Lawyer John Carpay addressing an anti-mask rally in Calgary in November 2020 (Photo: Screenshot of YouTube video).

“Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me …”*

Cock-a-doodle do!

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal (Photo: Manitoba Courts).

As a matter of fact, that was almost exactly how long it took for the board of directors of the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms – perennial litigators on behalf of COVID-denying fundamentalist churches, fanatical opponents of school gay-straight alliances, and like elements – to deny their founder and president, John Carpay. 

Well, at least for the time being. 

After Mr. Carpay admitted to hiring a private eye to follow the chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench around for purposes that have not yet been persuasively explained, it seemed like the JCCF directors couldn’t publicly hand the Calgary lawyer his Stampede Stetson fast enough.

Mr. Carpay’s bizarre decision to hire the PI to snoop on Chief Justice Glenn Joyal left legalists throughout Canada gobsmacked after the judge told the shocking story in court Monday – and made it clear he’ll be continuing to preside over the JCCF’s attempt to get Manitoba’s COVID-19 restrictions declared unconstitutional on behalf of seven fundamentalist churches. 

So, in a statement published on their website early yesterday, the JCCF’s board said: “No member of the Board had any prior notice or knowledge of this plan and had not been consulted on it. 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. Apart from the Justice Centre’s Litigation Director, none of the Justice Centre’s lawyers or Board members were aware that this was occurring until July 12.” 

That was posted early yesterday, presumably before or after the hour the Biblical cock crowed, depending on what part of the country you reside in. Mr. Carpay issued a statement the day before falling on his sword by taking full responsibility for the scheme. 

“In an error of judgement, Chief Justice Joyal was included with the observation of government officials,” Mr. Carpay wrote in his statement. Presumably this means he thinks following and surreptitiously photographing government officials is OK, as long as they’re not judges. 

Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman (Photo:

The important question of who else the JCCF’s investigators were following remains unanswered. 

According to the board, “the Justice Centre’s mandate is to defend Canadians’ constitutional freedoms through litigation and education.” One could argue, of course, that the JCCF’s real mandate is to do battle for a form of social conservatism that, were it to become the governing ideology of a Canadian government, would considerably restrict Canadians’ fundamental freedoms. 

“Surveilling public officials is not what we do,” the board statement continued. “We condemn what was done without reservation. We apologize to Chief Justice Joyal for the alarm, disturbance, and violation of privacy. All such activity has ceased and will not reoccur in future.”

Still, while the board strove for a stern tone about Mr. Carpay’s shenanigans – presumably in the hopes the judiciary, law societies and media will stop paying attention to what he did – its members left the door open a crack to their founder’s return. 

“With the integrity that we know him for, he has owned this mistake, openly, directly, and without reservation,” they praised him, faintly. “Mr. Carpay has advised the Board that, effective today, he is taking an indefinite period of leave from his responsibilities at the Justice Centre. The Board will appoint an interim president to serve in his absence. …” (Emphasis added.)

JCCF Litigation Director Jay Cameron (Photo: JCCF).

Litigation Director Jay Cameron, notwithstanding his mention in dispatches by the board, remains on the organization’s staff list. 

Lisa Bildy, a London, Ont., lawyer who according to her biography on the JCCF website took part in a campaign to block a Law Society of Ontario statement of principles that would have required the province’s lawyers to affirm their duty to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, has been named the group’s interim president. 

The JCCF’s nine board members include such high-profile conservatives as Klein Era Alberta finance minister Ted Morton, Epoch Times columnist Barbara Kay, and Troy Lanagan, who has headed such right-wing groups as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the renamed Manning Centre. 

But gone are the days when the coruscating stars of the Canadian Conservative firmament hailed Mr. Carpay as the Great White North’s equivalent of Rosa Parks – as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ludicrously did not so long ago. 

Former Alberta finance minister and JCCF board member Ted Morton (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Complaints about Mr. Carpay’s caper have been filed with the law societies of both Manitoba and Alberta by Ottawa human rights lawyer Richard Warman. 

Mr. Warman said on his website that he has filed professional misconduct complaints with the Law Society of Alberta against both Mr. Carpay and Mr. Cameron of the JCCF, and has requested an investigation by the Law Society of Manitoba of another JCCF lawyer, Allison Pejovic.

“It’s probably the most egregious case of professional misconduct that I’ve heard of in quite some time,” Mr. Warman said of Mr. Carpay’s activities in a CBC interview. “Any lawyer found to have been involved in this should face the most severe sanctions possible, up to and including disbarment.”

