Peel Regional Police are investigating after a virtual court hearing involving Waterloo regional police was repeatedly interrupted Tuesday by Zoom bombers who hijacked the meeting and posted pornographic images and swastikas.
The civil matter of Donovan vs. the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board et al. was taking place in a virtual courtroom based out of Brampton.
Kelly Donovan has alleged the police service, her former employer, breached her resignation agreement by appealing her Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Benefit claim. Donovan also alleges the service violated the confidentiality terms of their agreement.
Those allegations have not been proven in court.
On Monday, Donovan — who is a public speaker and has been featured in national media on policing issues — had emailed the hearing Zoom link and login details to local media and posted it on her public Twitter page.
As lawyer Donald Jarvis for the defense was summarizing his position Tuesday morning, unknown people attending over Zoom repeatedly interrupted the proceedings by sharing their screen to reveal screenshots from pornographic websites and crude drawings of swastikas.
"I gotta stop you, because on my screen came sexual references and a swastika," Justice Thomas Bielby told the lawyer.
This happened several more times, as court staff attempted to eject those responsible from the meeting.
After the morning break, the situation appeared to be resolved.
Donovan told CBC News she shared the Zoom link to keep the public informed, and believes the hearing was targeted because it was a case involving police.
She said she has no regrets about sharing the link.
"Obviously the participants in that call were abusive and offensive, [but] anyone and everyone should be allowed to attend a court proceeding that is open to the public and then you deal with the conduct as it happens," said Donovan.
Const. Danny Marttini, a spokesperson for Peel police, confirmed to CBC News Tuesday afternoon the service is investigating the incident.
In a physical courtroom, anyone who disrupts proceedings would be subjected to contempt of court charges, said Kathryn Manning, co-chair of Ontario's task force on court e-hearings. She told CBC News these incidents are relatively rare, and it's important to ensure continued public access to the courts during the pandemic.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General said videoconferencing platforms used for remote hearings are intended to ensure access to justice, but come with their own set of challenges.
The spokesperson said the ministry will review security mechanisms with court staff to ensure that future proceedings are not interrupted by offensive material.