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‘Your ancestors probably scalped him’: Kenora justice of the peace to face hearing over ‘racist’ remarks

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A Kenora justice of the peace is facing a public discipline hearing over remarks he made in court that have been described as racist toward Indigenous people, on top of other allegations of bad courtroom behaviour.

As the Star first reported last year, Justice of the Peace Robert McNally was the subject of at least two complaints over a comment he made to lawyer Shannon McDunnough, who is Mi’kmaq, in bail court in August 2017.

Justice of the Peace Robert McNally will face a discipline hearing in Toronto in January.
Justice of the Peace Robert McNally will face a discipline hearing in Toronto in January.  (Facebook)

The JP had made a joke that nobody knew who late British comedian Benny Hill was. When McDunnough replied that she did, McNally responded, “Your ancestors probably scalped him or something,” according to a court transcript.

The Justices of the Peace Review Council, the independent body tasked with investigating and disciplining JPs, announced this week that McNally will face a hearing in Toronto in January.

The council said it received three complaints about the justice of the peace.

Aside from the comment he made to McDunnough, McNally also responded to an unidentified male in a different bail court proceeding in August 2017 with: “I’m keeping my mouth shut on that one. That’s some kind of a Indigenous thing?” according to a transcript.

“You made comments that appeared to reflect pre-conceived notions about First Nations persons and that could be perceived as racist, ridiculing or mocking toward First Nations persons in a manner that suggests cultural insensitivity,” says the notice of hearing from the review council, laying out the allegations of judicial misconduct against McNally.

The allegations have not yet been proven.

“As this matter is now before the council for a hearing we can’t comment on the allegations or evidence,” McNally’s lawyer, Howard Rubel, told the Star. “But His Worship is overwhelmed by, and very grateful for, the strong outpouring of support from so many members of the community where he sits, and the court participants he has worked with on a daily basis.”

Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services, McDunnough’s employer, and Grand Council Treaty No. 3, which represents 28 First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, last year filed a joint complaint over McNally’s remarks.

The complaint also said the Kenora bail court “deals predominantly with Indigenous persons who are incarcerated at an astonishing rate in that district” and at any given time 90 to 95 per cent of men remanded into custody in the northwestern Ontario city’s jail are Indigenous.

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association also filed a complaint last year, calling McNally’s comment to McDunnough “culturally insensitive, racist, and entirely inappropriate.”

McDunnough could not be reached for comment this week.

Justices of the peace, who earn about $132,000 a year, are appointed by the provincial government. Dressed in black robes and green sashes, they conduct bail hearings, sign off on search warrants and preside over trials in provincial offences court, which deals with non-criminal matters.

McNally was appointed by the NDP government in 1993.

The review council has also accused McNally of failing to ensure accused persons were afforded due process, including in two cases that involved McDunnough when she was acting as duty counsel, a legal-aid funded lawyer who can appear for people who are unrepresented.

“When Ms. McDunnough attempted to set out the applicable law, you stated ‘Don’t argue with me. If you want to appeal that, go ahead, but that’s the way it is.’ Later, when Ms. McDunnough tried to cite case law from the Supreme Court of Canada, you stated ‘You’re actually quoting that stuff to me? Seriously?’” says the notice of hearing regarding one case.

“You appeared to attempt to provoke and intimidate Ms. McDunnough, inferring that if she persisted with her legal argument, her client would be detained a further week, as that was the date when you were next available.”

McNally is also accused of acting in a manner that was “rude, dismissive, confrontational, condescending, impatient and sarcastic” in a number of other cases, including allegedly making “inappropriate and gratuitous comments” to another female duty counsel, “including a comment that appeared to demonstrate sexism.”

McNally’s discipline hearing will be conducted by a three-member panel: a provincial court judge, a justice of the peace and community member. If found guilty of judicial misconduct, possible sanctions include a reprimand, paid or unpaid suspension, or a recommendation to the attorney general that McNally be fired.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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