Convoy doctor-in-training suspended after undercover probe

An undercover investigation launched by Ontario's medical oversight agency found that a former Ottawa neurology resident misrepresented himself as a fully licensed doctor and provided medical services to dozens of patients during the 2022 convoy protests.

Jeremiah Hadwen is now suspended from practising medicine in the province following a recent ruling by the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) disciplinary body that described his actions as "disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional."

A disciplinary decision filed earlier this month by the CPSO details how Hadwen set up shop in an Ottawa biker church in February 2022.

There, Hadwen met patients, promoted a drug that courted controversy during the pandemic and in one case performed a medical injection — although the college didn't say what medicine was used.

Hadwen, who could not be reached for comment, initially denied wrongdoing before ultimately admitting his medical misconduct to the college.

Doctor promoted by protest leaders

Hadwen first entered the public eye during a press conference held the first week of what became known as the Freedom Convoy, when his services were promoted alongside key convoy leaders Chris Barber and Tamara Lich.

At the press conference, which aired by video, Brigette Belton, a trucker and organizer who testified at the Public Order Emergencies Commission into the federal government's use of the Emergency Act to end the protests, described Hadwen as a doctor available to participants in the convoy.

"We have a doctor for truck drivers and those that may not be able to get medical help," Belton said in the video.

She said Hadwen was a general practitioner who "lost his position due to COVID mandates." She then gave out his phone number and the website to his clinic, Providence Health Centre, telling supporters he's available to "anybody that's looking for a doctor who is also like-minded."

Court documents show Hadwen was a third-year neurology resident at the University of Ottawa with a postgraduate education certificate from the CPSO that expired in June 2022.

A screengrab of a press conference held by organizers of what became the Freedom Convoy, including Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, on Feb. 7, 2022 where Hadwen was promoted.
A screengrab of a Feb. 7, 2022, press conference held by organizers of what became known as the Freedom Convoy. Hadwen's services were promoted during that press conference. (Facebook )

After the press conference, Hadwen clarified in a post on Providence Health Centre's website that he was "not a GP as was indicated by the Freedom Convoy's leaders" but that he had a medical doctorate and PhD in medicine.

He wrote he was halfway through residency training before he was "sidelined due to the vaccine mandates."

"I am helping people as a 'Health Consultant', and I do not officially use the title 'Doctor' when helping people," he wrote.

Ontario requires physicians practising medicine to be registered with the CPSO, and is given its authority to do so through the Regulated Health Professions Act and the Medicine Act.

In the same post, Hadwen also wrote that he provided basic physical exams, health education and health advocacy for people who had difficulty accessing medical care or "do not trust the medical system."

"I cannot prescribe or write requisitions, and I focus mostly on using lifestyle counselling and herbal medicine," the post said.

He wrote he had "several affiliated prescribing doctors" available but they were not "directly employed or part of Providence Health Centre."

At the time, the website — which was also littered with biblical references and imagery — stated the clinic intended to purchase "several point of care diagnostic machines to assist in screening for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and anemia."

It listed fees ranging from $25 to $40 and said the clinic was accepting donations to fund the purchase of diagnostic machines.

"We are typically fee-for-service," Hadwen wrote in the post. "But with regards to the Freedom Convoy we are operating on a donation basis."

Melissa McKee, co-pastor at the Capital City Biker’s Church that became a hub for people during the “Freedom Convoy,” and who has continued to support adjacent movement.
Melissa McKee, co-pastor at the Capital City Bikers' Church, said in a statement that during the protests they offered 'a health consultant to tend to people's physical well-being at a time where many were in need.' (CBC)

Concerns raised, undercover operation launched

The publicity of Hadwen's mention in the Feb. 7 video — watched by supporters as well as detractors of the Freedom Convoy, and reported on by media — soon led to the CPSO's involvement.

The college hired an investigative agency who had an employee pose as a Freedom Convoy participant and make an appointment with Hadwen.

He did so in the midst of the 2022 protests, contacting them Feb. 11.

During a Feb. 14 phone call with a self-described nurse at Providence Health Centre prior to the appointment, the investigator was told most people survive COVID-19 "quite well" and "without any concerns," according to the CPSO decision.

After delays communicated through emails between Providence Health staff, including being told Hadwen was ill and a facility was still being prepared, an appointment was made for Feb. 21 for a $180 fee.

Between contacting Hadwen and getting an appointment, the federal government announced the use of the Emergencies Act and police launched a major operation to clear Ottawa's downtown.

The appointment was finally made at a church just outside Ottawa's core, known for its continued support of both the Freedom Convoy and its efforts to oppose COVID-19 measures.

Bikers' Church hosted clinic

Posing as a Nova Scotian who travelled to the city with a trucker friend, the investigator arrived at the Capital City Bikers' Church, a sprawling building in the city's Vanier neighbourhood.

Over the course of government-mandated pandemic lockdowns, the church defied laws by keeping its doors open for congregations and for shoppers at its free store.

It soon became a frequent meeting spot for Freedom Convoy supporters, among others, as its ample space allowed for a variety of activities and gatherings.

