Lawsuit reinstated against former Ottawa police chief

·2 min read

A lawsuit involving the head of Ottawa's police union and the former Ottawa Police Service chief has been reinstated by the Ontario Court of Appeal, after it was originally thrown out of the Superior Court in 2019.

Matt Skof, who is still president of the Ottawa Police Association (OPA), filed a $500,000 claim against Charles Bordeleau last March. In it, Skof claimed Bordeleau barred him from police buildings in an attempt to sabotage his reputation.

Bordeleau had suspended Skof two months earlier, after the Ontario Provincial Police charged Skof for breach of trust and obstruction of justice when it was alleged he discussed unsubstantiated claims about Coun. Eli El-Chantiry and sensitive details of an ongoing police investigation.

In December 2019, Justice Marc Labrosse ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction over the dispute, that it was better handled under the collective agreement and the Police Services Act. That is also what Bordeleau and the police board had argued.

Judges say court can see the case

In its decision dated Nov. 17, the three-judge panel for the Ontario Court of Appeal sided with Skof's lawyers who argued that he was not subject to the collective agreement, because in order to take the position as head of the union, he was required to take leave from his duties as an officer.

The decision also disagreed with the original thought of Justice Labrosse that Skof could use the Police Services Act as an alternative means to appeal his suspension. The decision noted that there is no provision in the act that permits an officer to challenge a suspension ordered by a chief of police under Section 89, which deals with suspensions due to criminal activity.

"The appellant's action is not simply an action for judicial review. It is an action for different heads of relief including claims for damages for Charter breaches and for misfeasance in public office," wrote Justice Ian Nordheimer, on behalf of the panel.

"In fact, read generously, the statement of the claim appears to call into question whether Bordeleau had the authority to use [Section 89] to suspend the appellant, given his position."

Skof is now entitled to his costs of the appeal in the fixed amount of $14,000, and the costs of the award made by the previous judge will now be in favour of him.