Disciplining Brampton judge for advocacy work would send 'message of despair', lawyer argues

December 6, 2018
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

A misconduct case involving a judge who started a black advocacy group risks creating a chilling effect on judicial involvement in the community, a disciplinary panel was told on Tuesday.

Ontario Court Justice Donald McLeod spearheaded the creation of the Federation of Black Canadians two years ago after the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Toronto, and met with politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to push for new policies and funding in a range of areas including housing, education, corrections and the justice system.

Associate Chief Justice Faith Finnestad of the Ontario Court laid a complaint that he had engaged in improper political activity, creating a conflict of interest and an appearance that he lacked independence from government.

But Mark Sandler, a lawyer representing Justice McLeod, said the legal system is "not a fragile flower" that wilts when a judge enters into a perceived controversy. Other judges - including former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin with a statement on genocide against Indigenous peoples, and current Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella with a speech on judicial independence in Israel - have spoken on controversial subjects without imperiling their independence or impartiality, he said.

"This man is a wonderful role model of how judges can really contribute to their communities," Mr. Sandler told the four-person panel, chaired by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Robert Sharpe. Justice McLeod grew up in inner-city subsidized housing in Toronto, and was appointed to the bench in 2013.

Read more: Disciplining Brampton judge for advocacy work would send 'message of despair', lawyer argues