The CBC also quoted University of Alberta law professor Eric Adams, who argued Mr. Carpay breached the Law Society’s code of conduct in ways that could result in him being reprimanded, fined or disbarred.

*Matthew 26:34

Join the Conversation


  1. John Carpay will simply end up eating humble pie. His juvenile antics don’t turn out in his favour. If he’d slip quietly out of sight, that’d be better for us all.

  2. The JCCF is in immediate self-preservation mode, eager to temporarily throw Carpay under the bus while hoping to avoid investigation itself, and the possible loss of its charitable status as well as its well-deserved recognition with the far right fringe.

  3. Did this JCCF outfit mount challenges to pinhead kenney’s unconstitutional laws, like the one about not being allowed to organize a protest rally on any physical ground he can decide on a whim is not legal for such gatherings? I would bet not. But something reasonable, like banning large indoor gatherings to stop the spread of virus to protect more pinheads from themselves and others on their returning home and to work, well, that’s fair game to challenge. Why yes, because it includes churches, freedom of something or other to be entirely irresponsible in even a declared public health emergency, goes the dunderhead thinking. Wah! Squawk! And looking at that bald=pated Chief Litigator, it’s obvious he hasn’t cracked a joke in decades. Wonderful. Humourless.

    I am not in favour of having a bunch of wackos posing as a non-profit to selectively decide on my behalf what is right for either me or anyone else in society. Protest, yes, but actively pursuing court cases to make some obscure point, no. Supposedly government has to be somewhat neutral in its treatment of citizens; these ideologues try to skew things their way just to stir up sh!t. Of course, with kenney prancing around like an ace pancake flipper and basically in tune with the JCCF, Alberta will have to fry in its own grease until the citizens find it too hot to ignore. This Carpay surveillance nonsense occured in another province, and one news report said Brian Palliser was being spied on as well. The MB premier must not be Con enough for the Alberta social diehard dodos.

    1. That’s an interesting question. They did challenge a UCP law on constitutional grounds, but not one that most legal counsel would have suggested was unconstitutional. To wit: the Public Health Act. As for Mr. Kenney’s efforts to unconstitutionally hinder the operation of free trade unions, there’s not been a peep from them. Similarly, despite Mr. Kenney’s spectacular waste of money picking losers in the oil patch, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been strangely silent. Whatever can be happening? DJC

  4. It is about time that people like John Carpay start paying for what they cause to others. I for one will not be sorry for him.
    Too bad we cannot dis-premier his good friend Jason Kenney because it is also about time we get a decent and honest government in our province.

    1. I re-read that several times too. My assumption is that it’s awkward phrasing and means the opposite of what it technically, grammatically says. With a well-known Epoch Times journalist on the board, you’d think they would have spotted that. Perhaps’s the board’s oversight is not all it says it is. DJC

      1. “Epoch Times journalist” … boy, that’s stretching a definition, isn’t it? Isn’t that some rather nutty rag owned by some Asian religious cult that’s also being persecuted by China? I mean, I’m all for freedom of religion & conscience, but in a way it’s too bad the Chinese didn’t pick a more mainstream religion to pick on.

  5. Watching John Carpay get his comeuppance is pretty satisfying, but I’m not sure what this says about the state of right-wing lunacy in Canada.

    Judging by the movement of the chairs within the JCCF staff, it looks like no one’s act was cleaned up. If anything, it appears that Carpay’s exit has paved the way for someone even crazier, though perhaps more cautious, to succeed him. All this proves is that the many right-wing think tanks and (conservative/Christian) advocacy organizations that are running riot in Canada have become so emboldened, thanks to the demands “dark money” benefactors’ for more aggression and militancy in their practices, they have decided to use the GOP’s own dirty tricks playbook to break what little is left of progressivism in Canadian social policies.

    Now, if Revenue Canada were to initiate extensive judicial investigations into these organizations and their shenanigans, a lot could be accomplished in cleaning up the right-wing lunacy, FREEDUMB is speech be damned.

    1. People like you, judgmental, name calling and just plain mean are the reason that people like me, left the left wing parties in droves. Ever heard of the walk-away campaign? I joined it, because although I still hold my Liberal values, it is obvious to me that whatever group you represent, does not represent me or many thousands of people like me.

  6. I’ve been struggling to find anything that Rosa Parks and John Carpay have in common. Is it their mutual support of Planned Parenthood? Whatever led Jason Kenney to compare John Carpay, a privileged white Canadian male lawyer who has taken on cases like Yaniv vs. Canada Galaxy Pageants, to America’s famous female civil rights activist? Only Kenney could see a commonality where none exists. It also explains why Kenney would appoint the perfect person as Minister for the Status of Women: a white man from rural Alberta.