"The entire existence of Bikers' Church is based on helping people live healthy lives. This includes both spiritually and physically," said Melissa McKee, a co-pastor at the church in a statement on Wednesday. "During the convoy, we decided to do what we always do—feed, clothe and love people where they were at.

"We also provided a space for a health consultant to tend to people's physical well being at a time where many were in need."

A screengrab taken from the Providence Health Centre website, showing an image of a Bible.
A screengrab taken from the Providence Health Centre website, showing an image of a Bible. (CBC)

The CPSO investigator arrived at the church for his appointment, ready to record with a digital recorder tucked into a breast pocket.

During the exam, Hadwen took a medical history, performed a physical exam, provided information about a skin condition and high blood pressure and gave advice about treating COVID-19.

Hadwen told the investigator he disagreed with forcing people to take vaccines, explaining that the CPSO had a "tyrannical grasp" on the medical system and acted in a manner like "communism" because of how it treated physicians against vaccine mandates.

Hadwen said he was in the process of opening a clinic in Winchester, Ont., and that he brought his equipment to the Biker's Church a couple of weeks earlier to help the protesters.

The church had long provided space for Girl Guides events, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, weekly prayer sessions and jiu jitsu classes, McKee said.

What Hadwen offered was "no different," she said.

"We provided a kitchen for a chef to cook from, a place for people to rest, charge phones, offered warm meals, a space for donated items to be sorted, stored and given out as needed," her statement said.

Denied allegations, didn't co-operate with authorities

Hadwen was told he was under investigation by the CPSO in March 2022 and asked to provide a response by the end of the month.

In April 2022, Hadwen denied contravening the terms of his registration.

"I have not engaged in any professional communications or conduct in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, so there is nothing for the CPSO to investigate in this regard," he wrote in that response.

After learning of the undercover operation in follow-ups with the College, Hadwen doubled down on his denial of providing unregulated services.

"I did not hold myself out as a physician in my interactions with this individual, or any other individual who I saw in my capacity as an employee of Providence Health Centre," he told them in May 2022.

At the same time, he refused the CPSO's request to turn over patient charts from people he saw at the health centre until he had received permission from the clients.

Weeks later, he told the CPSO none of them had given that consent.

The college continued to tell Hadwen he was obligated to turn the records over, and in June 2022 launched a second investigation — this time into his lack of co-operation.

That same month, the CPSO chose not to renew his medical licence.

Eventually, in February 2023 — one year after the Freedom Convoy and the time of the original allegations— Hadwen's unwillingness to co-operate led to that matter being passed to the college's discipline tribunal.

Having hired new legal counsel, Hadwen argued that providing the college with the medical records was against his religious beliefs and he could not breach them.

Neil Abramson, Hadwen's lawyer, said in a statement his client "unwittingly exceeded the terms of his educational licence" and was "provided with erroneous legal advice" about the CPSO's jurisdiction and authority to request records.

"While this has been a painful lesson to learn, particularly so early in his medical career, Dr. Hadwen is optimistic that, in time, he will indeed be able to make a  meaningful contribution to the practice of medicine in Ontario," the statement said.

But by August 2023, he reversed his position and turned over records for 41 patients.

Protesters are seen during the trucker convoy that gripped Ottawa for weeks during the winter of 2022.
Protesters are seen during the trucker convoy that gripped Ottawa for weeks during the winter of 2022. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Practised medicine on 30 people

Those medical records were reviewed by a senior doctor, who found 30 of the 41 patients had medicine practised on them, the CPSO decision said.

Hadwen was found to have shared a diagnosis with 24 patients, given one an injection and put an "instrument into an artificial opening" into another's body.

The CPSO investigative records show for one of the patients coming to visit, the main reason was "to get ivermectin," a drug Health Canada issued an advisory about during the pandemic, asking people not to take it to treat COVID-19 after reports that some people were taking the veterinary form of the medicine intended for livestock.

Hadwen provided a treatment plan for the patient that included 24 milligrams of ivermectin, daily for five days, alongside a mix of other potential remedies like vitamins.

This was "not performed under appropriate delegation and supervision," the records show.

During the Feb. 21 examination, Hadwen commented on the use of the drug, telling the undercover investigator that the CPSO's punishment for ivermectin's use was "the stupidest restriction" because it was "an extremely safe medication."

Misconduct 'serious and unacceptable'

In its decision on June 20, 2024, the Ontario Physicians and Surgeons Discipline Tribunal reprimanded Hadwen.

"As members of the public and physicians, we are deeply troubled by the misconduct that has led to your being here today," the tribunal said.

They criticized him for "repeatedly, over a period of more than a year," withholding his co-operation with the college's investigation into his practise.

In last week's decision, Hadwen admitted to his medical misconduct, the tribunal said.

He was found to have contravened a term of his licence, committed an act that was disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional and failed to respond to the CPSO either appropriately or within a reasonable time.

Hadwen has now been fined $8,000 and ordered to participate in ethics training. He will also have to reapply to practise again, once his eight-month suspension that began June 21 is up.

"Your misconduct is serious and unacceptable," his reprimand said. "It is a violation of your professional responsibilities and of the trust that the public places in you."