Original Published on Sep 29, 2022 at 07:19
Harold Jonker sues West Lincoln township after Integrity Commissioner report found he breached code of conduct
By Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
West Lincoln councillor Harold Jonker is taking the township of West Lincoln to court after the Integrity Commissioner found that he breached the code of conduct for his part in the Ottawa convoy.
A lawsuit was filed on Sept. 23 by the Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) on behalf of Jonker, disputing the recommendation of the Integrity Commissioner which was published on July 12.
That report found that, through his role in the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest in Ottawa earlier this year, Jonker breached two sections of the code of conduct.
The investigation, carried out by Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis LLP, found the councillor was a vocal representative and leader of the convoy, including after the point the protest was deemed unlawful, meaning the councillor was no longer able to fulfil his duty of loyalty to residents.
At a council meeting on July 18, councillors voted to receive the report and penalize Jonker by stripping him of 30 days pay and asked him to account for all donations he received during the protest and repay that amount.
Now, the JCCF announced that it has submitted the lawsuit on behalf of the councillor, aiming to reverse the decision to financially penalize Jonker.
In a statement, the JCCF said that they are arguing that the decision was invalid due to ‘procedural irregularities, factual errors and flawed findings’ in the commissioner’s report, particularly that Jonker participated in an illegal protest.
They also assert that Jonker’s Charter rights to freedom of expression were violated by the decision.
Jonker said that he is pursuing the lawsuit since he believes the council’s decision was incorrect.
“Town council punished me for legally protesting, and so challenging this decision is the right thing to do,” he said.
“I was punished for exercising my democratic rights.”
“(I hope to gain) a court decision that makes it clear that codes of conduct cannot be used to attempt to silence dissent.”
“The claim that Mr. Jonker participated in illegal activity is a suggestion that is not supported by the facts,” said Jorge Pineda, the lawyer who represents Jonker.
“It is also bewildering that the Integrity Commissioner found that Mr. Jonker, who is a trucker, was in Ottawa in connection with his duties as a town councillor, rather than as a trucker and Canadian citizen peacefully protesting Federal and Provincial mandates,” he said.
JCCF lawyers will bring this case to Hamilton Divisional Court on a date to be announced, said the statement.
The JCCF describes itself as an organization and charity that fights for the constitutional freedoms of Canadians, by funding legal representation and by educating Canadians about the free society, according to information on its website.
The township confirmed that they had received the lawsuit initiated on behalf of the councillor requesting a judicial review of the commissioner’s report and subsequent council decision, but declined to provide a further comment as it is now a legal proceeding.