    If Jason Kenney’s former friend was not above hiring a private investigator to tail a judge and other, unnamed government officials, who else has he tailed? Anyone important in Alberta? Hints can be found in Carpay’s strange “apology”. This could be the beginning of the end.

  7. Haha, hahaha, haha! Great news!
    Now the JCCF has to find someone willing to be the inept and ridiculous face of that laughable organization. Who could possible more inept at deciphering the Charter?

  8. Yes, the JCCF plan seems to have some wiggle room for contingencies. If things get worse, don’t bring Carpay back, make the interim President permanent or find an new one and distance themselves more, like Liberty University did from Jerry Falwell Jr. If the controversy dies down and attention shifts to other things, quietly bring him back in six months or so, sort of like Kenney brought back Tracy Allard into his cabinet.

    Interesting the Law Society in Alberta has been so quiet about this so far, unlike the one in Manitoba. Perhaps Carpay still has supporters in high places in Alberta discretely advocating for him.

  9. How appropriate to cite the Gospel of Mathew, its dubious historicity and catechistic authority notwithstanding because the topic involves religious social conservatives whose canon keeps getting spiked by modernity, whose supposed spiritually-guided legal acuity games the letter of the law rather than respects its spirit (and somehow fails to read the large print prefacing the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms which describes reasonable limits), whose society (cf ‘ socii ’ —L. ‘allies’) instantly disowns the heat-score, and whose history is revised more times than it was ever written in the first place.

    We’re not talkin’ rocket science here, nor much science at all; rather than reveal explicatory facts, SoCons think-they’re-so-rightists tank at anything more reasonable than Mark Twain’s third kind of lie: statistics in service to faith in self-righteousness.

    It is, nevertheless, historical fact that the Gospel of Mathew was written in the century after the Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion, and contains strains of narratological DNA accumulated over centuries before the Christ-child’s birth. In the modern alternative, it is a mystical fact that the archaic stricture of mandatory procreation while avoiding both inbreeding and outbreeding in the small, fugitive or exiled band banished to the wilderness, which was plentiful millennia ago, can somehow translate to proscriptions against abortion and masturbatory or homosexual wastage of seed today: the former applied to an isolated population so small its sustainable viability was critically doubtful, the latter to a world population of several billion humans, several times that many domestic animals, with remaining wilderness redoubts getting harder to find—and found less and less hospitable when they are. But, for the self-righteous historian, it all makes sense…

    …until tried in a modern court of law which tends to adulterate anachronistic punishments in stoners’ favour while disregarding anachronistic stoning of adulterers. This, SoCons insist, exemplifies the many persecutions they say liberal democracy inflicts upon them.

    Mr Carpay has been disowned by his own organization for hiring a private eye to spy on the judge who is trying Mr Carpay’s clients in court—or, rather, for getting caught. Because the supposed, registered charity, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, is ostensibly a kind of law firm which defends Canadians who plead a right to buck Canadian law on religious grounds, and, like most law firms, musters a team of lawyers and investigators to build and present their clients’ cases in courts of law, the first question that came to everybody’s minds is how many on that team in this Manitoba case (in which churches flouting Covid restrictions are defendants) knew about or condoned the scheme to spy on the presiding judge. Presumably that question inspired the emphasis with which Carpay’s colleagues plead ignorance of what they claim was Carpay’s ploy alone—although, Eucharist wine being thicker than potential indictments, his banishment was sweetened by leaving the door open for him to return as JCCF president by way of appointing an interim president.

    Let’s just say he’s been half disowned—which allows for clipping the context of the Gospel citation above. Indeed, the fuller context —which, from Matt. 26:34 to 26:75, includes the betrayal of Jesus’ refuge in the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, and the flight of his associates—amplifies his disownment by those closest to him: Peter had already been accosted twice as to his acquaintance with Jesus. “Shortly afterwards the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you are another of them; your accent gives you away!’ At this he broke into curses and declared with an oath: ‘I do not know the man [Jesus].’ At that moment the cock crew; and Peter remembered how Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will disown me three times.” (Matt. 26:73-75, The New English Bible, Oxford Cambridge)

    If Matthew informs us of the present situation, we may wonder who and when Carpay will be disowned by next.

