After 30 years and six children, Dennis Larry Meads split up with his wife two years ago. When the divorce went to court in Edmonton in June, Mr. Meads tried something the judge would call “bluntly idiotic.”
He argued that “man’s law” did not apply to him. He claimed the judge only had jurisdiction at sea, not on land. He said the Bank of Canada kept a secret account in his name.
“I am a freeman on the land,” he said.
The judge, John Rooke, had heard it all before. Across the country, courts and police had been dealing with Canadians like Mr. Meads who thought they could evade taxes, parking fines and spousal support payments by spouting lines from Freeman on the Land literature
It was wasting court time and earning money for a handful of people who made their livings selling books, CDs and tickets to seminars that promoted the notion that the law doesn’t apply to you if you don’t want it to.
The judge, who happened to be the Associate Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, had heard enough. He decided to turn Mr. Meads’ divorce into an opportunity to set things straight.
This week, he released a scathing 185-page decision that not only dealt with Mr. Meads’ divorce, but also eviscerated the movement he represented. “These persons employ a collection of techniques and arguments promoted and sold by ‘gurus’ to disrupt court operations and to attempt to frustrate the legal rights of governments, corporations and individuals,” he wrote.
Referring to them collectively as Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) litigants, the judge decried their “legal and intellectual bankruptcy” and called their methods “scams” promoted by “con men.”
“The persons who advance these schemes, and particularly those who market and sell these concepts as commercial products, are parasites that must be stopped,” he wrote.
He also named a few of those “gurus,” notably Robert Menard of the Freemen on the Land. According to the World Freeman Society website, which promotes Mr. Menard’s ideas, Freemen have “revoked consent to be governed by human laws.”
In Ontario and Alberta, Freemen have been caught driving cars without licence plates and when they get pulled over, or are brought before a judge, they claim the courts have no jurisdiction over them.
Police are wary of the Freemen, believing they could pose a risk to officers. Recently, Freemen have been trying to form their own “corps of peace officers.” The judge called them “strongly anti-government” and said certain members believed they had the unrestricted right to bear arms.
“We have our own police force,” Mika Rasila, then a self-described Freeman, said in a 2010 interview. “But what we don’t have is the compliance of the government, so what they’re doing is they’re sending out their mercenary thugs and their criminal judges.” A letter he posted online warned that “there is in fact a war coming and we the people have had enough.”
The Freemen are a branch of a larger anti-government phenomenon that includes “sovereign citizens” and “detaxers,” and that seems to be attracting a growing following across Canada in hard economic times. While they have their idiosyncrasies, all use generally the same methods to frustrate the courts.
Their main technique has been termed “paper terrorism” — clogging the court system with a flurry of seemingly incoherent documents that use the jargon recommended by the movement’s “gurus.”
The gurus tell their customers and followers they do not have to pay tax or child support or obey traffic laws, that the government holds secret bank accounts they can access, and that they can turn a bill into a cheque.
“All this is a consequence of the fact gurus proclaim they know secret principles and law, hidden from the public, but binding on the state, courts, and individuals. And all these ‘secrets’ can be yours, for small payment to the guru. These claims are, of course, pseudolegal nonsense,” the judge wrote.
He called the gurus of the movement “legal alchemists. They promise gold, but their methods are principally intended to impress the gullible, or those who wish to use this drivel to abuse the court system.”
The ruling may signal a turning point for the anti-government movement. After dealing with such cases for more than a decade, the courts appear to have had enough and intend to crack down. Judge Rooke recommended “suitable penalties” for those responsible. The judge also had a message for those considering using the methods of the Freemen.
He said they have been proven invalid in law and anyone who tries them could get stuck paying court costs. He urged them to ask their gurus: If these schemes really work, why don’t those who advocate them try them out?
As for the gurus, he quoted Dante’s Inferno, which placed those who counsel evil in the eighth circle of hell. “At some basic level, you understand that you are selling lies,” he told them, “or at the very most generous, wildly dubious concepts.”
Source: National Post