Freemen Arrive at the Ontario Court of Appeal

Justice Rooke’s 2012 lengthy decision in Meads v. Meads attracted considerable attention, in particular given the peculiar nature of the nature of the parties he deemed “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) Litigants.”

These litigants defy any general definition, aside from using entirely fictitious legal arguments gleaned from the Internet which purports to provide them complete immunity from the legal system. They can use the term Freeman-on-the-Land to denote their entirely unsubstantiated belief that they are free from the rules and laws that the rest of us abide by.

The hope of Justice Rooke’s particular exposé, and its dissemination by all participants in the justice system, is that litigants would be dissuaded from the use of these arguments – which have never been successful in Canada – and therefore avoid utilizing the court’s time.

To illustrate, Justice Myers in Jarvis v. Morlog, [2016] O.J. No. 3662, stayed an action as frivolous, vexatious, or an abuse of process on the basis of it containing OPCA arguments, and stated in his costs decision,

….Some courts take pains to write lengthy, learned reasons to show OPCA plaintiffs how each element of their pleading is abusive. I respectfully take a different view. In my view, plaintiffs who file OPCA claims are playing a game that is designed to frustrate the system and inflict unrecoverable expense and needless stress on the defendants. OPCA claims have been derided as abusive over and over again in courts across the country. I do not believe for a minute that OPCA plaintiffs believe that they can separate their legal personalities by putting their names in capital letters or calling themselves “Noble” or otherwise. They know that they cannot avoid the law or government jurisdiction by claiming to be a free man who has no contract with the government. They don’t refuse to accept the free services of the police, ambulance attendants, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and other publicly funded service providers who approach them in their normal names in the absence of a contract. Nor do I accept that these plaintiffs believe in good faith that they can avoid their just debts by creating unilateral fee schedules and using legal words jumbled into sentences that have no English meaning. In my view, even if some OPCA plaintiffs are being conned by “gurus,” they still know that at bottom they have no legal defence to the debts or claims asserted against them and they only go to the gurus to avoid their legal obligations, at best, or to lash out in bad faith at the system and their creditors at worst. It plays right into OPCA plaintiffs’ ill motives to treat their claims with respect and spend hour upon hour of judicial time writing lengthy, reasoned responses to the gibberish that they spew.

 All litigants are entitled to treated with respect and with simple human decency before the court. The OPCA positions that they adopt are not. In my view, it is more respectful to OPCA plaintiffs to truthfully tell them that they are engaged in a despicable enterprise that cannot be tolerated than to pretend that there is some merit which deserves academic debate and response. In my view, precious judicial time should be spent on resolving real matters. Simply taking judicial time to respond seriously to OPCA claims gives the claimants a measure of success in advancing their improper purposes. Associate Chief Justice Rooke spent more than enough of his very valuable time creating a textbook of abusive OPCA practices in Meads v. Meads. In my view, not another moment of judicial resources or party expense should be invested on OPCA claims. They should be summarily nipped in the bud with reference to Meads v. Meads and no more as set out in para. 2 above.

[emphasis added]

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently denied an appeal of a similar type of litigants, arising out of a 2018 decision by Justice Grace. The applicants sought for ss. 2(1), 153.1, 227.1(1), 237.1 and 248(1) of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”), ss. 4.3, 122, 123(1) of the the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”), and ss. 1(1), 1 (2), 6, 115.2, 133 and 167 of the Ontario Business Corporations Act (“OBCA”) to be of no force and effect. The relief they appear to have been seeking was millions of dollars in “withholdings,” taxes, accounting fees, and damages for an unspecified tort, all supposedly arising out of their classification as a person and the ability of the government to tax them.

The basis for their claim was that these actions violated their right to life, liberty and security of the person guaranteed by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”), and was therefore of no force and effect under s. 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982

Apparently in claiming that the law does not apply to them, the applicants seemed eager to invoke that same law. Justice Grace attempted to summarize their arguments as follows,

[11] A full understanding of the applicants’ argument would be required before I could confidently say that I have properly summarized it. I readily concede that I continue to scratch my head with frequency and intensity despite having tried to decipher the applicants’ written material several times and having listened carefully to Mr. Howard’s lengthy and exceedingly well-organized but puzzling presentation.

[12] What follows is the best I am able to muster.

[13] The applicants maintain that individuals are guaranteed the right to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Canada, they say, has agreed that its domestic law will recognize and respect that right. Canada’s commitment has been fulfilled by section 7 of the Charter which provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

[14] Things then become hazier…

The Court of Appeal characterized their arguments as follows,

[6] The appellants assert that as human beings, they have the right recognized in and guaranteed by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “to choose their relationship with the Juristic Federal Unit Canada”. The result of such a choice is that “an individual is either inside or outside the jurisdiction of the Juristic Federal Unit Canada and the Appellants claim they have the liberty to choose.”

