The Law Society of B.C. has advised members not to notarize documents that may be presented at their office by Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants.
"We advise lawyers to recognize OPCA litigants and recommend that lawyers refuse to notarize their documents and not further their attack on legitimate court processes, authority and staff," the LSBC advised in its spring 2017 Benchers' Bulletin.
OPCA litigants consider themselves “sovereign or natural citizens” or members of the Freeman-on-the-Land movement or “de-taxers.” They argue that Canada's laws do not pertain to them as they eschew any government documentation or identity. Instead, they claim the only true law stems from the Bible. The movements, rooted in the U.S., are led by gurus, or leaders, who host seminars on how to avoid complying with Canada's laws.
Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Rooke coined the term "Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument" litigant in 2012 in his much-cited judgment Meads v. Meads, 2012 ABQB 571, where he sets out group characteristics, their arguments, gurus and failed court cases.
Alberta lawyer Donald J. Netolitzky has more recently researched and published on OPCA litigant movement and arguments. In a 2016 article, looking at the history of the movement, Netolitzky notes "why it is important for Canadians to take notice of this movement due to potential security risks."
He also authored a paper — “OPCA in Canada; an Attack on the Legal System” — in 2016.
Along with Justice Rooke, in 2016, he co-published A Judicial Guide to OPCA Litigation: Tips and Tricks for members of the judiciary. Netolitzky examined 725 reported Canadian court decisions that involved OPCA litigation in some form. The four most common use of the OPCA theory is as a defence in criminal prosecution, income tax litigation, debt avoidance attempts and attacks to enforce fictitious OPCA-based rights.
Despite losing cases or having complaints repeatedly tossed out of courts across Canada, OPCA litigation has continued, including in B.C. and Alberta, often accompanied by a barrage of legal documents.
In January, an OPCA litigant tried to bring a claim for more than $2.5 million in damages and a finding of trespass against a B.C. provincial court judge. The Federal Court, the jurisdiction in which the complainant filed, tossed it.
Lawyer Ron Usher, general counsel for the Society Of Notaries Public Of British Columbia, who follows OPCA litigations, said the ability to bring forward suits can be intimidating to individuals.
In September 2016, Edmonton police charged an alleged Freeman-on-the-Land member with "paper terrorism" after he began a litigation campaign directed at a police officer who stopped him for speeding. The man attempted unsuccessfully to put a $225,000 lien
on the officer's home. Police charged the man with intimidation of a justice system participant.
In the RCMP's 2016-issued "Terrorism and Violent Extreme Awareness Guide,” which is a list of extremist groups and their characteristics in Canada, the Freeman-on-the-Land movement is known for its quasi-legal actions. "In the past few years, freeman filed liens on property owned by judges, both in the U.S. and Canada," the guide said.
In March, a Kelowna OPCA litigant was the subject of a BC Supreme Court case where he was found to have been unlawfully dispensing legal advice and documents and charging for it. Supreme Court Justice Gary Weatherill in The Law Society of British Columbia v. Crischuk, 2017 BCSC 531 ordered Kazimierz Chester Crischuk, another Freeman-on-the-Land, to cease practising law and pay $2,600 to the LSBC.
Crischuk maintained that he did not recognize the LSBC, or Canada's constitutional history, but instead referred to the Bible in his affidavit. "Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the family of House of Windsor swore an oath on the 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible when she took the office of the Queen of England et al. Part of her investiture was the acceptance that ‘the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ’ and as a consequence, the Holy Bible is the Supreme Law," he said.
The justice termed Crischuk's submissions "incoherent, rambling and complete nonsense."
LSBC communications officer David Jordan said the Bulletin post is a reminder to members and does not relate to any specific case. "From time to time, the subject rises in public attention and the Law Society reminds lawyers not to lend credibility to pseudo-legal commercial arguments by notarizing related documents," he said via email.
B.C. has also seen a string of convictions related to Paradigm Education Group, which counselled individuals on how to avoid paying income taxes as "natural persons." Eight educators in the scheme and 26 students have been convicted in Canadian courts recently of offences such as not paying GST, counselling to commit fraud, evading income taxes and filing false income tax returns. The group’s founder, Russell Porisky, was sentenced in the summer of 2016 to five-and-a-half years in prison.
"It hasn't worked out that well for them," said Usher.
The impact of appeals to the federal tax court was seen in August 2013 when the National Post outlined how de-taxers were clogging the federal tax court and identified 385 cases that used language and arguments similar to the Freeman-on-the-Land ideology of natural citizens being exempt from paying taxes.
Earlier, in Feb. 2013, Tax Court Justice Diane Campbell, when dismissing an appeal, wrote: "Because of the thread of similarities on wording in hundred of these appeals, it is apparent that these appellants have received 'counsel' from a third party."
Usher, who has sat through a Freeman-on-the-Land seminar, said the leaders are convincing orators while followers can be "very righteous" in their attitude.
Usher said his association members have also been advised not to deal with OPCA litigants although the main concern still remains the safety of notaries. "B.C. is blessed in that it hasn't had any violent incidents," he said. That is not true in other places.
The OPCA member activities range from ignoring Canadian laws to acts of violence. The RCMP guide said: “The American authorities reported that since 2000, six police officers were killed by freeman. In 2015, a member of the Edmonton Police Hate Crimes detail was killed by Norman Raddatz, an individual who demonstrated ideologies consistent with the FMOTL movement.”
Usher said notary offices have a safety plan in place to deal with aggressive individuals.
“We don't want any superheroes,” he said, adding that if an individual becomes threatening in manner to have documents notarized, he advises members not to resist.
"Sign and then call 911," he said.