As 2023 wraps up, we're taking a moment to reflect on the incredible journey we've had at The Democracy Fund. We do not receive any funding from the government – we are 100% donor-funded, and we couldn't have made an impact without your generous support.
In case you missed it, we've compiled a comprehensive year-end overview of our work championing civil liberties in Canada.
Our mandate requires us to work in the courtroom, media, education, and generally through freedom-fighting events. And in 2023, we did just that.
Take a look below, and if you think our work was necessary, please donate so we can be strong in 2024.
The Democracy Fund's 2023 Year In Review:
Table of contents:
In 2023, our social media posts have received over 15,000,000 views, and we currently have over 61,000 followers and more than 17,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletter!
- This year, we have helped 1,139 Canadians, achieving a 70% success rate.
- We have saved our clients almost $11,250,000 in COVID-related fines, bringing our total up to $56,000,000!
- TDF's work has been highlighted in over 100 news stories in both print and video which have garnered over 8,000,000 views!
- Our team has been interviewed by various news agencies, including Rebel News, True North, Western Standard, Epoch Times, CBC, and CTV. Our accomplished legal team has actively engaged in media interviews, playing a pivotal role in educating the public about legal proceedings and developments in civil liberties issues within Canada.
- In 2023, we continued to provide legal representation to Canadians charged during the Freedom Convoys.
- We've initiated a fundraising campaign to support Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich. We are committed to covering Lich's legal battle, including the ongoing criminal trial and any forthcoming appeals. The current trial was expected to last only about 14 days but is now stretching deep into 2024.
- We have represented 24 clients criminally charged in relation to the Freedom Convoy protests, most of whom have had their charges withdrawn or received discharges. Our sole conviction is under appeal.
- We helped fourteen truckers in Coutts, Alberta, who were charged with a municipal law that did not apply to their alleged conduct. All charges were withdrawn, and we continue to represent over a dozen more truckers charged in connection to the Coutts protests.
- We continued to represent over a thousand clients in provinces across Canada charged with the Quarantine Act and COVID-19 related offences. In Ontario and British Columbia alone, we have successfully had charges withdrawn, stayed, or achieved acquittals for 650 clients.
- Stays for our clients include a 60-year-old grandfather who faced $11,140 in fines, and a 59-year-old decorated military veteran threatened with a $5,750 fine, both for crossing the border after seeking medical treatment in the US.
- We helped small business owners, such as Jesse Johnson of Without Papers Pizza, Chris Scott of the Whistle Stop Cafe, and Joan Rejzek of Buds on Broadway, with their COVID-era charges: many were either dropped or thrown out of court.
- We successfully defended churches and pastors who were repeatedly fined, jailed, and punished by the courts because of COVID-19 restrictions, including Pastor Phillip James Hutchings, and Pastor Tracy Fortin and Church in the Vine of Edmonton.
- We continued to fight for religious freedom by representing pastor Derek Reimer, who was charged with trespassing for praying in a municipal building after it was deemed a "religious event without a permit."
- We are also funding the appeal of Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who was convicted for giving a sermon to the truckers in Coutts, Alberta, during the Freedom Convoy protests.
- TDF is representing Dr. Roger Hodkinson with respect to three complaints. The first complaint relates to allegations that he breached his Code of Ethics when making comments about pandemic measures to Edmonton's municipal counsel. That complaint is scheduled for a hearing in April 2024. A second complaint alleges that he participated in illegal gatherings, and a third complaint alleges that he failed to respond to communications from the CPSA. These latter two complaints have not yet resulted in disciplinary proceedings.
- We have successfully represented teachers, doctors and nurses such as Chanel Pfahl, Dr. Kulvinder Kaur Gill, and Dr. Ian DePass for disciplinary matters arising from dissenting speech brought against them by their professional regulators.
- We also successfully defended an Ontario teacher accused of failing to use pronouns in his classroom.
- We have continued to represent students who had issues with their college or universities due to the school's COVID-19 vaccination policies – one of these cases was an unvaccinated single mom with an exemption. She is now able to finish her college education and attend post-grad studies after TDF lawyers got involved.
- TDF’s fight on the educational front has also extended to school boards. Presently, we are representing former Red Deer school trustee Monique LeGrange in a judicial review of sanctions placed upon her after she posted a meme on her personal social media account that some people found offensive. We are also judicially reviewing LeGrange’s expulsion from the school board by other trustees after she allegedly breached the aforesaid sanctions.
- We sent lawyers to Toronto and Ottawa for the 1 Million March 4 Children for the purpose of providing legal information and summary advice to attendees about the rights of free expression and peaceful protest.
