Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms President John Carpay has been charged with obstruction of justice by Winnipeg Police and was arrested after turning himself in to Calgary Police Friday, the social conservative legal advocacy organization said in a statement yesterday. 

A scene snapped by an anonymous shutterbug of Jason Kenney’s notorious mid-pandemic Sky Palace patio party (Photo: Twitter).

According to the New Year’s Day statement published on the JCCF website, the charges “apparently” stem from a 2021 incident in which Mr. Carpay, a lawyer and social conservative activist, admitted hiring a private detective to snoop on the chief justice of the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench.

The JCCF founder and president admitted on July 12, 2021, that his organization hired the private investigator to spy on the judge, who was presiding over a case conducted by the JCCF on behalf of seven rural Manitoba churches that objected to public health orders made early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Calgary-based lawyer, who for many years was a friend and political ally of former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, made the admission after Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal revealed during a hearing into the JCCF’s case that he had been followed by a private detective.

Mr. Carpay later said the decision to have the gumshoe follow the judge was his alone.

Yesterday’s statement by the JCCF seemed to imply Mr. Carpay was at least partly inspired to hire the private detective by the actions of Mr. Kenney and other senior members of his cabinet when they were caught in June 2021 by a still-unidentified photographer as they violated Alberta COVID-19 restrictions at a dinner meeting on the patio of the notorious “Sky Palace” atop an Alberta government office building in Edmonton. 

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

“Mr. Carpay’s decision to conduct surveillance of Manitoba government officials followed a number of high-profile instances where those who imposed and enforced lockdown restrictions were themselves found violating their own rules, partying on rooftops, ignoring rules about face masks and social distancing, and jetting off to exotic holiday locations to countries without COVID restrictions,” the JCCF statement said. (Emphasis added.)

According to the statement, the JCCF learned of the Winnipeg warrant on Friday and that Mr. Carpay thereafter “immediately turned himself into (sic) Calgary Police Services.”

“This charge is unexpected and without explanation,” the statement complained. “The events at issue took place over 18 months ago, and police have not previously contacted Mr. Carpay nor the Justice Centre. 

“Mr. Carpay has been cooperating with the investigation of this matter by the Law Society of Manitoba,” the statement continued. “At the time of the events, the Justice Centre Board of Directors also took appropriate steps to strengthen governance and oversight of the organization while Mr. Carpay took a seven-week leave of absence.”

“The Justice Centre is deeply disappointed by the decision of Winnipeg Police to lay a criminal charge for events that took place more than 18 months ago and that are already being dealt with appropriately,” the statement said. “It is doubly disappointing that it was decided that these actions should take place during the holiday season when Mr. Carpay is spending time with his family.”

University of Alberta law professor and constitutional scholar Eric Adams (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A similarly worded fund-raising email sent yesterday to JCCF donors, headed “Urgent News for Our Justice Centre Supporters,” included the claim Mr. Carpay “was held in jail for 23 hours in an isolated cell without a cot, mattress, blanket, or even a pillow!”

This turn of events does not seem as shocking as it apparently was to the JCCF. There was plenty of discussion about possible repercussions in media and legal circles at the time Mr. Carpay’s actions came to light, including the view such activities could be perceived as obstruction of justice. 

At the time of Chief Justice Joyal’s revelation, the University of Alberta’s vice-dean of law described the situation as “obviously a tremendous, tremendous lapse of judgment by the legal team involved, it seems to me, and one really that’s without precedent as far as I’m concerned.”

“It takes your breath away, the mindset that an individual would engage in to take that course of action,” Eric Adams, a noted constitutional scholar, told the CBC. “I mean, for what purpose would that information be gathered except for an improper one? It’s hard to imagine.”

In an editorial the morning after Justice Joyal’s courtroom revelation, the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper argued that “hiring a PI to follow a judge – not just any judge, but the judge handling the case that you are currently arguing in court – suggests very few possible motivations other than an effort to intimidate the judge in order to affect the outcome of the case.”

