Friday, October 21, 2016

The Canadian Bar Association : What's New in Employment Remedies and Damages at the Human Rights Tribunal?

On November 02, 2016, I presented a paper at the Ontario Bar Association: Selwyn A. Pieters, "Using Public Interest Remedies to Impact Cultural Change" Online: <http://www.selwynpieters.com/documents/HumaRights_Ontario_PublicInterestRemedies_PietersPaper.pdf>

Please read, like, share and comment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Digging Down Deep: Racism in the Nova Scotian Legal Profession

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Pieters Law Office
Created October 19, 2016

I have been following Lyle Howe's Nova Scotia Barristers' Society hearing which Blair Rhodes reports on via his twitter account @CBCBlairRhodes and through various other means including orders and decisions of the Discipline Panel hearing the case. What is clear is that the . What is also evident, much to his credit, is Lyle Howe is clearly determined to fight this application to strip him of his law licence and he is fighting it with everything he can muster. .

On October 17, 2016 CBC Nova Scotia reported the Disciplinary Hearing as "shaping up to be the longest hearing of its kind in Nova Scotia history. The push is in to try to finish by year's end."

October 17, 2016, was interesting in that two Black Crown Attorneys testified under subpoena. Interestingly enough, the "nigger" word was raised when both attorneys were in the witness box.

Black Crown prosecutor Perry Borden and Black Lawyer Lyle Howe face-off at the hearing in what was described as a tense encounter. Mr. Howe apparently described Borden's presence in the Dartmouth prosecutors' office as being "so quiet he was almost nonexistent." Mr. Borden said Howe's comment made Borden appear to be the "house nigger" of the Public Prosecution Service. One of my colleagues J.H. reminded us that this was "Similar to how Johnny Cochran viewed (at least publicly) Chris  Darden during the OJ trial." 

Alonzo Wright Crown Attorney with Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service of Canada who is a special prosecutor handling mostly fraud matters testified about racism at Howe's hearing about his experience as an Black man in Nova Scotia in a way that is so real:


1) Wright identified as African Nova Scotian. 
2) Wright says he has experienced racism all his life.
3) Wright says he and teammates were called "niggers" during competitive games in an attempt to get them off their game.
4) Wright says even today he experiences racism: he wears his hair in dreads and gets singled out on occasion. 
5) Wright says as he prosecutes across the province he is frequently the only black man in the courtroom and often in the community. 
6) Wright says when he walks into court, people are often "shocked" to see him sit in the crown side in the courtroom.


This was reported by Blair Rhodes, CBC Journalist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Of court, Mr. Wright's testimony resonated with me because I have been chronicling my own experiences as a Black man with dreadlocks in legal spaces.

In my October 17, 2016 blog post I wrote:


Assumptions, everyday racism and micro-aggression
What evidence was/is there to justify such an assumption that I have no right to 1) be in the Lawyers’ lounge at Peel Law Association: See,  Peel Law Association v. Pieters, 2013 CarswellOnt 7881, 2013 ONCA 396, 228 A.C.W.S. (3d) 204, 116 O.R. (3d) 81, 306 O.A.C. 314, 9 C.C.E.L. (4th) 233, [2013] O.J. No. 2695(Ont. C.A.) 2) access the door that lawyers use at the Law Society of Upper Canada (See, Alex Robinson, "Lawyer alleges discrimination by LSUC security guard" July 25, 2016 <http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201607255550/headline-news/lawyer-alleges-discrimination-by-lsuc-security-guard>,  LSUC responds to discrimination allegation <http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201608225590/letters-to-the-editor/letter-lsuc-responds-to-discrimination-allegation> and Narrative to application to the Human Rights Tribunal was filed on September 07, 2016) or 3) Even access my office where I have 24 hours access? NONE.
This is why in most cases I boil it down to racial profiling because the assumptions that a Big Black man with Dreadlocks has no right to be in certain legal spaces are covert, insidious, and pervasive. The assumptions, everyday racism and micro-aggression, in most cases, are unintentional attitudes and behaviors that are learned in conditioned in people so that they act event without self-awareness.


This then goes back to the reality that Black people, whether in a profession or not face everyday.

