Windsor cop seeks judicial review over donation to Freedom Convoy

Windsor Police Constable Michael Brisco is seeking a judicial review into his $50 donation to the 2022 Freedom Convoy. His lawyer said the evidence used to convict his client 'amounted to nothing more than opinions from people who did not like the message.'

Windsor cop seeks judicial review over donation to Freedom Convoy
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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Constable Michael Brisco of the Windsor Police Service (WPS) is seeking a judicial review into his $50 donation to the Freedom Convoy.

On February 8, 2022, the constable privately donated $50 to the convoy after a finding by a Superior Court Judge ruled that the protests could continue without honking. He did so without mentioning his capacity as a police officer.

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.

He met with WPS investigators for an interview, responding to questions about the donation pursuant to the Police Services Act.

On March 24, 2023, the Ontario Provincial Police Adjudicator found him guilty of discreditable conduct following a disciplinary hearing. Two months later, a provincial tribunal ordered the constable to forfeit 80 hours of work as punishment.

His lawyers earlier filed a Notice of Appeal with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to overrule the guilty charge.

Following a successful appeal on June 14, 2023, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission upheld the decision in February 2024. 

In response to this decision, Justice Centre lawyers applied for a judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of the charge.

“It was unfortunate that private donor information was unlawfully accessed,” said lawyer Darren Leung, who is representing Brisco. 

Leung also said the evidence used to convict his client “amounted to nothing more than opinions from people who did not like the message.” WPS Investigators cited media reports quoting the opinions of the Prime Minister, the Premier of Ontario, and the Ottawa Police Chief at the time, as part of their deliberations against the constable.

"Everyone has the right to protest peacefully" — a right he claims his government will "always protect," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. He later claimed that "lawful protests embraced lawlessness." 

On February 14, 2022, Parliament invoked Section 17(1) of the Emergencies Act, granting extra-judicial powers to address the convoy outside the confines of the Criminal Code. 

Law enforcement would 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.

“It is outrageous that the Ontario Provincial Police obtained this information to assist in persecuting police officers who were exercising their right to free expression,” added Leung.

The case held the assumption that he contributed to the illegal Ambassador Bridge protest between Windsor and Detroit. However, the WPS could not directly tie the donation to the protest, according to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

Brisco himself said his donation was intended for those protesting in Ottawa, not Windsor. 

The constable was on unpaid leave at the time for failing to comply with the mandatory disclosure of his private, confidential medical information during the forces' COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  

The Justice Centre, who represented Brisco, called him "a defender of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," believing that he was "exercising his Charter right to freedom of expression when making the donation." 

They believe the constable’s private political donation remains protected under the Charter.

Thousands of Canadians supported the convoy and exercised their right to freedom of expression by donating to the peaceful protests in Ottawa. An estimated $7.8 million in holdings belonging to convoy supporters had been temporarily seized by the federal government.

“Like other Canadians, police officers enjoy Charter freedoms and can express themselves within reason. Canadians should not be punished for expressing their political views, especially when evidence against them is obtained by unlawful means.” reads a statement from the law firm. 

“We are hopeful that the Divisional Court will see that the entire conviction was unreasonable,” added Leung.

Brisco has no prior disciplinary record during his “exemplary” 15-year tenure with the police service.

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