Cameron Friesen, Manitoba’s justice minister in 2021 (Photo: Government of Manitoba).

Manitoba’s justice minister at the time, Cameron Friesen, said in a press release that “as Attorney General, I have written to the Law Society of Manitoba to request that it initiate an investigation into the conduct of lawyers associated with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.”

“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,” Mr. Friesen stated in the terse release. “The lawyers involved must be held accountable for their actions, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, to protect the integrity of our independent judiciary and uphold the rule of law in Canada.”

As noted in yesterday’s JCCF statement, Mr. Carpay took what was described at the time as an indefinite leave from his job as JCCF president after the story broke and the organization’s board published a statement condemning the action, stating it was not informed, apologizing to the judge, and promising “all such activity has ceased and will not reoccur in future.” 

That statement is no longer found at its original link on the JCCF website. 

However, the interim president appointed by the JCCF board served only seven weeks before Mr. Carpay returned at the end of August 2021. 

In an Aug. 30, 2021, story, the Toronto Star quoted a former JCCF former board member saying: “When a compromised president leaves and then the board seemingly, suddenly, anyway, to those of us looking from the outside, nearly vaporizes and the offending president returns, that tells me that there was kind of a putsch.”

UPDATE: The CBC reported this afternoon that Winnipeg Police have confirmed they have charged Mr. Carpay with intimidation of a justice system participant and attempting to obstruct justice. The broadcaster’s report also said the Law Society of Manitoba has indicated its investigation is complete and charges of professional misconduct will be brought against Mr. Carpay. A Law Society hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8-10 in Winnipeg. 

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37 Comments

  1. If what the JCCF said about Carpay’s motivation here is correct, I suppose this is more fall out from the Sky Palace debacle. However, Carpay seems to have taken the wrong lesson from it.

    Alas, with Kenney not Premier any more, Carpay certainly also no longer has close friends in high places to potentially protect him. However the justice system also moves at its own speed, so perhaps that this happened a while after Kenney’s departure is not related.

    I suspect the current UCP leader may want to distance herself from this tawdry situation, but the JCCF seems to be in full martyr mode. This might have some appeal to some in the UCP, particularly for those who are inclined to believe they are the most persecuted.

    Sadly for Smith, this involves something that happened in Manitoba, a supposedly friendly western Conservative run province, so there will be no way to easily blame this on Trudeau or easterners.

    In any event, it still doesn’t look good for someone close to the former Premier to be charged and arrested. It may be a new year, but there is still a lot of
    UCP baggage from the past to deal with.

  2. From the JCCF statement quoted in your article: “surveillance of Manitoba government officials”. They’re inappropriately conflating judges with “government officials”, when an independent judiciary is a key component of our system of government. Judges are not “government officials”, they are independent arbiters of the law.

    1. jerrymacgp – what happens when a judge breaks the law? Justice Delisle in Quebec comes to mind.

      In order to win a prosecution, an investigation is required and is a justifiable invasion of privacy – happens every day!

      As alleged independent arbiters of the law, what if the arbiter is guilty of the same offence as the accused? I recall a Canadian military tribunal was adjourned and the judge reused himself after admitting he had viewed porn on a government device several years ago – after evidence was submitted.

      Further, evidence of impartiality is grounds for dismissal, review or appeal and an investigation, private or public, is required!

      Our judiciary is not above the law. Given a judge is within the proximity of the litigation in question, their lives must be open to scrutiny.

      1. I don’t think anyone is saying judges are or should be above the law, just that, in this instance, trying to make them seem like ordinary government officials is a little self-serving and disingenuous.

      2. Mr Nilsson: how is this relevant to Mr Carpay’s [alleged] transgression? He hired someone to surveil a judge in a case to which he was a party. Rather than a “friend of the court”, he was acting like an enemy.

