyer, failing to act with integrity.

Carpay admitted that in June of 2021, he hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance of Joyal, while a decision in a relevant court proceeding was under reserve, a statement from the LSM reads. 

“(Their actions) brought the administration of justice into disrepute… every member of the public who hears of this would be appalled,” Ayli Klein, a lawyer for the MLS said during the hearing, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

“It’s crucial the panel sends an unequivocal message … what they did was unprofessional.”

Carpay is permanently barred from practicing law in Manitoba or in any other jurisdiction with respect to the law of Manitoba and must pay $5,000 to help with costs of the investigation and discipline hearing.

A complete description of the reasoning for the decision will be available at a future date. 

Carpay took an indefinite leave from his role as president of the JCCF after admitting to hiring “passive observation” of Chief Justice Glenn Joyal in July of 2021. 

“I made the decision to hire an investigator to ascertain whether this was true,” he said in a statement at the time.

“In no way was this intended to influence or impact the Justice Centre’s litigation efforts, or any of our court cases. This decision was my own initiative, and was not discussed with Justice Centre clients, staff lawyers or Board members.”

He added that no other judges were included in the surveillance

The board of the JCCF denied any knowledge in a statement of their own. “Had the Board been advised of the plan, it would have immediately brought it to an end. Mr. Carpay has acknowledged that he made the decision unilaterally.”

The group says, “Surveilling public officials is not what we do. We condemn what was done without reservation.” 

Carpay’s return to his role as president was announced 48 days later

As reported by Canadian Lawyer, the August 30, 2021, announcement of Carpay’s return included notice that interim president Lisa Bildy was leaving the organization. Six of the JCCF’s nine directors also appear to have resigned during this period. 

“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,” JCCF wrote at the time.

In court, Joyal determined the surveillance would not impact their decision and did rule that the health restrictions were legal. A Manitoba Appeals Court upheld the Court of King's Bench decision in 2023.

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