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COVID-19

Ontario policeman fights conviction, penalty for donating to the Freedom Convoy

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4 minute read

From LifeSiteNews

By Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Constable Michael Brisco, a Windsor police officer, has appealed a conviction and penalty for donating $50 to the Ottawa Freedom Convoy in 2022 on freedom of expression grounds

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission heard the appeal of Constable Michael Brisco on Tuesday, who is challenging his conviction and penalty for donating to the Ottawa Freedom Convoy in early 2022. This case raises questions about the Charter’s protection for freedom of expression, the right of police officers to support political causes while off duty, and the privacy rights of all Canadians.

Constable Michael Brisco of the Windsor Police Service is a highly trained and respected police officer with no prior disciplinary record. He made a $50 donation to the peaceful Freedom Convoy protest through the GiveSendGo fundraising platform on February 8, 2022 – one day after an Ontario Superior Court Judge held that people could continue to engage in “peaceful, lawful and safe protest” in Ottawa so long as honking ceased. When making his donation, Brisco did not identify himself as a police officer and did not contribute to the protest in his capacity as a police officer.

Days later, the GiveSendGo donor list was hacked. The Ontario Provincial Police Service acquired the list and forwarded a set of names to the Windsor Police Service, who discovered that Brisco had donated to the protest.

The Windsor Police Service then chose to charge Brisco for “discreditable conduct.”

After a six-day hearing before an Ontario Provincial Police Adjudicator, Brisco was found guilty of discreditable conduct by a Tribunal on March 24, 2023. Two months later, on May 18, 2023, the Tribunal ordered that Brisco should forfeit pay for 80 hours of work as a penalty.

With the support of the Justice Centre, on June 14, 2023, Brisco filed a Notice of Appeal with Ontario Civilian Police Commission, challenging his conviction and the imposed penalty.

Counsel for Brisco argued that the prosecution against him lacks sufficient evidence. The claim that the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa was an unlawful protest rested entirely on claims made in newspaper articles by various officials, including the prime minister and the premier of Ontario. No credible video, photographic, or other evidence on this point was filed against Brisco. Further, counsel for Brisco argued that the evidence against him – a hacked list that ought to have remained private and confidential – was obtained illegally. Counting the donor list as evidence against Brisco amounts to an abuse of process, counsel argue.

Brisco’s legal counsel further argue that his conviction and penalty rested on a claim that Brisco’s donation was a demonstration of support for the Ambassador Bridge blockade in Windsor, Ontario; Brisco argues that there is no evidence of a link between the Ottawa protest and the Windsor blockade, and he denied any support for the blockade during his hearing.

COVID-19

Learning loss piles up alongside snow while ‘e-learning’ collects dust

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Alex Whalen and Paige MacPherson

During COVID school closures, students in the province missed at least 125 days of school between March 2020 and February 2022, more than any other province (except Ontario), generating a significant learning loss from which students have not caught up.

In a world increasingly connected by technology, and given the Nova Scotia government recently spent tens of millions of dollars enabling at-home learning, one might think that students would seamlessly shift to online learning during the recent snowstorms to avoid losing crucial instructional time. Unfortunately, that’s not happening.

During COVID school closures, the Nova Scotia and federal governments spent at least $31.5 million dollars on “virtual school” and other technological upgrades so students could, according to the provincial government, “succeed, even in an at-home learning environment.”

Unfortunately, the electronic learning infrastructure—which includes Chromebooks, laptops and iPads for students and teachers, and additional support and new teachers for Nova Scotia Virtual School—is collecting dust in a corner while Nova Scotia kids are falling further behind.

This isn’t some blip in an otherwise strong record of instructional time for Nova Scotia students. During COVID school closures, students in the province missed at least 125 days of school between March 2020 and February 2022, more than any other province (except Ontario), generating a significant learning loss from which students have not caught up.

Indeed, according to the latest results (2022) from the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), the gold standard of testing worldwide, Nova Scotia 15-year-olds trail the Canadian average in reading by 18 points and trail the Canadian average in math by 27 points. For context, PISA characterizes a 20-point drop as one year of lost learning.

Moreover, between 2003 and 2022, Nova Scotia student performance in reading dropped by 24 points—more than one year of learning loss—and dropped by 45 points in math. In other words, in math, 15-year-old Nova Scotia students today are more than two years behind where Nova Scotia 15-year-olds were in 2003.

