Justice Donald McLeod who was cleared last December of misconduct charges after he was accused of advocating on behalf of the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC),spoke of his hearing before the Ontario Judicial Council in his keynote address on Sunday at the National Black Canadians summit in Ottawa.
” I was now not only fighting for what I believed in. I was fighting for what we believe in but on a personal public stage.” he told the conference at the National Arts Centre.
“This fight is no greater, no better, no more laudable or pronounced than the fight we have all been fighting for years and years, decade after decade,” said Justice McLeod, founder of the FBC.
“W e have all fought systems in our personal journeys and lived experience. The only difference with mine is that it was uniquely public.”
He said that “the powers that be did not expect rallies in Vancouver, Alberta, Ottawa and Toronto. ..There was no understanding that even the very venue that the hearing was to be held in would have to be changed due to lack of capacity. They had to create a bigger hearing room, an overflow room with a video link and then an overflow room for the overflow room.
“That day we spoke loud. I’m Black and I’m proud- Nous sommes noirs et nous sommes fieres.The community spoke and the system shifted.”
“I believe when this community speaks, the system shifts. But we must speak as one in purpose. Our messages can and should be different I believe but our purpose must be unified or else change will not occur,” he said.
Justice McLeod had been accused of failing to uphold integrity, impartiality and independence of the judiciary when he communicated with and met with politicians on behalf of the FBC.
But in its ruling last December, the Ontario Judicial Council wrote that although his actions were “incompatible with judicial office,” they did not impact “the public’s confidence in his ability to perform the duties of office.”
The ruling noted a meeting between black community leaders and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2017 to “discuss the mental health, corrections and education challenges black people face in Canada.” The meeting was chaired by Justice McLeod.
However, the “the advocacy and political activity that Justice McLeod engaged in were not prolonged and they were conducted in a measured and respectful manner,” the ruling noted.
The FBC is described as a non-profit organization to advance the social, economic, political and cultural interests of Canadians of African descent. McLeod left the organization in June
The National Black Canadians summit which was held February 2-4, was organized by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, in partnership with the FBC and the Somali Centre for Family Services.