““You should get out of town”, the man said. And so began the journey that resulted in my path intersecting with Matthew Duncan’s path. And thence to these reasons, with a slight detour through territory that might have confused Lewis Carroll”.

Thus begins Judge Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice in his adjudication of the assault trial of Matthew Duncan (available here). Mr. Duncan was not, of his own admission, a “freeman-on-the-land”, but his incoherent ramblings both at the time of his arrest and in his own defence at trial represent the same line of disjointed adherence espoused by other “freemen”, and others with a seemingly similar agenda (e.g., Detaxers, The Church of the Ecumenical Redemption International, Sovereign Men or Sovereign Citizens, etc.).

The ”˜Freemen-on-the-Land’ movement recently came to the attention of many with the Calgary case of Andreas Pirelli, a self-proclaimed ”˜freeman’ responsible for taking over the rental property he had leased. The case garnered international headlines when he refused entry to the homeowner and told her the home was no longer hers.

In case you missed it, Landlady Rebekah Caverhill, an Alberta senior living on a fixed pension, leased half a duplex to Mr. Pirelli, AKA Mario Antonacci, in 2011. It was agreed that Ms. Caverhill would give Mr. Pirelli 3 months free rent in exchange for some minor contractor work on the property to “spruce it up”. This was the beginning of a two year nightmare for Ms. Caverhill in which she tried repeatedly to evict Mr. Pirelli, only to be met with changed locks, extensive unwanted and partially completed renovations, and a staunch declaration from the tenant that the property no longer belonged to Ms. Caverhill, but was now an embassy house. This story has concluded for now with Mr. Pirelli’s arrest on a Canada-wide warrant for aggravated assault on a previous landlady in Quebec, and Ms. Caverhill left to pick up the pieces.

While much has been written of late about the freemen-on-the-land movement and comparable movements across North America, those seeking to better understand who these people are and their place in Canadian society are left scratching their heads. Some journalists refer to the movement as being made up of individuals with severe delusions and extreme anti-social personalities. Others will chalk the effort up to anti-government rhetoric of individuals believing themselves to have the sovereign right to opt out of Canadian laws, norms, and taxes. But where the movement really leaves the rest of the law-abiding citizenry completely bewildered is when a member of the movement winds up in the court system.

To give a flavor of the type of jumbled declarations the court is faced with in dealing with these often vexatious litigants, here are a few examples:

  • The amended statement of claim in the Federal Court case of Isis Nation v R was rife with unusual naming motifs such as:
    • The Divine Holy Mother of All in/of Creation
    • Independent Spiritual International Signatory (ISIS) Nation States
    • The bearer of the sacred C’anupa Peace Pipe which is the Treaty of Life
    • The Head Bear Clanmother of Tiamat Ki-Earths Kaneh Bosm Tribal Nations
    • The Mother of the Independent Spiritual International Signatory
    • The sole Crowned Heir Temple Thorne Scribe
    • The Isis Genesis’ Return of the Dragon Queen by Divine Blood Terra Covenant
    • GEA of the Deed of the Private SUNKE Temple Trust
  • Often documents have an unusual format or contain markings or stamps not used by the Canadian court system
    • E.g., stamps from the “DUL” court suggesting the documents have been filed
  • Unusual specific phrases are frequently used such as:
    • “Signatory ISIS Nation Estates”
    • “DNALand patent delta10mDNA”
  • Documents frequently make reference to obsolete, foreign and otherwise irrelevant legislation and legal documents such as:
    • “The Camel’s Eye Treaty 408 A.D.”
    • “Ancient Clanmother Laws”
  • Unusual mailing addresses are often written onto documents such as:
    • “Tribunal for Tiamat Ki-Earths, Divine Universal Law Courts, DUL Charter Calgary Alberta”
  • Litigants of this nature often practice a dual/split person routine
    • E.g., Identification of oneself as either a natural person, administrator, corporation, or artificial person, with the label changing during the course of proceedings so at one point it may be Jon Doe the natural person, and later it may be the administrator or corporation with a different appellation
  • The remedies sought in court are often outlandish and extreme
    • A personal favorite is the claim made against the Alberta Crown and Federal Crown in ISIS Nation v R for the sum of over one hundred and eight quadrillion dollars (that’s $108,000,000,000,000,000.00)
    • The above claim was paired with the following remedy sought, that “the Defendants immediately cede to her original and final jurisdiction under Ancient Clanmother Laws; liquidate all global assets into Equity through the Bank of International Settlements; immediately acknowledge her as The Divine Holy Mother and cede to her Matriarchal Society; inform and teach all ISIS Nations Estates about their inheritance; cease and desist all blasphemy against the Divine Mother, the Queen of Heaven, delta9Lucifer; announce in both private and public statements acknowledging her return as The Divine Holy Mother; act in compliance with All of The General Executrix Administrative Orders; and guarantee the restoration of her All Signatory Tribal Nations and each and every ISIS Nation Estate to their immortal, pristine, peaceful, blissful and abundant lives” and on and on it goes.

And while the claims and vernacular employed by these litigants are outlandish, the courts are left to deal with them within the confines of our established laws and judicial procedures. Mr. Justice J.D. Rooke, the Associate Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench delivered a mammoth 736 paragraph judgment in the matrimonial case of Meads v Meads which has been accepted among the judiciary as a lode star in dealing with this type of litigant. In this case, Mr. Meads attempted to use numerous different strategies in pursuing his agenda – an agenda consisting of refusing to produce documents proving income, reliance on incorrect legal theories about tax, production of unorthodox paperwork to the court with insistence on its binding nature, claims of trade-mark and copyright interest in his name, imposition of penalties on others for use of his name, and an insistence on the existence of a secret government account from which he could force payments of his family law obligations.

ACJ Rooke took the opportunity in his written judgment to produce a comprehensive taxonomy of what he termed “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) Litigants”; those who interfere with established court processes by adhering to certain causes or alternative trial practices. While ACJ Rooke’s judgment is well-researched, and adds an invaluable resource to the judiciary facing individuals from all walks of life each day, the question remains of who are these vexatious litigants, freemen or otherwise, and what is their ultimate objective?

We may have just cracked the tip of the iceberg as far as the freeman-on-the-land and similar movements are considered. There is no doubt though that the court system, and in some situations law-abiding citizens have their work cut out for them in making sense of these movements, and making headway in ensuring our individual rights and obligations are protected and upheld.