Saturday, 30 April 2016

How Politicians Betrayed Democracy

Almost 2 years ago, two letters reproduced below this article, were emailed to two key figures in The Provincial Government. Both letters were treated with indifference. Changes were made to “The Condominium Act”, but one thing remained unaltered; more than 1 million Condo owners in Ontario are still governed with an iron fist by “The Condo Industry”, always ready to sacrifice the most sacred principles of our democracy to protect its vested interests.
Sir Winston Churchill is known to have said that the biggest threat to the freedoms we enjoy in a democracy, is not the strength of those intent on destroying our institutions, but the appeasers who are obsessed with peace even if it is purchased by trampling on the fundamental rights of innocent victims. In several speeches he argued that "...the appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile innocent victims, hoping it will eat him last."
Politician in Queen’s Park have been appeasing The Gods of corporate fanaticism one innocent Condominium owner at a time hoping that our freedoms will somehow survive the greed that knows no limit. I am absolutely convinced that we are making a tragic mistake.
Read the two letters and shape your own conclusions. Please note that changes have been made to the  original emails to protect the identity of the writer and the identity of all the other parties involved.
Subject: Letter To The Minister
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:53:15 -0400
The Honorable Kathleen Wynne,
Premier of Ontario
795 Eglinton Ave E. S101
Toronto, ON M4G 4E4

March 13, 2014

Dear Premier,
The following letter was emailed to Minister Tracey McCharles, who is currently reviewing the Condominium Act 1998, in an attempt to strike a balance between individual rights and collective well-being.
It seems that she is unaware that the Province of Ontario has a government within the government that is more powerful than the Federal Parliament, and can suspend the protection extended by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to every Canadian, and not much can be done to stop the damage this hidden government, made up of property management corporations and Condominium Boards, is inflicting on our fundamental rights and freedoms.
In a democracy like Canada, where our children are taught from a young age that legislative power resides with the elected representatives of the people, no corporations should be given the privilege to undermine the Charter of Rights & Freedoms to protect questionable vested interests, every time they are the subject of a scrutiny by the freedom of opinion and the freedom of speech.
 If Ontarians are unable to enjoy the full protection of The Constitution and The Charter, because The Provincial Legislature is powerless to stop the abuses of powerful private corporations, perhaps we should seek the help of The House of Commons, and the intervention of The Federal Government. And if Federal elected officials are willing to tolerate the abuses of private corporations, then we should go to the court of public opinion and remind our nation that, from 2002 to 2011 we sacrificed 158 men and women of our Armed Forces to save Afghanistan from the clutches of religious fanaticism, and spread democracy to build a brighter future for that nation, while ironically we allowed the growth, in our own midst, of a local brand of corporate fanaticism that knows no boundary in its quest to safeguard its greed.
Respectfully yours,
Subject: Letter To The Minister
Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2014 12:27:23 -0400
Attn: Minister Tracey MacCharles,
Ministry of Consumer Services
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