    2. It was notable, when this story originally broke, that the Law Society of Alberta said absolutely nothing about Carpay’s conduct. Maybe the Manitoba law society is taking action because, after all, that’s where Carpay screwed up by the numbers. But it still seems odd that the Alberta lawyers’ regulating body hasn’t publicly acknowledged the case–at least, not that I ever saw on their web site or in mainstream media. Have they said anything about it yet? Or have they washed their hands of it, and left it to the Law Society of Manitoba?

      I’ll give Carpay this much credit: he fessed up as soon as he realized he’d been caught. Likewise, he turned himself in when informed there was a warrant. Two points for honesty, and -3 points for being stupid enough to sic a private eye on Judge Joyal in the first place.

      I presume the bulk of the JCCF statement is performance art for public consumption. Given:
       the outrage among the legal profession (outside Alberta, anyway) at the time
       a formal complaint was filed against Carpay in both Manitoba (where the offence took place) and in Alberta (where Carpay is licensed)
       the Law Society of Manitoba announced there would be an investigation; and
       the investigation was presumably fair and impartial (or Carpay would have stopped cooperating and protested loudly);

      Does anyone believe the disappointment expressed by the JCCF is anything but crocodile tears and a poor rendition of “Poor, Pitiful Me”?

  3. For any common Canadian caught breaking the law, there are consequences. Why do some in offices of high power feel they are above the law? John Carpay is just one example of the over reach that has been the norm for the pandemic. Canadians Constitutional Rights and Freedoms laws have been broken and the leaders who have push to break these laws now must pay

    1. Because they have money, and people with money are used to being able to flout the law. Working class folks do the crime, we do the time. Owning class folks do the crime, they pay the fine, and since they can easily afford the fine, they become used to being allowed to break the law without any consequences they cannot easily afford.

  4. I probably made this same comment when the story of Mr. Carpay hiring the detective first broke, but I question the claim that Carpay acted alone, in the context of how the detective was to be paid. I have never seen an organization, especially one that can issue tax receipts, where one executive member could unilaterally authorize the spending of funds. So it would appear that either:

    a. Carpay intended to pay the detective’s fee with his own funds,
    b. The claim that Carpay acted alone is false, or
    c. The board of the JCCF is so subservient to John Carpay that he was confident they would retroactively approve his expenditure, even though the JCCF website shows at least 2 other lawyers on ‘the team’.

    I wonder if the CRA should take a look at how financial decisions are made at the JCCF.

  5. A holding cell is bereft of all but the most basic necessities. It is not a hotel. It does not have a private toilet, but there is one.

    Also, just because you weren’t arrested when you “allegedly” broke the law does not mean you will never be arrested. You, the person who “allegedly” broke the law, are hardly in a position to call the shots. After 18 months of investigation, surely some evidence must have come to light to meet the standards for an arrest. Now the matter will be resolved in due course in the courts.

  6. This will be a glorious fundraising opportunity for the JCCF and a chance for martyrdom for Carpay. The JCCF must hold John Carpay in high esteem if they expected the finest Egyptian cotton sheets and a warm and comfy down filled duvet, with an assortment of lovely throw pillows, to be awaiting Carpay upon his arrival at the Remand Centre. I suppose the “tough on crime” crowd make plenty of exceptions when one of their own gets pinched. Apropos of nothing, their expectation of a moratorium on arrests during a holiday is a head scratcher.

  7. Well, they say that the wheels of justice turn slowly….but eventually get there. Case in point— and oh ,boo hoo, no pillow? seriously ?? I guess he was expecting a night at the Ritz carlton? The thing I find intriguing is the timing, I don’t suppose that this has anything to do with the announcement by the Convoy 2.0 group talking about taking over the Winnipeg legislature in Feb for whatever there reason is— and the audacity of them saying, that now the citizens of Ottawa can come and join the group, instead of being subjected to their torture, is beyond belief…oh wait, common sense and humanity left on a cloud of diesel fumes.
    So, is Danielle still going to be so enamored of her JCCF representative, K Wilson, what with all the other court cases still to come……something to do with the company you keep, but hey, it’s the UCP, so your guess is as good as mine. Time will tell.
    Well, working day 1 of the new year is off to an interesting start, looks like the attendant has turned the key for the rollercoaster…

  8. Official statement of the JCCF. “(Whine, snivel) Why is our president and a member of our organization being charged with a crime? Don’t you know who we are?! (Whine, snivel).”

