Disturbing echoes of ‘Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments’ heard in Alberta #kudatah talk

Posted on January 19, 2016, 12:18 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Edmonton’s courthouse, home of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, not long after it was built. Below: Associate Chief Justice John Rooke of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Anti-NDP petitioners tacitly supported by the Wildrose Party who imagine they can magically and instantly overthrow the government of Premier Rachel Notley in a “#kudatah” on the day the Legislature resumes sitting appear to have been influenced by the beliefs of extremist fringe groups going by such names as Detaxers, Freemen and Sovereign Citizens.

It is impossible to know for certain because the petition organizers have so far refused to divulge their strategy in detail.

JusticeJohnRookeIf this is the case, though, it should be cause for grave concern by the Official Opposition, because it would mean they have thrown in their lot with people associated with a movement that according to the Wikipedia “a survey of law-enforcement officials and agencies across the United States concluded … was the single greatest threat to their communities.”

The possibility this is exactly what is influencing this group seems strong based on hints the petitioners have dropped on social media about their strategy. As a commenter wrote on this blog’s most recent post, the reference to a commissioner for oaths is the tip-off.

As readers of the most recent post will recall, the petition’s advocates seem to believe that if they can get Albertans to sign a petition demanding a binding plebiscite on a government bill, and if the government says no to the plebiscite, and if a commissioner of oaths agrees the premier therefore isn’t doing her job, then the Lieutenant-Governor must remove the government.

Needless to say, this is not a likely outcome.

A 2012 decision of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench written by Associate Chief Justice John D. Rooke defines in great detail a “category of vexatious litigant,” members of which “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.”

NotleyHaving sat in judgment over a 2012 divorce case involving such a litigant, Mr. Justice Rooke defined this category of litigant as “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument litigants,” or OPCA litigants, and described how their “strategies as brought before this Court have proven disruptive, inflict unnecessary expenses on other parties, and are ultimately harmful to the persons who appear in court and attempt to invoke these vexatious strategies.”

“Because of the nonsense they argue, OPCA litigants are invariably unsuccessful and their positions dismissed, typically without written reasons,” Mr. Justice Rooke wrote in his decision in Meads v. Meads. “… These are little more than scams that abuse legal processes.” (Emphasis added.)

In the decision, Mr. Justice Rooke’s references relevant to this political story are to notaries, who in Alberta perform functions similar to those of commissioners for oaths. But then, as the judge pointed out, believers in such legal fantasies tend to work from templates provided by “gurus,” who are often more familiar with other jurisdictions.

Mr. Justice Rooke wrote of this group of litigants: “OPCA litigants sometimes appear to imbue notaries with extraordinary court-like authority.” In fact, he said, “a notary cannot give special status to an OPCA document.”

“Another curious belief that purports to limit court jurisdiction is that notaries, as a kind of common law official, in some manner possess judicial or judge-like authority that displaces the authority of Canadian courts. …

“Naturally, this claim is rubbish, and the litigants offered no foundation for this concept.”

Accordingly, Mr. Justice Rooke warned Alberta notaries, the ranks of which include lawyers: One of their duties “is to not participate in or facilitate OPCA schemes. … I was very disturbed and profoundly disappointed to see the number of occasions where an OPCA document was notarized by a practicing lawyer. … This kind of action is inappropriate for an officer of the court. It assists implementation of vexatious litigation strategies.”

Additional passages from Mr. Justice Rooke’s ruling will resonate with Albertans who have been following the #kudatah political story:

“OPCA litigants have an alarming predisposition to a belief that they can ‘take justice into their own hands’ and act against the judiciary,” he wrote in one place. “It is therefore appropriate that a court may adopt specific in‑court and security procedures in response to persons who are suspected OPCA litigants. Additional in-court security is generally warranted.”

In another place, he wrote that strong action against OPCA litigants by the courts lead some of them to believe that “this would alienate the populace from the Queen and trigger a coup d’état.”

Meads v. Meads isn’t exactly light reading, but it is easy to understand and highly illuminating considering the kind of political discourse we Albertans are seeing with increasing frequency on social media and even in mainstream media in Alberta.

The concerns set out by Mr. Justice Rooke help explain why the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation classifies some members of such groups as “domestic terrorists.”