March 09, 2014
Dear Minister,
In many international forums and political institutions, scholars, jurists, and academics proudly credit the Canadian John Peters Humphrey, born on April 30, 1905 in Hampton, New Brunswick as the architect who drafted “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted unanimously by The UN General Assembly on  December 10, 1948, based on the strong belief that without basic fundamental rights, humanity will remain extremely vulnerable to tragedies imposed by totalitarian regimes who destroyed more than 50 million lives during World War II.
John Humphrey was a firm believer in the notion that without freedom of expression and unhindered dissemination of views and opinions, democracies will remain vulnerable, and no progress can be achieved in the realms of science, art, and the political discourse to build a just society, without proper safeguards to protect freedom of expression. His personal convictions were clearly integrated in Article 19 of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, where he passionately insisted that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
When our lawmakers forged The Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms and made it an integral part of The Constitution Act Of 1982, John Humphrey’s legacy and influence was clear in the following fundamental freedom closely protected by the laws of the realm: 2.(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.
To my knowledge the fundamental rights of Canadians were suspended three times by elected members of the Federal Parliament who invoked theWar Measures Act in WWI, WWII, and The October Crisis of 1969/1970. No matter how closely you scrutinize our laws (Federal, Provincial, Municipal), nowhere will you find an article that says “A Condominium Corporation can suspend the fundamental right of freedom of expression of a Canadian, if his views are detrimental to the vested interests of The Board of Directors of the condominium”.
Unfortunately, all over the Province of Ontario, Condominium Corporations suspend the fundamental right of freedom of expression by using Corporate By-Laws and an army of “High End” Bay Street lawyers to intimidate condo owners and silence their dissenting voices. Yes Madam Minister, reality sounds stranger than fiction but allow me to explain the context of the ordeal I have been facing for the last few weeks, and then you will understand what kind of a monster The Condominium Act, 1998 has created.    
I live in condominium building under the control of a Board of Directors and a management company that provides legal advice to The Board and runs the day-to-day affairs of the building. Each year (in the month of March) elections are held during the annual general meeting (AGM) of the corporation. Nominations are accepted in the month of January, and those who fail for a number of reasons to register their names, can nominate or be nominated by other owners during the AGM. Due to a mysterious mishap that the management company failed to explain, I did not receive my notice of election/nomination in January. I was forced to join the election race late at the end of February. To reach other unit owners in the building and inform them about my candidacy and the electoral issues that I would pursue if successfully elected to The Board, I distributed printed election related materials on two occasions, thinking that I live in a country where freedom of association and freedom of expression are fundamental rights not subject to threats and limitations imposed by a management corporation.
On February 24, 2014 I received a letter from the management corporation advising me in a polite manner to “Cease and desist” from distributing door-to-door printed election materials. The letter invoked the following paragraph from The Corporation By-Law:
 XII. Soliciting
“No business solicitation, canvassing or distribution of flyers either by business or individual, including Residents, is permitted on the property, without the specific permission of the RSO (Resident Services Office).”
In a follow-up email I was advised by the Senior Property Manager that in the future, before distributing any printed material in the building, I have to submit a letter of intention to The Board with the exact copy of what I plan to distribute to my fellow unit owners, and wait until The Board reaches a decision. The Board holds meetings once a month, thus it cannot guarantee any time frame for the response.
I am not a legal expert but in my understanding the word “Business” means a transaction between two parties involving a material gain in exchange for a service or a product. An election campaign does not fall within the scope of the corporation By-Law XII, nor should it be used to suspend the fundamental freedoms of speech and association of a unit owner, simply because for several years he has been an outspoken critic of The Board.
My story proves to Federal lawmakers that members of a condominium’s Board of Directors, in their blind totalitarian dedication to defend their personal interests, with the help of “High End” lawyers have devised means and methods that outwit every single safety net we have to protect our fundamental rights. The election incident mentioned above was not the first time I had received letters from the management company threatening legal action or letters from the law firm retained by The Board to shut me up or face the dire consequences of a lawsuit.
Bay Street “High End” lawyers call such lawsuits launched on behalf of Condo Boards "SLAPD”-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPP court procedures are legal actions launched for the primary purpose of shutting down criticism directed at Condo Boards, and carry an extremely weak and highly questionable cause of legal action. The plaintiff's goal in a SLAPP is not to win the lawsuit, but is rather to silence a critic/defendant/condo owner by engaging him/her in a war of attrition designed to instill fear of large legal costs tied to the terrifying specter of losing a home in the process of resisting the onslaught of a Board whose members, with a stroke of a pen, can replenish their operational funds by imposing extra payments on top of existing monthly fees. Despite their right to free speech, condo owners are frightened into silence without any resistance, thus leaving the gates wide open for Board members to engage in any form of abuse of power without any hindrances.
Dear Minister, unless you introduce serious changes to curtail the power of Condo Boards to suspend the fundamental rights of Canadians, as a society we will become the objects of serious ridicules, when we preach to other countries or international institutions, to respect “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, and especially freedoms of expression and association. Countries with dismal records of human rights abuses will point to us that we will have to clean our own backyard, before expecting others to adhere to Canadian or International Human Rights Standards. After all, if private corporations can suspend fundamental rights of Canadians, such as freedom of expression, it is the solid evidence that there is something drastically wrong with the moral compass guiding our society in general and our lawmakers in particular, and thus we should refrain from preaching to others what we ourselves failed to protect.  
I hope while you are currently considering the overhaul of “The Condominium Act, 1998”, you will honor the legacy of John Peters Humphrey, and The Supreme Court of Canada, who on several occasions declared that:“In a truly free society, we should prefer to accept the potential hurt free speech can cause for the sake of safeguarding free speech. The regulation of free speech is worse than the hurt it can cause.”
Respectfully Yours,
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