Patricia Aldworth went to the coastal pulp mill city of Powell River to retire. But the woman who had learned about politics while an Executive Assistant in the West Wing during Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, couldn’t retire. Not when she saw that democracy in Powell River was being fed through the wood chipper.
Aldworth ran for a Council seat in a by-election in this scenic British Columbia city, which has become a retirement destination for Americans. She won.
But not one Council member showed up for Aldworth's swearing-in ceremony; Mayor Stewart Alsgard emerged from his office only when the crowd of Aldworth's supporters overflowed into the hallway.
Councillors and the Mayor had shown up for an in camera meeting just a few hours before Aldworth (pictured above) was sworn in though, on March 4th. At that meeting, they instructed City lawyers to launch a defamation suit against Aldworth and two other pensioners, now known as the Powell River Three. Did I mention that the other two, Winslow Brown and Noel Hopkins, were in their eighties?
Brown tried to wriggle out of this jam. He went to Council on March 11 and, voice quivering, apologized. "I had no idea how far the city was prepared to go. I'm a pensioner on a fixed income. I could never afford to fight this lawsuit in court. If I tried, it would financially destroy me, [I would] lose my home and family." At the end of this groveling, Brown handed his letter to the City Clerk and asked, 'So, is it ended?"
A few weeks later, Mayor Stewart Alsgard (photo above) publicly reiterated his position that the City had been defamed and had a right to take legal action against the Powell River Three and anybody else who criticized them.
"Sounding more like a Soviet apparatchik than a Canadian," Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham wrote, "Alsgard went on to say the defamation suit provided a tremendously important lesson for the community's young leaders about 'courtesy' and 'mutual respect'."
There is a name for the type of lawsuit that the Powell River Three are facing: SLAPP, Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
“No government should be allowed to sue its citizens for defamation regardless of what is said,” Aldworth told the Vancouver Sun at the beginning of May. “It really goes to the underpinnings of democracy. If you don’t allow citizens to criticize their government, then the government can get away with anything.” And Aldworth, who earned a law degree at Georgetown after leaving the West Wing, noted that because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms only came into effect in 1982, there is not yet much case law upholding the right to free speech.
Aldsworth also said -- and I've been saying this for years -- that Canadians aren’t as well educated about their rights or as willing to stand up for them as Americans.
Dixon wrote a letter to the Mayor and Council asking them to drop the lawsuit. He pointed out that in Ontario, the courts ruled against municipalities in 2006 that had launched SLAPP suits against citizens. In one Justice Kenneth Pedlar wrote: “If governments were entitled to sue citizens who are critical, only those with the means to defend civil actions would be able to criticize government entities.”
In Canada, Powell River is everywhere
The case of Vancouver homeless man William "Bill" Simpson left no doubt that Soviet apparatchiks are well ensconced in the City of Vancouver government. When Simpson was elected to the Board of the Directors of the City of Vancouver's Carnegie Community Centre, one of Mayor Sullivan's henchwomen banished him to the sidewalk outside. Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manager of Community Services, wrote a letter to Simpson a couple of weeks after he was elected, banning him "indefinitely" from the Carnegie Centre. When City management staff Ethel Whitty and Dan Tetrault hand-delivered Simpson the letter on behalf of Forbes-Roberts, Whitty told him that he would not even be allowed into the building to attend Board meetings.
Photo: Ken Denike, Vancouver School Board Trustee
If you want a textbook case of Soviet apparatchiks shutting down free speech, though, look at the Vancouver School Board. Look at what the VSB did to a woman who wrote a letter to the VSB criticizing their handling of bullying complaints that she and others had independently lodged against a physically and verbally abusive teacher. In the letter, the critic stated that she intended to campaign in the upcoming tightly-contested School Board election about VSB "duplicity" in the handling of bullying complaints. Upon receiving the critic's letter, the VSB quickly resorted to a tactic that was used against political dissidents in the former Soviet Union and continues to be used against dissidents in China: political psychiatry. The VSB abused political influence to arrange, under pretenses the police officer involved admits they knew to be fraudulent, to have their critic subjected to a psychiatric assessment.
The VSB arranged to have Car 87 -- a police car containing an armed police officer and a male psychiatric nurse -- arrive unannounced at their critic's home to perform the psych assessment. Car 87 is an ideal tool for smearing political adversaries as it works like this: even if you're cleared, you're never really cleared. A "Car 87" notation remains adjacent to your name on the police computer system for "99 years".
