Judicial hearing on Federation of Black Canadians

Judge Donald McLeod faces involvement in Black advocacy group

A Brampton judge is facing a discipline hearing over his involvement with a national advocacy organization for Black Canadians.

Ontario Court Justice Donald McLeod’s “conduct could negatively impact the confidence of members of the public in the independence of the judiciary from politics,” according to allegations of judicial misconduct set out in a notice of hearing from the Ontario Judicial Council, the independent body tasked with investigating and disciplining provincial court judges.

Justice Donald McLeod, who was appointed to the bench in 2013, faces a discpline hearing in Toronto in November.
Justice Donald McLeod, who was appointed to the bench in 2013, faces a discpline hearing in Toronto in November.  (RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

“His Honour’s conduct could negatively impact the confidence of members of the public in his ability to carry out his judicial duties fairly, impartially and without bias or prejudice.”

A discipline hearing has been set for Nov. 30 in Toronto. The allegations against McLeod have not been proven. His lawyer did not return a request for comment.

McLeod was involved with the Federation of Black Canadians from 2016 to at least June of this year, according to the notice of hearing. The federation’s website says the organization advocates on behalf of Black communities “with governments, parliaments, international organizations, business and faith-driven organizations.”

McLeod participated in federation activities including meeting with MPs, cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “providing information to influence government policies and effect social and legal reforms or legislative changes,” according to the allegations.

“His Honour not only played a central role in the founding of the (federation), he was actively involved in its functions and served as the chair of the organization’s steering committee.”

McLeod, who was appointed to the bench in 2013 by the previous Liberal provincial government, was identified in federation communications, including its website, as a sitting judge and “allowed himself to be the public face” of the federation, the notice of hearing alleges. (A video of McLeod explaining how the federation was started remained on the main page of the organization’s website Wednesday.)

The notice of hearing highlights that the principles of judicial office make clear that judges must avoid conflicts of interest and the perception of a conflict, and are not to participate in partisan political activity and “not to lend the prestige of the office to fundraising activities.”

The judicial council goes on to allege that McLeod did not provide an accurate picture of his role with the federation when he sought advice from the ethics advisory committee of the Association of Ontario Judges. McLeod told the ethics committee that the federation was not a lobby group and that his role as chair would be to ensure proper governance and procedure during the federation’s board meetings, according to the notice of hearing.

“Based on those representations, which did not fully describe His Honour’s or (the federation’s) role and activities, on Nov. 15, 2017, the ethics committee advised His Honour that it had no ethical concerns arising out of His Honour’s involvement with the (federation), provided that he distance himself from any of the organization’s fundraising initiatives,” according to the notice of hearing.

After being provided “with further information” about the federation and McLeod’s role, the ethics committee advised him in March that he should resign as chair, according to the notice of hearing. But McLeod did not do so immediately, according to the council, and stayed in the position until June.

McLeod’s discipline hearing in November will be chaired by a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, and also include a provincial court judge, a lawyer and a community member. Possible sanctions include a reprimand, paid or unpaid suspension, or a recommendation to the attorney general that McLeod be fired.

Source: Toronto Star

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