Court hears case of Harold Jonker, town councilor punished for supporting Freedom Convoy

HAMILTON, ON: The Justice Centre announces that the Divisional Court of Ontario will hear the case of Jonker v. Township of West Lincoln on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. ET in courtroom #600 of the John Sopinka Courthouse.Harold Jonker, truck driver and owner/operator of a trucking company, was an elected town councilor for the town of West Lincoln in Ontario’s Niagara Region when he decided to attend the peaceful Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa in early 2022.For his participation in the protest, an anonymous complaint was submitted against him. The West Lincoln town council launched an investigation into whether Mr. Jonker’s participation in the protests breached the Township’s Code of Conduct. The town’s Integrity Commissioner determined that the protest was illegal, and concluded that the Code of Conduct had been breached as a result. On July 18, 2022, the Council decided to fine Mr. Jonker 30 days’ pay for his participation in the protest, and they demanded that Mr. Jonker pay back the value of any food or gasoline that was donated to him while he participated in the protest.On September 23, 2022, lawyers provided to Mr. Jonker by the Justice Centre filed a lawsuit seeking a judicial review of the Township’s decision, claiming that his Charter rights to free expression, protest and association had been unjustifiably limited by the Township, which had failed to consider his Charterrights as they debated whether to sanction him. Mr. Jonker says he attended the peaceful Freedom Convoy protest as a trucker, not as an elected official.“The Integrity Commissioner’s report relies on many allegations about the Freedom Convoy, none of which have been proven in a court of law,” Mr. Jonker said at a Council meeting. “I went to the protest as a truck driver and as a company owner to support what I believe was a peaceful, lawful demonstration.”James Manson, lawyer for Mr. Jonker, stated, “Whenever a government decision-maker issues a ruling that infringes someone’s Charter rights or freedoms, the government must ensure that Charter rights and freedoms are violated as little as possible, that the decision is rational, and that its benefits outweigh the harms. In this case, the Township completely failed to do so; accordingly, its decision to punish Mr. Jonker for having participated in the Freedom Convoy protest was unreasonable. I am confident that the Court will agree with Mr. Jonker’s position and make it clear that what happened to Mr. Jonker should not happen in a democratic society.”For media inquiries, please contact media@jccf.ca.

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