A few hours after the Car 87 visit, Police School Liaison Sergeant Lester told the critic in a taped telephone call that the VSB had given him a copy of her letter which he read and emphasized to the VSB that there was "nothing untoward" about the letter. (Her letter to the VSB was the sole evidence submitted to him by the VSB in support of the visit, a fact he confirmed during the taped call.) Despite Lester's protests about lack of evidence, the VSB pressured him, providing no additional evidence, until he approved the visit. "It was clear-cut case of fraud," says the targeted critic.
Car 87 visits are restricted by legislation to instances in which there is evidence that an individual is at "imminent" risk of killing themselves or others. The only thing the critic was at risk of killing was the slim chance that the NPA School Board had of retaining power. The critic could prove that an NPA trustee had been assuring the public via television that bullying complaints were being taken seriously, when in fact correspondence being received by complainants indicated otherwise.
When the critic obtained a copy of the psych report, she discovered that the psych nurse, Don Getz, after being briefed by the VSB, had entered "freedom of information requests" as the sole reason for the Car 87 visit. She had made two or three routine freedom of information requests over a period of a year for documents from her file. Georgina Kosich, the VSB clerk who processed Freedom of Information requests was presented to Constable Michelle Sevigny and nurse Getz as the primary witness in the case, and met with them to release the critic's freedom of information requests. Kosich apparently fraudulently concealed from the psych nurse and cop, the letters she had sent the critic encouraging her to submit freedom of information requests to the VSB.
Not only did the critic discover from reading the psych report that her ability to access documents under the Freedom of Information Act was presented as socially deviant, so too were signs of an intellectual life visible in the home-office space where psych nurse Don Getz and Constable Michelle Sevigny interviewed her. A computer surrounded by papers and books, and two bookshelves stuffed with books, were rubricized in the psych report as 'clutter'. The VSB were now burners.
Even the fact that the critic had been competent and responsible enough to substantiate all claims in her letter to the VSB was viewed by the psych nurse -- after he was briefed by the VSB -- as an indicator of mental illness as it made the letter "a little long". He admitted he had not personally read the letter.
As Getz and Sevigny left the critic's apartment, she commented to Getz that it was the election a couple of weeks away that had prompted this psych assessment. He agreed with her! She included this fact in a written complaint lodged with the VSB immediately after the visit. Getz has never disagreed with this statement.
Canadians Opposing Political Psychiatry have responded to the failure of the VSB to address their history of political psychiatry by organizing, as an "absolute last resort", an international boycott of diplomas issued by the Vancouver School Board.
But no discussion of the duck-taping of the mouths of Canadians would be complete without a mention of publicly funded Human Rights Commissions across Canada. Originally set up as inexpensive forums for handling discrimination complaints such as those against landlords and employers, Human Rights Commissions have morphed into thought police operating kangaroo courts. Both the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the B.C. Human Rights Commission have targeted writer Mark Steyn, a Canadian living in New Hampshire, after Macleans magazine published a well supported piece by Steyn on Islamists. The Alberta Human Rights Commission has targeted Ezra Levant, the former publisher of the Western Standard, for publishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Levant had published the cartoons as a pro free speech statement, supporting publications around the world which had done the same.
Human Rights Commissions are always your best bet if you don't have a leg to stand on in a real court. They will use taxpayer's dollars to pay your legal fees, while they bankrupt your critic. On the Vancouver blog, Covenant Zone, where truepeers, a Canadian, and dag, an American from Idaho, monitor this racket, there is a link to a column by the Ottawa Citizen's David Warren:
"The notion that 'freedom of speech is an American concept' -- I am quoting Dean Steacy, principal "mediator" (i.e. thought-crime investigator) for the Canadian Human Rights Commission -- is proving sadly true in the limited sense that most of the money donated to the various legal defense funds has come, via Internet, from outraged citizens of the U.S."
Warren asked Canadians to divert donations intended for the Conservative Party of Canada to the defense funds of some of those targeted for these Kafkaesque prosecutions. He believes that action could jolt Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of the "sleepiness" from which he and so many other Canadians are suffering as the right to free speech is blungeoned to death.
What is to be done? Maybe Canada needs more Americans.