The message here is that legitimate right-wing protest groups, social media sites, mainstream media and political parties all need to pay attention to whom they are climbing into bed with, metaphorically speaking.

Since Wildrose MLAs have been directing constituents to the petitions in question, it would seem they are not practicing “safe politics” just at this moment, at least until the petition organizers have satisfactorily explained their legal strategy. We can only hope the Wildrose caucus will attend to that, and take appropriate prophylactic measures.

The spring sitting of Alberta’s 29th Legislature is scheduled to open with a Throne Speech written by the NDP government on March 8.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

24 Comments to: Disturbing echoes of ‘Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments’ heard in Alberta #kudatah talk


    January 19th, 2016

    It seems like the Wildrose is playing the “Just the tip, I promise.” game.

  2. Northern Loon

    January 19th, 2016

    Wildrose, just not ready to govern, or be anywhere near a legislature. This is actually emblematic of politics as a win or lose game rather than truly representing what is best for the people, or perhaps the WRP politicians are really crazy enough to believe the Freeman on the Land screed. BTW, Justice Rooke’s judgement should be a must read for anyone who follows courts and now politics in Alberta.

  3. Steve Cumming

    January 19th, 2016

    This was the The Alberta Report. This was the Western Canada Concept. This is Calgary School. This is the Manning Institute.

  4. Kurt

    January 19th, 2016

    I stopped reading the moment the article said, “according to the Wikipedia”. At that point I knew it must be satire.

    • David Climenhaga

      January 19th, 2016

      My response to “A” applies equally to you. DJC

  5. A

    January 19th, 2016

    A) please stop using the “kudatah” misnomer; the more it’s used, even in the derogatory sense, the more it’s legitimized. B) your credibility is diminished when you cite Wikipedia as a source; cite the original source Wikipedia used instead. If there is no original source to a Wikipedia article under no circumstances should it be a reference. C) the rest of the article was interesting. Thank you for providing some reassurance the world has safeguards in place against the scared delusional people.

    • David Climenhaga

      January 19th, 2016

      The suggestion that one’s credibility is diminished by citing the Wikipedia is highly irritating nonsense, a kind of scholarly snobbery that is completely unjustified. This Wikipedia article is properly sourced. You can read it for yourself, which is why it’s linked. It’s useful for readers, and more complete than its sub-citations. On most topics, the Wikipedia, in my estimation, is about 90 per cent accurate about 90 per cent of the time. Given its editing process and controls (which as has been noted here and elsewhere in the past, is akin to that used to create the Old Testament, which as we all know is inerrant!) it probably has a better record than many “legitimate” sources. Of course we have to use our heads about what we believe from any source, and be alert to the possibility Wikipedia articles are vulnerable to sabotage, at least before it’s noticed and controlled. The same goes for the Encyclopedia Britannica and any published book on the shelf of a library, not to mention the drivel from organizations like the Fraser Institute, which is written with the intention to mislead. Usually attacks on Wikipedia sources are just an attempt to wrong-foot someone making an argument, based on widespread ignorance of how that institution works. The suggestion that one cite the source cited by the Wikipedia strikes me as typical of the academic community, cute, but not really intellectually honest. However, I’ll consider it in some instances, so as not to have to put up the irritation of needing to bother setting commenters straight like this. DJC

    • Athabascan

      January 19th, 2016

      I disagree with your point A: Quite to the contrary referring to the term kudatah, and the simple-minded notion behind it, actually supports the position that the anti-Notley factions are wackos in need of a reality check and a good grade six education.

      In point of fact kudatah, and all it represents serves as a perfect example of what a parody is. The kudatah crowd deserve to be ridiculed and called out at every opportunity.

  6. L Hess

    January 19th, 2016

    Then perhaps you can read the judge’s report and decide for yourself. It’s long but very interesting.

  7. Paul Doherty

    January 19th, 2016

    I think you may have pushed this a little beyond what it is. We haven’t seen the truly unintelligible legal-babble, relentless reference to maritime law or constant capitalization that characterizes Freeman efforts.