  10. I’ve been very troubled these past years watching wealthy, privileged people publicly taking obviously unethical, harmful actions while claiming that they have a right to do whatever they’re doing (lying on the news, fomenting sedition, defying covid restrictions, profiting off needless pollution, etc).

    It has occurred to me that for every freedom we gain, there is a freedom we lose. If I am free to travel without a vaccine passport, I am not free to be safe from a pandemic. If I am free to lie on the news, I am not free to trust anything I hear on the news. If I am free to own multiple houses in a country with a finite supply of houses and leverage my ownership of those houses to extract rent from people, I am not free from the threat of homelessness.

    It has also occurred to me that some rights are actually privileges disguised as rights. Sure, on paper I have the right to travel freely, but in practice, that is a right that I have to compete with others to be able to afford, and “having wealth” is a zero-sum game – the more successful I become, the less wealth is available for others. If some people are not able to afford a right, it isn’t a “right”, it’s a “privilege.” On paper I have the right to assemble a propaganda empire of my very own, so that I could drown out the free speech of others and spread whatever lies I choose with no consequences to myself, like Rupert Murdoch has. In practice, I am a couple billion dollars too poor to be able to exercise that right, and society’s answer to that is “if I had worked hard and made good choices, like Rupert Murdoch has, then I would also be able to afford that right.” Among many other flaws, this has the problem that there can only be so many oligarchs – sure, in theory ANYbody can become rich, but EVERYbody cannot.

    This leads to the observation that our current system of rights and freedoms seems to empower the worst among us. Fascists and white supremacists use their right to free speech to attack the rights of non-white people, the Police use their right to have a union to evade accountability for crimes some of them may choose to commit on the job, wealthy people use their right to set up a corporation for themselves to legally avoid paying taxes, and on and on and on. All of these rights are withheld from most Canadians.

    You can probably tell I’m still developing this idea, I don’t think I’m saying it very well. If anyone has read any books that talk about this, I’d be grateful for a recommendation, I expect this particular wheel has already been invented.

    Maybe rights aren’t always a good thing unless they are accompanied by responsibilities (remember those?). Maybe we need to accept that rights are not sacred and inviolable, they are created by governments and are routinely withheld from people as a normal matter of course. If we can withhold a right from someone because they can’t afford it, surely we can withhold a right from someone because it is in the public interest?

    1. With respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution:

      The very first sentence explains that these Rights and Freedoms are limited by what is reasonable in a just and democratic society. No Rights or Freedoms are absolute and, in this case, the Covid pandemic (which spreads easily and has killed many citizens) presents a reasonable limit to any Right or Freedom.

      Unless one ignores or skips this important qualifier, it’s not hard to see that the claimed “right” to gather at a church during a contagious pandemic is neither reasonable nor absolute.

      Bucking Covid restrictions under a misreading of the Charter —even if done intentionally or maliciously—is, like ignorance of the law, no excuse. Since any lawyer worth his or her salt should know that any court of law would not overturn a public health order unreasonably (the virus has no regard for rights or the law), one has to ask what the point of challenging the order is. In these cases, it appears to be all about virtue-signalling between subscribers of a particularist view who want to be excepted from the PHO, the Constitution, and the rule of law—never mind epidemiological reasoning.

      Remember: it’s not only because of Carpay’s foolishness that the Manitoba court will reject the offending church’s position. One only need read the first sentence of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to get this— instead of cherry-picking the list and constructing an argument totally out of touch with law and reality.

      1. Thanks for responding, your point about reasonable limitations on the Charter is reassuring and well made, and most of the worst abuses of “rights” I’ve been watching are clearly outside of Canadian jurisdiction. At this point I’m exploring it as a philosophical idea, and once I feel like I have that better fleshed out I’ll start trying to think of actual policies that I could advocate for.

        Maybe rights can become concentrated in too few hands, like wealth? Maybe there is a useful conversation to be had about “concentration of privilege?” Is having rights a zero-sum game, where the more rights I have, the fewer rights everyone else has? That doesn’t seem like it always as to be true. Maybe rules-based systems like the Charter are inherently vulnerable to rules-lawyering, and having vast concentrations of wealth enables one to hire the best rules lawyers? I’ll have to think about this some more. I’m a little sleep-deprived right now :/

    2. Neil, your take on rights and responsibilities is a refreshing change from the American-libertarian nonsense the UCP and even-loonier-right wingnuts have inflicted on Oilberduh.

