Manitoba’s justice minister has written to the provincial law society requesting it investigate the conduct of lawyers working with an organization that hired a private investigator to follow a judge.
“It is gravely concerning that a private investigator was hired to conduct surveillance of a member of the judiciary, ostensibly to embarrass or intimidate the judge,” Cameron Friesen said in a statement Thursday.
Friesen said that as attorney general of Manitoba, he has asked the Law Society of Manitoba to initiate an investigation into the lawyers with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
The centre is representing a group of churches in Manitoba that are challenging COVID-19 public health orders.
John Carpay stepped down as president of the Justice Centre this week after admitting in court to hiring a private investigator to follow the judge presiding over that case.
Friesen said he is gravely concerned by the actions of the centre and wants the lawyers involved to be held accountable.
“This is an obvious invasion of privacy and it is difficult to believe that these actions were not intended to influence the outcome of the court case,” he said.
In a statement, Lisa Bildy, the centre’s interim president, said “these efforts to damage the professional reputations of our lawyers are groundless and unjustified.”
Bildy says none of their staff lawyers or outside counsel had knowledge of involvement in the surveillance of officials and the decision was made by one person in the organization.
The Law Society of Alberta, which would be Carpay’s regulator, would not say whether there’s an investigation into his actions.
An Ottawa human rights lawyer confirmed he had filed a professional misconduct complaint with the society against Carpay, as well as against two other lawyers with the Justice Centre.