A police constable from Windsor, who donated $50 to the Freedom Convoy, has filed a Notice of Appeal with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to overrule his guilty charge of 'discreditable conduct.'
Constable Michael Brisco has no prior disciplinary record during his 15-year tenure with the Windsor Police Service (WPS). He is a highly respected officer with an "exemplary record."
However, he went on unpaid leave last February for choosing not to get the COVID jab.
Constable Brisco also made a $50 donation on February 8, 2022, to the Ottawa Freedom Convoy after a finding by a Superior Court Judge ruled the protests could continue without honking.
The Superior Court ruling ordered that subject to compliance with an injunction granted against honking in Ottawa, "persons remain at liberty to engage in a peaceful, lawful and safe protest."
"[Brisco] is a defender of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and believes that he was exercising his Charter right to freedom of expression when making the $50 donation to support the Ottawa Freedom Convoy," according to the Justice Centre.
However, an untimely hack of the crowdfunding site GiveSendGo led to the retrieval of the donor list. When WPS learned of the contribution, they prosecuted the constable for "discreditable conduct."
On March 24, 2023, the Ontario Provincial Police Adjudicator found Brisco guilty of the charge during a disciplinary hearing. Two months later, a provincial tribunal ordered the constable to forfeit 80 hours of work as punishment.
"Constable Brisco was exercising his right to freedom of expression when he donated to the Freedom Convoy. He fully believed that the protests were peaceful, and his beliefs were confirmed by the Superior Court, which allowed the protests to continue, albeit without honking," said Sayeh Hassan, counsel for WPS Constable.
"Canadians, including police officers, should be able to exercise their right to freedom of expression without being penalized," she said.
On February 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Everyone has the right to protest peacefully" — a right he claims his government will "always protect." However, he later claimed that the "lawful [convoy] protests embraced lawlessness."
Thousands of Canadians supported the convoy and exercised their right to freedom of expression by donating to the peaceful protests in Ottawa — only to later face financial repercussions by the federal government.
On February 14, 2022, Parliament invoked Section 17(1) of the Emergencies Act, giving the federal government 'temporary powers' to address the convoy outside the confines of the Criminal Code.
Under the Act, law enforcement could establish exclusion zones around the convoy and kick people out without identifying them as protestors. It also permitted banks to freeze the accounts of convoy participants and supporters.
On Constable Brisco's appeal, Hassan said the Justice Centre hopes the commission will overturn the conviction and uphold his right to freedom of expression.
"Among the multiple grounds of appeal, the most glaring error of the Tribunal was its refusal to consider Constable Brisco's Charter rights at all," contends litigator Christopher Fleury.
He considered the failure to conduct this analysis a "serious error of law" by the Tribunal, as they are "required by law to balance our client's right to freedom of expression with the statutory objectives of the Police Services Act."
Brisco's appeal will be heard in court on November 21.