[7] Drawing on some Supreme Court of Canada precedents, the appellants assert that “the liberty interest protected by s.7 must be interpreted broadly and in accordance with the principles and values underlying the Charter as a whole and that it protects an individual’s personal autonomy.” This “[s]elf-determination is fundamental to personal autonomy.” Accordingly, Canada and Ontario’s laws of general application do not apply to them unless they so choose, or consent. They argue “that this s.7 right to liberty included the right to choose their relationship with the State and to refuse arbitrary designation of their legal status in legislation.” They are therefore free to pick and choose the laws to which they will be subject.

[9] In essence, the appellants claim the right to live in Canada, but to be free from the obligations and language of any laws they do not choose to accept. This they say is an implication of “[t]he right to choose as guaranteed by s.7 of the Charter”.

Justice Grace declined to characterize the applicants as OPCA litigants in denying their claim, citing Justice Myer’s decision above and indicated it was not necessary to go that far here,

[32] I do not, of course, fault the applicants for seeking a remedy from the court. That is their right. They have been polite and respectful throughout. However, in my view at least, the applicants have used their voice. It has been heard with open ears, eyes and mind. It has been answered. Life should move on

The Court of Appeal avoided writing lengthy reasons and did not even reference Meads, but “share[d] the application judge’s perplexity at the case,”

[14] To conclude, every assertion made by the appellants in their factum and in their summative statement is based on a selective reading of words and phrases in the Charter, several international covenants, and several Supreme Court of Canada decisions, none of which, properly interpreted, support their radical positions. At least as long as they continue to live in Canada, to reside here, the appellants are subject to federal and provincial laws that apply to residents of Canada, including the Income Tax Act.
[emphasis added]

Daniel Defoe‘s certainty of (death and) taxes appears to hold true, even for those who hold themselves free of the same.


  1. Donald Netolitzky

    The pseudolaw argument advanced by Lance Howard and Catherine Bradbury in Howard v Canada, 2018 ONSC 785 and the subsequent Howard v Canada, 2019 ONCA 361 appeal is a second-generation Freeman-on-the-Land OPCA scheme promoted by a guru who operates under the pseudonym “John Spirit”. Spirit’s materials may be viewed at a number of websites, but his principle method to recruit followers is, as typical of Freeman gurus, YouTube (

    In brief, Spirit claims that international treaties are supraconstitutional authorities that may be enforced via Charter, s 7. The purported result is that one may supposedly eliminate the legal aspect of a human being, being “a person before the law”. That, allegedly, makes one exempt from legislation and other legal obligations, such as the obligation to pay taxes.

    This concept that an individual is divisible into a ‘physical human being’ vs an ‘incorporeal legal person doppelganger’ is commonly called “Strawman Theory”. Strawman Theory is a key element of pseudolaw schemes circulating in the US and Commonwealth jurisdictions, and is extensively addressed in Meads v Meads. Howard and Bradley are clearly OPCA litigants. Strawman Theory is so universally rejected that the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in Fiander v Mills, 2015 NLCA 31 concluded that simply employing Strawman Theory motifs is a basis to presume that a litigant is in court for ulterior, abusive purposes.

    The John Spirit variation on Strawman Theory, and his methodology to purportedly eliminate the Strawman and legal personage, is described and debunked in detail in Pomerleau v Canada (Revenue Agency), 2017 ABQB 123. To be fair to Spirit, his scheme is far more sophisticated than the usual Freeman-on-the-Land products. Spirit has gone so far as to identify Canadian appellate authorities as the alleged basis for his methodology, which is unusual for a Freeman guru. Most make little to no reference to actual Canadian jurisprudence.

  2. I find it interesting that the courts (inadvertently) underscore the philosophical basis of the split person argument, even as they are dismissing it – “There is only one legal identity that attaches to a person” (Meads v. Means, para.445). The OPCA Litigant would no doubt respond that it is precisely the legal identity that he justly wishes to shed from his person. I’m not saying the argument isn’t abhorrent and wrong, just that in the legal context it has some validity.

  3. When I worked at Statistics Canada, the “Freemen” routinely refused to participate in the Census of Population. They hid behind their so-called different legal identities and used amusing devices like a colon between their first and last name (i.e. John:Smith) to create another legal personality.

    We referred to them as the “colon people”. Even so, they used legal gobbledegook to confuse enumerators and other government officials who were unsure of their authority.

    I’m glad to see that the courts do not give credence to any of this nonsense.

Leave a Reply

(Your email address will not be published or distributed)