  9. And given Danielle Smith being so enamoured with the JCCF, I suspect that she will immediately authorize an official demand that John Carpay be immediately released from custody, because the laws in Canada has no power in Alberta. And by her order, Carpay will be pardoned of everything he has done and everything he will ever do because … FreeDUMB.

    So it is written … so it shall be done.

  10. Hello Jerrymacgp, The quote including the words “government officials” made me wonder if the JCCF was checking on government officials in addition, or if, as you say, the Centre mistakenly thought that the Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench was a “government official”. The words “government officials” suggest that the Centre was looking at more than one individual. If so, is there more here than we know about now?

      1. Right you are.

        https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/lawyer-john-carpay-follow-judge-criminal-charges-1.6701320

        “A lawyer who represented a number of churches across Canada fighting COVID-19 restrictions in court has been charged by police in Winnipeg after admitting in 2021 he hired a private investigator to follow senior government officials and the Manitoba judge who presided over one of the organization’s cases.

        “The Winnipeg Police Service said it has charged John Carpay, 55, with intimidation of a justice system participant and the attempt to obstruct justice.”

    1. This all makes me wonder who was aiming the camera at Jason Kenney’ dinner party. Ready for my latest conspiracy theory? Here we go!

      Kenney and Carpay used to be buds, until the Covid restrictions got in the way. Did the JCCF see an opportunity to embarrass their former friend? If so, was the photographer really some anonymous guy with a cell phone, or was it a private eye with a digital SLR and a telephoto lens?

      1. Mike: Unless someone comes forth with information, there’s no way to tell who was behind the lens. However, it’s pretty clear that whoever it was, they were using a powerful telephoto lens. Those were not iPhone pictures. DJC

    1. Abs….thanks for the giggle link,
      the ” SPY HILL” arrest facility, is the befitting place for Carpay to end up at….Murphy is having a good hard chuckle on that one…also something to do with KARMA….
      and since he was looking for donations, I’m assuming his colleagues are not going to dip into the JCCF “charity” funds to defend him…? Odd that .
      Though I liked my sister’s idea for the donations he was asking for, she recommended sending our old used pillows, since the my pillow guy didn’t come through for him….
      Given his dealings with Mad Max, that’s where I would be looking for
      other potential “government officials ” that needed to be “spied” on…..homework, something Max had said…hmmm

      1. The area is home to a number of correctional facilities and a landfill. At the time of construction, area residents were concerned about riff-raff from the facility wandering into their community. No word on whether John Carpay was seen waiting for a Calgary Transit bus at the shopping centre on NYE, or if he received a free bus ticket at taxpayer expense. Surely we would have heard about it.

        https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/arrest-processing-unit-open-northwest-calgary-1.4821091

  11. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy [sarcasm].

    At the very least, he should be disbarred and never be allowed to practice law anywhere in Canada. However, it is more likely he will only get a slap on the wrist – unfortunately.

    1. Does anybody believe a UCP Provincial Police Force would respond to an arrest warrant for a well connected UCP supporter coming from an eastern jurisdiction? Even a near-eastern jurisdiction like Mb.

  12. This makes me very happy. Have been angry at this particular lawyer, from this particular bunch of antisocial lobbyists/litigators, before this scandal (he’s been a busy boy and, among other despicable activities, has been very active in trying to take away our reproductive rights).

    On a side note, it’s beyond strange to me that society acts as though men are not affected by whether women are allowed access to abortions. Hey, other guys – you know if your partner is denied an abortion, YOU are being forced to become a parent as well, right? Right? Guys? Is this thing on?