Wright testimony was important because it in some way exposes the lack of diversity in the various facets of the legal profession in Nova Scotia and the difficult conversations that are required to make the profession more welcoming and more diverse.

Resources


  • R. v. Howe2014 NSSC 354 (CanLII) — 2014-07-30
    Supreme Court of Nova Scotia — Nova Scotia
    sexual assault — sentence — victim — offender — woman
  • 3.
    R. v. Howe2015 NSCA 84 (CanLII) — 2015-09-04
    Nova Scotia Court of Appeal — Nova Scotia
    honest but mistaken belief — jury — stupefying drug — sexual activity — evidence
    cited by 1 document



Nova Scotia (Public Prosecution Service) v. Howe2016 NSSC 207 (CanLII)— 2016-08-09
Supreme Court of Nova Scotia — Nova Scotia
subpoenas — prosecutorial discretion — ripeness — witnesses — evidence




Monday, October 17, 2016

Racial Profiling of Black Toronto Lawyer by Garda World Security: Confronting Assumptions, everyday racism and micro-aggression

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Pieters Law Office
Created October 17, 2016
Updated: October 21, 2016

"When they go low, we go high" Michelle Obama

Midnight Shift ended and I had to confront a Security Guard on His Assumptions

Law is not a 9-5 job. At least not for me.  I do not aspire to a 9-5 job. I am good this way.

Last evening though, the Security Guard from Garda World Security treated me as though I was a stranger in the building I am paying substantial rent for 24 hours access: "You are not allowed in the building", he said.

That would only have validity if that was a determination that he could make but it was not so I continued to the elevator pad, press my floor number and activated my access to the floor with my access card that allowed me on to the elevator and to access the suite where my office is located.

 In my many years of working in the glass towers of downtown Toronto's office buildings, once a person has his/her after hours access card or passes, they are allowed. Even if the person does not have his/her access card and their credentials are in the security system, security can grant them access.

So how and why this security guard would approach me in the manner in which he did is questionable and unprofessional.



Assumptions, everyday racism and micro-aggression

What evidence was/is there to justify such an assumption that I have no right to 1) be in the Lawyers’ lounge at Peel Law Association: See,  Peel Law Association v. Pieters, 2013 CarswellOnt 7881, 2013 ONCA 396, 228 A.C.W.S. (3d) 204, 116 O.R. (3d) 81, 306 O.A.C. 314, 9 C.C.E.L. (4th) 233, [2013] O.J. No. 2695(Ont. C.A.) 2) access the door that lawyers use at the Law Society of Upper Canada (See, Alex Robinson, "Lawyer alleges discrimination by LSUC security guard" July 25, 2016 <http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201607255550/headline-news/lawyer-alleges-discrimination-by-lsuc-security-guard>,  LSUC responds to discrimination allegation <http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201608225590/letters-to-the-editor/letter-lsuc-responds-to-discrimination-allegation> and Narrative to application to the Human Rights Tribunal was filed on September 07, 2016) or 3) Even access my office where I have 24 hours access? NONE.

This is why in most cases I boil it down to racial profiling because the assumptions that a Big Black man with Dreadlocks has no right to be in certain legal spaces are covert, insidious, and pervasive. The assumptions, everyday racism and micro-aggression, in most cases, are unintentional attitudes and behaviors that are learned in conditioned in people so that they act event without self-awareness.

However, the behavior can be more harmful than the racist who unleashed the direct venom by calling me "nigger apettorney Selwyn Pieters", "Nasty beast", "sickle cell diabetic nigger", "fat greasy nigger". Or those people that articulate "The only way it would belong in the building (Osgoode Hall) is if it was there to clean the toilets." We are not going back there, at least not me. But then you know where you stand.

Of course, in each and every case I had either an access card or an identification card to rebut assumptions The assumptions go to who has the inherent right to occupy certain legal spaces and who do not. As I said over and over and over, I interact mostly with Caucasians. They are the people I work with on a daily basis and my experience embarrasses them as these experiences do not form part of their reality or daily existence.

At the end of my shift I made the decision to challenge the security guard from Garda Security. Note that he had no name tag and did not introduce himself to me. Videotaping it was also a way to show the assumptions on which people operate in certain spaces and the irrational way in which the mind work to determine who belong and who do not.

