Freeman on the land – should Canadian landlords be concerned? In light of recent cases in the news, is this issue a growing concern landlords need to address, and if so, how?
- June 8, 2022, “The United People of Canada- a group affiliated with the Freedom Convoy, failed to make $100,000 in payments as part of the conditional sale of St. Brigid’s Church, claiming the eviction notice unlawful and vowing to stay.” Woods, Michael. “The United People of Canada missed $100,000 in payments required to buy Ottawa church: landlord.” August 26, 2022, https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/the-united-people-of-canada-missed-100-000-in-payments-required-to-buy-ottawa-church-landlord-1.6044150.
- “Self-professed Freeman on the Land Mario Antonacci, also known as Andreas Pirelli, placed a $26,000 lien on his elderly landlord’s Calgary property, changed the locks, and declared himself a diplomat and her property his embassy”. Geddes, Laura. “Freeman on the land: A growing concern in Canadian Courts.” November 28, 2013. https://www.siskinds.com/freeman-on-the-land-a-growing-concern-in-canadian-courts/
- In 1997, Wesley Snipes declared himself a “non-resident alien” of the USA, even though he is a birthright United States citizen. Snipes attempted to use the Freeman philosophy to avoid paying taxes.
Freeman on the Land Definition
According to Wikipedia; “The freeman on the land movement, also known as the freemen of the land (FOTL), the freemen movement, or simply freemen, is a loose group of individuals who believe that they are bound by statute laws only if they consent to those laws. They believe they can declare themselves independent of the government and the rule of law, holding that the only “true” law is their own idiosyncratic interpretation of “common law.”
These cases have been circulating throughout Canada for a while and are increasing with greater frequency worldwide whenever the FOTL believes they can avoid paying for consumables the rest of the taxpaying world incurs.
The nutshell version is that FOTL believes Canadian laws do not apply to them, and they can live under “common” and “natural” laws, thus opting out of statute law. They believe statutes are invitations to enter a contract, which are only legally enforceable if an individual enters the contract consensually. Their tactic is to undermine the justice system. Three of the most common ploys include:
- Creating dual personae, both physical and legal.
- Arguing protection from statutory law, believing consent must be obtained for a contract with the state.
- Utilizing specific phrases that release their obligations to the country.
Regardless of tactics or rhetoric, individuals are subject to Canadian law and the court’s authority to enforce the law. Should they lose, courts can saddle 65%-90% of costs incurred by the successful party.
In 2012, Alberta judge Justice John Rooke called those who promote Freeman on the Land ideals as “parasites who must be stopped,” saying they “disrupt court operations and…attempt to frustrate the legal rights of governments, corporations, and individuals.”
“Whether that be through one tool or another, it’s important that they face the consequence for the actions that have harmed others and violated the laws,” Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar said Monday. “Landlord tours home once declared a Freeman-on-the-Land ’embassy.” September 30, 2013. https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/landlord-tours-home-once-declared-a-freeman-on-the-land-embassy-1.1477464
How do Canadian landlords protect themselves from Freemen on the Land? Like most scammers, Antonacci knew his niche; sympathetic, elderly landlords. Unfortunately, landlords accepted him on his story and his word and didn’t conduct a thorough tenant screening process. If they had, they would have uncovered gaps and inconsistencies that would have been difficult for him to explain.
In 2013, Mario Antonacci was arrested and sent back to Quebec to face nine charges of a similar nature to the Calgary charge. Wesley Snipes was jailed for tax avoidance.
Although we don’t yet know the outcome of St. Brigid’s Church and The United People of Canada, given the history and tone the judicial system has taken, the outcome seems predictable.
Have you had experience dealing with FOTL? I’d love to hear about it [email protected]
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