These troubling trends underscore the need to put the existing e-learning infrastructure to work. During a recent two-week period, students in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education school district missed seven days of school due to snow. And some students missed an additional five days due to weather and power outages. That’s nearly three weeks. While more instructional time is not a silver bullet for student success—and with power outages, e-learning is not a perfect solution—it could still make a big difference.

According to international research, missed classroom time causes learning loss and impacts children for life, reducing their life-long earnings. Nova Scotia education researcher Paul Bennett found that lost classroom time due to inclement weather compounds absenteeism and sets back student achievement and social progress.

The Houston government should ensure that Nova Scotian students have access to teacher-directed e-learning when schools are closed and, like other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States, abandon the practise of simply cancelling school due to inclement weather. It’s simply common sense. The snow may pile up, but there’s no good reason why learning loss must pile up with it. Parents are right to demand access to the e-learning they’ve already paid for through their tax dollars.

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COVID-19

Nova Scotia judge sues chief judge, provincial court over Covid vaccine status and judicial independence

Published on

News release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is providing for the legal representation of Judge Rickcola Brinton of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia in a lawsuit against The Honorable Pamela S. Williams, former Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, among others. Brinton was threatened by Williams with suspension and referral to the provincial Judicial Council after she chose not to disclose her Covid vaccination status in late 2021. She filed her claim in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on September 29, 2023, seeking damages for the intentional violation of her judicial independence and medical privacy.

On September 29, 2021, Brinton received an email (sent to all judges of the Nova Scotia Provincial Court) from Judge Williams, then Chief Judge, asking if they would agree to share their vaccination status with each other. Chief Judge Williams also asked whether the Court should share that information with the Nova Scotia Bar.

On October 1, 2021, Brinton replied, “I realize I may be in the minority…as I have concerns with medical privacy,” she wrote. “I also know that the vaccination mandates and passports may be disproportionately impacting racialized communities. And as an essential service, will we be creating a two-tiered society for those who already feel as though we are not all free to serve them?” She thus declined to disclose her vaccination status.

In an effort to persuade her, Chief Judge Williams met with Brinton on October 7, 2021. Brinton explained that her decision not to disclose her vaccination status was a matter of conscience and the result of prayerful contemplation. She offered to get tested for Covid as often as needed, but Chief Judge Williams rejected Brinton’s proposal.

At the end of October, Brinton went on short-term disability leave. She submitted the required Proof of Illness form completed by her doctor.

On November 1, 2021, Chief Judge Williams sent out an email to all judges stating that “only fully vaccinated judges will be assigned to sit in our courtrooms.” Four days later, on November 25, 2021, she issued a public statement announcing that “[a]ll Provincial Court judges presiding in courtrooms, both now and in the future, are fully vaccinated.”

A few months later, on February 22, 2022, Chief Judge Williams wrote to Brinton stating that she would not approve the continuation of the short-term leave unless Brinton provided evidence of her disability. She also wrote that if Brinton continued to refuse to disclose her vaccination status, she would be “considered non-vaccinated and unable to preside over in-person trial and sentencings in the Court Room,” and that she would have “no recourse other than to suspend [Brinton] and refer the matter to the Judicial Council.”

Then, on March 27, 2022, without warning or Brinton’s consent, Chief Judge Williams wrote to Brinton’s doctor requesting that he supply her with details of Brinton’s medical issues. The doctor called Brinton to ask if she consented to this disclosure of medical information. She did not consent. The Chief Judge’s office followed up by calling the doctor’s office to once again ask for disclosure consent. Again, Brinton declined. Meanwhile, Brinton had provided necessary information to her disability benefits provider and had been approved for long-term disability.

Brinton has not received any communication from Chief Judge Williams since April 2022. Williams’ term as Chief Judge ended in August 2023. She continues to sit on the bench.

Judicial independence is a crucial and ancient constitutional principle, predating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Brinton raised concerns about interference with medical privacy and the impact of disclosing her Covid vaccination status on the independence and impartiality of both herself and the Court, particularly with respect to cases where courts have been asked to rule on issues regarding Covid vaccines; for example, whether an employee who is terminated for not taking the Covid vaccine is eligible for EI benefits, or whether it was legal for post-secondary institutions to force students out of their programof study for not taking the vaccine. As a result of raising such concerns, Brinton was threatened with suspension and disciplinary action.

Brinton’s lawsuit names the Honourable Pamela S. Williams, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, and the Attorney General of Nova Scotia representing His Majesty the King in Right of the Province of Nova Scotia, as defendants.

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