*The security guard has now been fired.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Selwyn A. Pieters, The U.K. Asylum Determination System Is there a need for it in Canada, 26 IMMLR-ART 197. Immigration Law Reports (Articles). 3rd Series. 

"A good refugee determination system is one that demonstrates a willingness to protect victims of severe individual or systematic human rights abuses as provided for in the Geneva Convention and also people in need of protection as provided for in the ECHR, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the various other international treaties and conventions that concern themselves with the protection of human dignity and fundamental human rights." 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Selwyn Pieters Reply to Robert Lapper on Racism at the Law Society of Upper Canada

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Pieters Law Office
Created August 25, 2016
Updated: September 09, 2016

Update: An application to the Human Rights Tribunal was filed on September 07, 2016, the crux of the application is:
On July 05, 2016, I was racially profiled at the Law Society of Upper Canada (“LSUC”), treated differently from other lawyers and denied access to the door that is normally accessible to lawyers and members of the public alike. I believe that I was subjected to racial profiling in the provision of services in contravention of section 1 of the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, as amended (the “Code”).  
I am discriminated and/or harassed with respect to membership in a vocational association because of race (Black), colour (Black), ancestry (African), ethnic origin (African-Canadian), creed (dreadlocks, perceived rastafarian) in contravention of sections 6 and 9 of the Code.
On August 22, 2016, Robert Lapper, Q.C., Chief Executive Officer  of the regulator of lawyers, The Law Society of Upper Canada, published a letter in the Law Times: LSUC responds to discrimination allegation <http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201608225590/letters-to-the-editor/letter-lsuc-responds-to-discrimination-allegation> (Date accessed: August 25, 2016).

The letter sought to refute my allegations that on July 05, 2016, I was racially profiled at the Law Society of Upper Canada, treated differently from other lawyers and denied access to the door that is normally accessible to lawyers and members of the public alike.

Interrogating Racism and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP):

Robert Lapper wrote: "The Law Society has standard procedures for all non-staff licensees who seek to enter controlled access areas of the building. Access to these parts of the building is gained through the main reception area of the Law Society. The standard procedures call for security staff to ask licensees to show their Law Society identification card. If this card is expired, security staff will check the Law Society’s database of licensees to confirm the licensee’s status. Once security staff have confirmed the licensee’s status, he or she is permitted entry to those areas of the building."

Mr. Lapper continued: "It is true that some individuals are not stopped at the main entrance. Staff of the Law Society are not subject to the standard procedures outlined above and move frequently through the controlled access doors without interacting with security. Staff of the Law Society are issued staff identification cards and security passes, which they use to gain entry to controlled access areas of the building directly."

He then wrote: "We very much regret that Mr. Pieters was upset by his experience with the Law Society on July 5. However, I am satisfied that standard procedures were followed and there was no discrimination. "

What Occurred in Pieters Case?

1) Pieters is a member in Good Standing at the Law Society of Upper Canada;
2) On July 5, 2016, Pieters took his student to the Society;
3) The guard on duty was shown Pieters LSUC Card;
4) The Guard aggressively demanded that the card be removed from the wallet;
5) The Guard invaded Pieters space and grabbed the card out of his hands;
6) The Guard denied Pieters and his student entry through the door;
7) The Guard never checked LSUC Database to see whether or not Pieters was a lawyer in Good Standing;
8) What concerned me more than anything else is the security guard's conduct was not customer service oriented. He treated me, and the student obseved that and related it to the security supervisor as though "you cannot possibly be a lawyer."
9) A video exist that shows the conduct of the Guard, prior to, during and after the interaction with Pieters.

The Student Witness Independent Account:

"We commenced our tour after entering the main doors. There was a group of people (all Caucasian) ahead of us who passed security without any issues and were admitted via a card controlled door into the wider facility. On approaching that same door, we were met by the security guard on duty who was the same individual who had admitted the group that was ahead of us but did not leave his desk which was a few metres away from the door when attending to them. I stepped back as the guard approached and he began engaging with you. The guard’s comments to you suggested that you could not be a lawyer and he demanded to see your LSUC ID card. From my observation at this point the guard had come very close to you and had invaded your personal space. You then reached into your pocket to get the ID and showed it to him through the clear plastic covering. That did not satisfy the guard and he then asked you to remove the ID completely from the wallet. The guard became impatient and then attempted to grab the wallet and ID closer to him for further inspection. You then informed him that this was inappropriate behaviour and that you were a member in good standing with the Society. After giving him the ID, he then informed you that it had expired and that you needed to renew it before you could enter the wider premises. The guard did not offer to show you where to go for the renewal of the ID. You were obviously familiar with the premises so you knew where to go to renew the ID."

