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Law society dismisses complaint over lawyer's convoy protest tweets

Alberta lawyer Keith Wilson, left, was a common sight during the winter 2022 convoy protests in the nation's capital. According to a document obtained by Radio-Canada, that province's law society has dismissed a complaint made about Wilson's conduct during the weeks-long demonstrations. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters - image credit)
Alberta lawyer Keith Wilson, left, was a common sight during the winter 2022 convoy protests in the nation's capital. According to a document obtained by Radio-Canada, that province's law society has dismissed a complaint made about Wilson's conduct during the weeks-long demonstrations. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters - image credit)

The Law Society of Alberta has dismissed a code of conduct complaint filed almost two years ago against one of that province's lawyers in connection with tweets he made during the 2022 convoy protest in Ottawa.

In a December 2023 document obtained by Radio-Canada, the law society said Keith Wilson was remorseful and committed to doing better in the future.

Wilson was a familiar face during the 2022 demonstrations in the nation's capital. At the time, he was part of the legal team for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), a Calgary-based charity that was representing some of the convoy organizers.

The complaint against him was filed with the law society by Ottawa human rights lawyer Richard Warman in February 2022.

Warman alleged that Wilson engaged "in trivialization of the Holocaust by retweeting material comparing Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler," using the hashtag #FreeTamara — a reference to convoy organizer Tamara Lich, who was under arrest at the time.

According to Warman, Wilson's posts violated different code of conduct rules, including one that requires lawyers in the course of their professional practice to not communicate with anyone in a way that's abusive or offensive.

A demonstrator waves a flag in Ottawa on Jan. 28, 2022, as a truck convoy protesting COVID-19 mandates fills Wellington Street. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Warman also alleged that Wilson posted "material inciting police officers to disobey their oath to uphold and enforce the law because it would benefit his clients."

One tweet Wilson posted included video of an Edmonton police officer who was supporting the truckers and thanking them "for standing up to police officers."

"To the several hundred extra police now massing in Ottawa to soon raid/arrest their fellow Canadians protesting for Charter rights, watch this video. Decide which side of history you are on. The world is watching," Wilson wrote on Twitter in February 2022.

Warman alleged that breached the code of conduct, since lawyers acting as advocates must encourage public respect for the administration of justice and represent their clients "within the limits of the law."

Wilson 'candid and remorseful'

The law society's conduct committee opted to investigate the complaint by holding a private meeting between Wilson and a member of its board known as a "bencher."

That approach is typically used to see if a lawyer understands their "ethical obligations," according to the society's website, and to provide direction on how to "better address similar issues in the future."

The committee then decides if a further disciplinary hearing is needed.

According to the decision that Radio-Canada obtained, the bencher indicated Wilson had apologized for his conduct and accepted responsibility.

Wilson was "courteous, civil, candid and remorseful" throughout the investigative process, the document said. He said he was "committed to doing better and will be more careful in the future," and also acknowledged that society expects lawyers to encourage public respect for the administration of justice.

That left the bencher satisfied that Wilson understood his "ethical obligation to be civil and express his beliefs with dignified restraint," according to the document.

It was for those reasons, the document said, that the conduct committee decided to dismiss the complaint and close the file.

Keith Wilson speaks during a news conference as truckers and supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Ottawa on Feb. 3, 2022. Beside him are protest organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber.
Keith Wilson speaks during a news conference as truckers and supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Ottawa on Feb. 3, 2022. Beside him are protest organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber.

Wilson, left, speaks during a Feb. 3, 2022, news conference alongside protest organizers Chris Barber and Tamara Lich. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Decision 'incomprehensible,' says complainant

In a statement to Radio-Canada, Wilson said the law society was not concerned "about the positions I took on behalf of my clients, from which I have never wavered."

"The only question was the specific words that I chose to express those positions," Wilson wrote. "The complaint was dismissed."

The JCCF, which employed Wilson at the time of the complaint, did not respond to Radio-Canada's questions.

Warman told Radio-Canada that both the messages Wilson posted and the law society's decision were unacceptable.

"When you are a lawyer and you encourage police officers to break the law for the benefit of your clients, I think it's a scandal," Warman said.

It was "incomprehensible"  that the law society gave Wilson "basically a tap on the wrist," he added.

"I don't understand how that encourages public respect for the Law Society of Alberta's ability to govern their own members and to uphold professional conduct," Warman said.