An accountant who participated in the “Freedom Convoy” is suing two lawyers who represent other protest organizers, alleging they negligently failed to warn him of the potential legal risk of his involvement.
Chad Eros, who set up a not-for-profit corporation to receive contributions to the convoy, on Tuesday launched legal action against lawyers Keith Wilson, Eva Chipiuk and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, an Alberta-based legal charity.
His lawsuit is the latest in a series of disputes between key Freedom Convoy organizers as they try to defend a potential class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of downtown Ottawa residents and businesses.
Eros alleges in the statement-of-claim filed in Moose Jaw, Sask., that Wilson and Chipiuk failed to advise him that participating in the protest could expose him to “criminal or quasi criminal charges.”
He claims he had a solicitor-client relationship with the two lawyers, who assured him the protest was entirely legal and protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but failed to warn of the legal jeopardy.
“Mr. Wilson and Ms. Chipiuk received an internal JCCF memo which warned of considerable risk of criminal charges laid against protesters and yet they failed to advise Chad of this memo and failed to provide advice in a timely way,” the lawsuit alleges.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court and none of the defendants has yet filed a response. Neither Wilson, Chipiuk nor the JCCF responded to requests for comment from CTV News on Thursday.
The lawsuit alleges negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
Eros claims that Wilson initially encouraged his involvement in Freedom Corp. 2022, a federal corporation he set up to legally receive and distribute donations through crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and GiveSendGo. He later became treasurer of the corporation.
But Eros says their relationship soured after he challenged Wilson over his request to access some of those funds to pay his legal fees to defend the lawsuit, which had put into escrow under court order.
“Mr. Wilson began to marginalize Chad and other Board members including asserting that Chad was a troublemaker,” the lawsuit says.
He was eventually removed from the Freedom Corp. 2022 board, he says.
Eros remains a defendant in the Ottawa lawsuit, along with dozens of other convoy participants, including Tamara Lich, Chris Barber and Tom Mazzaro, who are represented by Wilson. Last year, the Ontario Superior Court agreed to release $450,000 of frozen funds to pay for their legal fees.
Two other organizers named in the lawsuit, B.J. Dichter and Chris Garrah, also tried to win access to $200,000 of the frozen funds to pay for their defence but their request was denied by the court.
Downtown Ottawa resident Zexi Li is the lead plaintiff in the litigation against the convoy organizers and, potentially, financial supporters of the protest that occupied the city for three weeks in January and February.