    1. Neil….1st of all(s-b) ….BRAVO, round of applause!!! Hey, Maw!! he gets it, he really gets it….THANK YOU !!! positive start for the New Year.

      J Carpay…been on the radar since the first anti -vax protests and court cases started piling up, his frequent flier miles would have added up if he had been flying commercial, but private flights = no guv’ment mandate rules, and he was definitely getting about….
      IF, YI: Vancouver Sun, Oct21/2021
      opinion;Daphne Bramham
      …Canadian Taxpayers Assoc. where “Carpay also cut his political teeth “…. along with then friend JKenney
      see also: CBC News, May 31/2022
      Brigette Bureau, “code of conduct complaint filed against convoy lawyer “……and foot note,I was asked how old JC was and when I looked up his wiki profile, it had” also” been edited…3 hrs ago.
      That certainly raised the eyebrows….which makes me wonder if a former advisor is trying to get back in someone’s good books…..
      and if you have time for a informative/ interesting (IMHO) read— https:// educationaction toronto .com Oct 13-2022
      kicking the tires of the “freedom ” convoy.

      I think my grade 9 teacher would be tickled pink to know he had made a lateral reader of at least one of his students, I just didn’t know there was that kind of a classification….never too old to learn.

      1. Thanks Randi 🙂 I’ve long been of the opinion that any abuse one gender suffers ends up coming out sideways on the other gender. I think egalitarianism is clearly and obviously the moral way to go, but I don’t think you actually need to be moral to choose egalitarianism, you can also do so from a position of enlightened self-interest.

        As long as I leverage existing injustices to serve my selfish ends, I perpetuate those injustices and ensure that they will eventually harm either me or the people I care about (strength, like youth, health and beauty, is a thing we only possess temporarily). If I was able to end an injustice, I would guarantee that no one I care about will ever be harmed by it. Seems pretty simple to me, but I haven’t had a lot of luck persuading anyone who doesn’t already agree.

  13. “Money’s good, rich or poor,” my late father-in-law used to say. It’s a relatively modern thing: during the Dark Ages even the richest noble didn’t have much, if any money at all, wealth rather being productive land and the strength to protect and bequeath it to heirs. This conservative fundament is typically averse to change, but of course it had to accommodate socio-economic evolution over the millennia that the oldest political philosophy has existed.

    Europe was almost completely Christianized by c.1000 CE, and religion reassuringly held conservatism’s hand while conjuring the enchanting new medium of money, coin specie having been in circulation by c.1250. It helped to quell the nob’s natural fear of losing privilege and push cher into the brave new future. Nevertheless, the old conservative ideal of a farmer-warrior like Cincinnatus or a any number of self-sufficient feudal warlords was preserved well into the 17th century when it was still considered dishonourable for a landed nob to indulge in capital ventures: chi was supposed to get all cher money from inherited wealth accrued from ancient land tenure, or from a military officer’s booty and remuneration— maybe a commendation sufficiently induced. Tradition had to be preserved.

    It was the exciting 17th century and, again, money ascended another step: religion was then in turmoil but there were spicier profits to be made abroad. This time the filthy lucre manifest in the new joint-stock company (invented to underwrite the merchant class’ risk in globalized commercial shipping). Religion nevertheless lighted conservatives’ way into the funnel of capitalism owing to the traditional superstitions of kings and queens of the day: the teetering Western Church one-handed the torch to keening Protestant denominations and off they sailed in search of spice, gold, and slaves: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of bourgeoise,” reticent royals prayed as their landed vassals slowly and worrisomely sank into penury. (Trollope wrote some great novels about this wrenching transition.)