    Their efforts seem to revolve around a profound misunderstanding of section 128 of the Alberta Elections Act. They seem to believe the Lieutenant Governor is a Deus et Machina that they can magically summon to their cause with a strongly worded plebiscite. The fact that she holds a ceremonial position – unable to compel the government to even put Diet Fanta in the legislature’s pop machine – seems to cause them great confusion.

    I suspect the prominence given to a Notary’s signature is the result of someone pointing out that internet plebiscites are not legally binding. Given this group’s tenuous grasp on logic, a notarized plebiscite on paper therefore would be.

    • Sid Holt

      January 19th, 2016

      Not only is she a figurehead ,but sec.128 refers to the Lieutenant in council,which in this case means the cabinet. This was an obvious precaution to prevent an L.G. getting out of hand. In fact it is used in most references.

  8. Gail

    January 19th, 2016

    Excellent write up David.

  9. Anonymous

    January 19th, 2016

    Just to say, that at my place of employment before Xmas, I spoke to a man who I assumed was a Wildrose supporter. Wildrose MLA, Pat Stier, was elected in this riding. The conversation came out of, of all things, a “knock, knock” joke. “Knock, knock”…..”who’s there?”……”vote”….”vote who?”…..”Vote NDP.” He was, not, amused!
    As he was moving away from me, he stated that ‘they’ only needed 17,000 more signatures to ‘get rid of the NDP’ government. As he was further away, I called out that it was unlikely to happen in a democracy such as ours and that the AB NDP would ‘be in’ for at least another 3 1/2 years. He just kept on walking, so I couldn’t ask him about more details, but he seemed to be a very firm believer that this was going to happen. I wondered what it was about…..now we know.

  10. Simon Renouf

    January 19th, 2016

    If they are basing their proposed action on s. 128 of the Elections Act, they are even more out to lunch. That section allows the cabinet to order the chief electoral officer conduct a plebiscite.

    128 The Lieutenant Governor in Council may by order give directions for the holding of a general plebiscite of electors when and as often as it appears to the Lieutenant Governor in Council expedient that an expression of opinion about the desirability of
    (a) amending existing legislation, or
    (b) introducing new legislation,

    relative to any subject-matter should be obtained from the electors.”

    In law, the phrase “Lieutenant Governor in Council” means the provincial cabinet. This section gives the Lieutenant Governor no power to do anything.

  11. Hana Razga

    January 19th, 2016

    David, you are a gem…..:)

  12. Bill Wood

    January 22nd, 2016

    An excellent article, thanks.
    I find freemanism similar to mining, you sometimes have to mine a couple of tonnes of slag to liberate a few grams of ore. However, the slag itself is often of some interest and entertainment. Then when you also hit paydirt with a bit of comedy gold it’s been a satisfying excursion.
    Re citing Wikipedia
    I know that Wikipedia has high standards and is a large group effort, not a solo enterprise, and hence has sufficient resources to at least attempt to maintain the high standards that it aims for. So given the choice of citing it or someone unknown or obscure I will choose the former over the latter. So, for instance, “source Wikipedia”, which I know has already checked it for me and my readers, is better than “source David R Smith”, who I and most if not all of my readers have never heard of and who I haven’t got the time to check for myself. Nor do I expect my readers to have to check it for themselves. If they’re interested in checking sources and finding out more about the subject then my readers can easily go to Wikipedia and then click on the link to the source themselves.
    For further illustration of this, for those here who are struggling with this notion, consider in this context :
    “source New York Times” versus “source Alan Williams”
    “source The Lancet” versus “source Dr R Jones”
    “source New Scientist” versus “source Modus Research”
    I want to cite an authoritative source that can be instantly mostly recognised and relied on, not something unheard of that would require personal effort to attempt to validate. HTH (hope this helps).

    • Val Jobson

      January 23rd, 2016

      Wikipedia can be hijacked by individuals on specific esoteric subjects and may take time for introduced errors to be repaired. It’s best to check their notes and to go to the original source where possible.

      For instance a while back a conspiracy theorist added false information to a list of the Queen’s visits to Canada to buttress his claim that she had attended a ritual of human sacrifice in BC, although she didn’t actually visit BC on that trip. Very few people would have noticed this error & I had to write to the wiki people to point out the documented source in the notes was another conspiracy nut, the lizard guy, David Icke.


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