On September 27, Calgary police arrested Mario Antonacci (also
known as Adreas Pirelli) on Quebec warrants originating from a 2007
alleged assault on his former Montreal landlady. While this arrest
in itself was not particularly spectacular or unique, it came
during a week where Mr. Antonacci was the centre of a media storm
regarding his involvement in the Freemen-on-the-Land movement. Mr.
Antonacci had caught the public eye by refusing to vacate his
Calgary apartment, having declared it an "embassy" and a
sovereign nation separate from Canada.
The Freemen-on-the-Land movement originated in the United States
as a fringe libertarian movement. Its members claim they are
"sovereign citizens" and don't recognize the rule of
law. This is based on a belief that statute law is contractual, and
that individuals may opt out of statutes and are only bound by a
nebulous concept called "natural law." This is followed
by creative interpretations of the law, which often involves
claiming that they are separate individuals from their birth
certificate, that a court of law is governed by Admiralty law if
there is a flag in the courtroom, or that the government has a
secret bank account for each individual that may be accessed with
the right combination of notary stamps. Litigation involving
Freemen-on-the-Land often becomes swamped by misleading or
However, the Freemen-on-the-Land movement has a darker side than
just slowing down the court process through mountains of legally
irrelevant or garbled documentation. In 2011, the FBI placed the
movement on their domestic terror watchlist, after the shooting
deaths of two police officers in Arkansas by members of the Freemen
movement during a routine traffic investigation.
In Canada, the Freemen movement has been more heavily present in
family and landlord/tenant disputes, but lawyers practising in many
different fields may encounter individuals belonging to this
movement. On September 25, 2013, the Alberta Law Society issued a
practice advisory regarding Freemen, or "Organized Pseudolegal
Commercial Argument" (OPCA) litigants, as they are formally
known. This advisory cautioned lawyers not to notarize documents
with no legal effect or that are legal fictions, and advises
lawyers to not assist in preparing documents that resemble court
documents and are intended to deceive the recipients. The advisory
also warns lawyers to advise clients if the clients have entered
into contracts or are dealing with Freemen, and that if a lawyer is
approached to act for an OPCA litigant, they must make sure the
case is meritorious.
Meads sets out one of the most thorough examinations of
OPCA litigation in Canadian case law. Associate Chief Justice John
D. Rooke's 156-page decision explains in depth the motivations
and methodology of OPCA litigants, as well as strategies and
arguments that are frequently used by OPCA litigants in Canadian
In Meads, Justice Rooke sets out responses for both
justices and lawyers when dealing with OPCA litigants. Justices are
encouraged to strike proceedings that are based on incomprehensible
arguments, order punitive damages for pre-trial misconduct (liens
based on unilateral and pseudolegal agreements are common tactics
of OPCA litigants), elevate costs, order security for costs and
fines, use OPCA litigation as the basis for declaring a vexatious
litigant, and to use 'show cause' hearings to identify
genuine legal arguments obscured by OPCA methods. Lawyers are
instructed under Meads to refuse to notarize OPCA
documents, and are encouraged to educate judges on OPCA issues, as
well as to pursue applications to strike, punitive damages, and
elevated cost awards in order to protect their clients from the
vexatious nature of OPCA litigation.
ANB relies on Meads to identify respondent
A.N.B. as an OPCA litigant, and expands Meads by adding
security measures, including shielding the identities of the
defendants' lawyers from the respondent due to his prior
criminal conviction. The decision in ANB was also
delivered by Justice Rooke, who suggested that security precautions
when dealing with an OPCA litigant should be easily available where
a party is able to establish an "air of reality to an actual
or potential threat or danger." However, any security
precautions cannot affect the litigant's ability to respond or
to make argument in court.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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