- Our lawyers represented two men charged by the City of Calgary for allegedly breaching a city by-law against "interfering with the comfort, convenience or quiet use and enjoyment of the transit system." The men were engaged in a private conversation while en route to the 1 Million March 4 Children and were charged after an unknown transit user complained to police. Once TDF got involved, the City of Calgary dropped all charges against the two men.
- We successfully defended a Windsor lawyer against allegations that he failed to enforce provincial masking requirements in his law office. He was charged in December 2020 under the Reopening Ontario Act, which required businesses to enforce masking.
- Our lawyers have secured a withdrawal of criminal charges against a disabled maskless shopper in New Brunswick.
- We have funded outside lawyers to take on civil liberties-oriented cases, such as a passenger who removed his mask after struggling to breathe during a flight to Calgary in July 2021. The client was eventually acquitted of breaching regulations under the Aeronautics Act.
- TDF has taken on free speech cases, such as defending a teenager who hung posters at a public high school that contained a QR code linking to a video that, it is alleged, was hateful towards the transgender community.
- TDF lawyers met with the United Nations to express concerns about the proposed UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) online censorship plan. We will formalize our concerns in a letter, and UNESCO agreed to meet with us again to continue discussions.
- We sent litigation director Alan Honner as a delegate to the regional government of Waterloo to urge them against passing an anti-free speech by-law. The amendments come into force on January 1, 2024, whereupon TDF will consider representing persons charged with the by-law on a case-by-case basis.
We were thrilled to have put together our second annual Student Journalism Conference, where we flew in dozens of young students to Toronto for a three-day intensive journalism boot camp. Students heard from leading speakers from independent media across the world, and some of these students have already been hired in newsrooms across the country!
The theme of this year's conference was "Fighting Censorship" – a crucial battle Canadian journalists have been forced to face due to the government's online censorship.
- This year, we hosted our second annual Student Journalism Conference in Toronto, attended by over 20 young Canadians interested in pursuing a career in civil liberties-oriented journalism and 13 speakers.
- Speakers at the Journalism Conference included Ezra Levant and Sheila Gunn Reid of Rebel News, Andrew Lawton of True North, lawyer Sarah Miller, David Menzies, Derek Fildebrandt, Rodney Palmer, David Haskell, and several others.
- After TDF concluded its historic role in the public inquiry into the government's use of emergency powers against the Freedom Convoy trucker protests, we have remained committed to promoting transparency and increasing public understanding of legal proceedings.
- We have kept a close watch on numerous civil liberties issues in Canada and have published public statements expressing our concerns about internet censorship and free speech.
We worked with Canadian author and historian Conrad Black to launch Forgotten History: Civil Rights in Canada, a book disputing the perception that freedom is merely an 'American concept.'
- Not only have we fundraised for Tamara Lich's legal battle, but our team of lawyers have been reporting live from the courtroom in Ottawa every day of the trial. We have been live-posting on X (formerly known as Twitter) and publishing daily trial summaries and legal analyses on our website.
We've continued to put out animated educational videos as part of our Civil Liberties 101 series, which provide an informative and engaging way to learn more about our rights and freedoms.
In addition to our own journalism conference, we also participated in other freedom-oriented events such as:
- The 1 Million March 4 Children in both Toronto and Ottawa – a rally hosted in dozens of cities across North America against gender ideology taught in schools. TDF sent lawyers for the purpose of providing legal information and summary advice to attendees about the rights of free expression and peaceful protest.
- We Unify Reclaiming Canada Conference in Victoria, BC – the largest freedom conference in Canada. Our litigation director, Alan Honner, gave a talk about exercising the right of dissent responsibly. Participating in and presenting at Canada's largest freedom conference is of great importance to TDF as it provides a platform to foster civil liberties-related discussions and uphold freedom of speech, vital principles for a thriving democracy.
- True North Nation in Calgary, Alberta. True North is one of the most popular Canadian digital media platforms that seeks to provide Canadians with fair, accurate, truthful and fact-based news reports. TDF was honoured to have participated in True North's first live event.
- Rebel News LIVE! in Calgary, Alberta. Our senior litigator, Mark Joseph, participated in this event, which is believed to be the "most interesting" and "most freedom-oriented" conference in Canada.
As we wrap up the year, we extend a warm and resounding THANK YOU for being there with us.
Donate on this page now to help us reach our goal of raising $50,000!
We look forward to continuing this important work in the coming year and hope you will continue supporting us in our efforts.
Remember, we are 100% donor-funded – we DO NOT receive any government funding! Please stand with us as we continue the fight for our rights into next year, and please consider making a tax-deductible donation on this page to help us get in shape to fight the censorship and freedom of speech battles coming in 2024.
About The Democracy Fund:
Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.