      There was a time in this fair land when “peace, order and good government” were the accepted basis of Canadian society. This was in deliberate contrast to the American rhetoric of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (that last was added, it seems, because “property” sounded a bit too crass even in the 18th century). “Good government” was defined as “effective,” and you can see why when you look at the road-blocking train wreck that is now the US federal government. These ideas come from Pierre Berton’s short book “Why we Act Like Canadians” (1982). Since Berton’s book, Canada has been pulled closer to the US by the inevitable gravitational attraction of huge markets and overwhelming propaganda—to our collective cost.

      One of the main threats to civil society today is the rise, spreading from the US world-wide, of plutocratic rule, a.k.a. the “dark money” phenomenon. The Koch brothers usually get the blame, and they were indeed prime movers—but they had a LOT of help. In addition to my usual references—“Dark Money,” “Democracy in Chains” and “Evil Geniuses”—have a look at “Thieves of Bay Street” by Bruce Livesy (Random House, 2012) and “Plutocrats” by Chrystia Freeland (Doubleday, 2012) before she became a politician. These give a sense of how the Golden Rule became perverted from “Do unto others etc” to the current form:

      Whoever has the Gold, makes the Rules.

      One of the primary purposes of government should be to prevent those who have the Gold from making Rules that turn the rest of us into victims. Maybe a new book by Seth Klein will help: “A Good War: mobilizing Canada for the climate emergency.” But it means that a lot more of us will have to get politically involved.

      1. Haha the “libertarians” who make it onto TV generally have as much in common with actual Libertarianism as the “left wingers” who make it onto Fox News have with actual Leftists. Wikipedia has an excellent article on Libertarianism for anyone who wants to know more.

        “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” sounds great, but it’s a zero-sum game. The more liberty I get, the more wealth I can amass, the more barriers there are between you and your liberty and your happiness. By contrast, “peace, order and good government” are things that we all gain from – I benefit from any work that you do to create them, and vice versa. I agree the US government is a train wreck. I sometimes think that if all of my experiences were with the American government, I would probably hate government and want it abolished, too.

        Thanks for the Berton recommendation in particular! I’ve read a lot of his stuff but somehow never heard of that one. I’ve heard of a few of the books you mention but never read them, I will add them to The List 🙂

  11. I just love that great, big mea culpa confession from John Carpay. “I did it. I was dumb. I’m sorry. It was all me. My bad. Nobody else knew” etc. etc. etc. Immediately, the JCCF board of directors chimed in, “Yeah, he did it. We didn’t know. He never told us. We never heard of it. It’s not our fault. We would never, ever, ever, EVER do that. It was him. Not us” etc. etc. etc.

    Our host quoted Matthew to telling effect, so allow me a slight misquote from Elizabethan times: “The fellow doth protest too much, methinks.” I find it very hard to believe that Carpay would pay for several—Carpay’s word, not mine—surveillance attempts out of his own pocket. The fact that such spying is not just, not constitutional and not a personal freedom in Canada didn’t stop Carpay. Another thing: if the JCCF’s “Litigation Director,” Jay Cameron, knew about it beforehand, why didn’t HE tell the board of directors? Wouldn’t that make him an accessory to the crime?

    I’m still waiting for the Law Society of Alberta to issue a statement regarding Carpay’s actions. The Manitoba Law Society immediately condemned Carpay’s act, and note this well—the offence occurred in Manitoba. But Carpay is a member of the Alberta bar. So why the silence? Nothing on the LSA’s main web page, nothing on the “Latest News” page, nothing on the “Media Room” page. Where’s the reaction?

    Furthermore, Carpay admitted he sicced PI’s on “several” politicians. Which ones? When? WHY? Is this common practice for Alberta lawyers? I’ve read news reports of people injured on the job, who were trailed by PIs hired by insurance companies. The motive there is obvious, but what legal protections do we have against spying just for the hell of it? If Carpay can spy on politicians and nobody says “Boo,” who ELSE can he spy on? And who else besides Carpay?

    This just in: Carpay may have jeopardized JCCF’s tax-free status:

    Maybe somebody should investigate the Law Society of Alberta, to find out if Carpay has fellow-travellers who sympathize with him.

  12. Has Mr. Carpay been disowned by the Board?

    Or…has the Board and Mr. Carpay decided that Carpay would have to be the sacrificial lamb for the greater good?

    Hard to believe that this was done without the knowledge of some Board members. If it was an informal nod and a polite ‘if this backfires it is all down to you…agreed?

    1. Brett, I think you’re right about the informal agreement. It speaks well of John Carpay that he’s loyal enough and dedicated enough to “take one for the team.” But his judgement, professional ethics, and sense of self-righteous importance still suck.

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