    From the brutish 7th century on, money and Christianity were gradually adopted by the conservative establishment and, despite the former’s liberalism and the latter’s socialism (remind Karl Marx that Tommy Douglas was a preacher who never partook in opium), they became so embedded that conservatives claimed ownership. Nowadays, money—what with derivatives, options, cyber cryptocurrency, inflation, &c— is getting as confusing as gender, truth, and the weather. It’s no wonder religion is becoming the stronger of the conservatism’s twin, wolf-suckled attitudes while it struggles like everybody else with today’s daunting challenges. The partisan right’s prescription of less government (especially popularly-elected ones) persists even while increasing challenges like disastrous weather events caused by climate change, and a raft of social ills caused by growing income disparity appear to demand more, not less government. But lately the narrative has shifted more heavily to alleged government violation of claimed God-given rights, particularly the majority Christians’ right to worship, a complaint hitherto focused more on reaction against granting equal rights to minorities. But math is hard, so many of the radicalized religious-right miscalculate equal rights for everyone as a mathematically provable diminishment of their own rights. It’s unfair or even malicious, say conspiracy theorists and tendentious apologists who populate the pews of social conservatism. That is, longstanding money and fairness complaints—the ordinary stuff of politics—have been subsumed by increasingly absurd accusations of “persecution” provoked by the extraordinary politics of implementing Covid protocols—absurd because stock epidemiology doesn’t single-out evangelical Christians or anyone else. Just like Covid.

    Indeed, protocols included all citizens for both their own, individual safety and for that of the whole community. To believe otherwise would be to deny the existence of the virus and those who died of it—like US presidunce tRump did, resulting in a death-rate more than double that of Canada’s, or the loss of 1.1 million American lives. Had the churches in question stayed in a “bubble,” their respective flocks could have been free to worship together and share whatever contagion they might have. The problem was that congregants wanted instead the freedom to thence disperse on Sunday and have promiscuous intercourse with anybody the rest of the week (cƒ Ernest Tubb’s “Saturday Satan, Sunday Saint”). If you ain’t “saved,” brother, that’s your problem!

    Resort to religion also underpinned the Carpay case with equal illegality. John Carpay, a lawyer representing a number of Manitoba churches, argued in court that his clients’ constitutional rights were violated by government mandated Covid protocols which prevented them from worshiping together because it was unsafe for them and whomever they subsequently came into contact with. Never mind the spuriousness of the complaint (if God is omnipresent, believers don’t have to worship anywhere in particular; if God’s all-powerful, then internet musta been designed so any member may worship in unison with the rest of the congregation on Zoom or FaceTime; and if Jim Jones is in heaven, then congregants in the time of Covid should have no problem with spreading the virus and potentially killing others by worshipping together; &c). Carpay also played on the SoCon tropes of trumping secular law by believing that self-righteousness is obviously, as the word proves, their “right,” that logos is logical and logic is truth; on the rapture by the pretence that it doesn’t matter if one catches Covid at church and dies because believers is all gonna go to heaven anyhow (and the rest of us unicorns can just piss off); on redoubterism, supposed to be the place where believers campeth out with a fifth in a remote, defensible place in order to be first to sally forth at the second coming; and especially on persecution which, of course, Danielle Smith identified as the worst she’s ever seen in her whole life. That’s how spurious…

    Carpay has even performed religious reenactment, his jail cell not too much different than the monastic cells of early Christians who stole off to the desert wilderness, more to escape persecution than to see the light. It makes me wonder how much he likens sacrifice of his freedom to that of the Big Guy’s only son. He did assume all blame for surveilling the judge presiding over the very case he was arguing, even though there was a team of lawyers with Carpay who, presumably, also knew that it was totally illegal. But, who knows? I’m hoping at least the bones of the deliberations in Carpay’s disciplinary hearing are as accessible as his upcoming trial and sentencing so we don’t have to depend on the JCCF’s slant. I’ll be particularly interested whether Carpay believes he received some kind of dispensation to break the law—and whence we he got it. After all, he was dumb enough to take a case that was mooted by the very first sentence of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which clearly states that rights and freedoms he says were absolutely violated are reasonably limited in a fair and democratic society. Or will he go for the “what-would-Jesus-do” defence?

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