A Breakdown of how discrimination at the Law Society of Upper Canada works:

"Esteemed professionals are careful and discrete. They manage discrimination and harassment to avoid detection, or undue scrutiny.  Preventing any perception of discriminatory practice is the basis of their actions not avoiding the practice itself.  If policies have been violated, they simply adjust their practices to remain under the radar."

In “Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race” New York: Routledge, 2016, page 90, author Derald Wing Sue made these trite observations: “The existence of institutional racism shields the operation of white privilege through what is called Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), which represents the rules, habits, procedures, and structures of organizations that oppress people of colour while favoring Whites. The SOPs may apply equally to all groups but serve to maintain the status quo.”

In effect, these SOPs are used as masks to hide racism or exclusionary impact or effect. However, as recently observed by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Briggs v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2016 HRTO 966 (CanLII), "If the police officers involved in the applicant’s stop were not acting in accordance with applicable protocols and training materials, this factor could support an inference of discrimination in this case."

My Rejection of the Comments of the CEO that Standard Operation Procedures were followed

The CEO's comments are duplicitious and quite frankly is an insult to my experience and intelligence, as he knows or ought to have known that the LSUC security guard did not follow the Standard Operation Procedures that he says the LSUC has in place. Is this SOP in writing? When was it formulated? I would like to see that SOP if it is a written document.

As I mentioned in my letter to the CEO, I have no issues with the LSUC Guards doing their jobs but they must interact with lawyers and members of the public with tact and diplomacy.

Other Observations:

After the initial Law Times Article was published: Alex Robinson, "Lawyer alleges discrimination by LSUC security guard" July 25, 2016 <http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201607255550/headline-news/lawyer-alleges-discrimination-by-lsuc-security-guard>, some lawyers approached me telling me they have never had a LSUC identification card. One of those lawyers practised law for over 40 years.

Another was quite incredulous that a "lowly security guard" could have denied me access.

Other lawyers stated that they are admitted through the use of various law associations cards.

Conclusion

I wrote in my letter to the CEO that “The LSUC and its staff have to get it right when dealing with Black people. Treating a Black lawyer in good standing as an imposter is not acceptable.”

Progressive racialized and non-racialized members of the LSUC knows that there is not only racism in the legal profession itself but that racism exist at the LSUC. See, for example, Peel Law Association v. Pieters, 2013 CarswellOnt 7881, 2013 ONCA 396, 228 A.C.W.S. (3d) 204, 116 O.R. (3d) 81, 306 O.A.C. 314, 9 C.C.E.L. (4th) 233, [2013] O.J. No. 2695(Ont. C.A.), a racial profiling case involving two Black lawyers and a student, two of whom had dreadlocks.

At the LSUC the attacks on Black lawyers is disciplinary with race as the subtext. In Law Society of Upper Canada v. Selwyn Milan McSween, 2012 ONLSAP 3, a case that involved professional misconduct findings against McSween by a Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel, in concurring reasons, adjudicators Clayton C. Ruby and Constance Backhouse examined McSween's personal background, antecedents, training and the nature of discrimination and wrote the following, which though lengthy deserve quoting liberally:


3.         Racism in the Context of Law 
[68]           In 1999, the Working Group on Racial Equality in the Legal Profession of the Canadian Bar Association published Racial Equality in the Canadian Legal Profession.  The report examines racism in the legal profession and reveals that students from racialized communities have fewer opportunities to secure articling positions and first jobs. They do not benefit from the same articling experience as their non-racialized colleagues who are introduced to clients, assist more senior lawyers on important cases, and who conduct research on a broader range of files.  There is no evidence to suggest that circumstances have changed for the better; in particular, articling opportunities have diminished.  See: Working Group on Racial Equality in the Legal Profession, Racial Equality in the Canadian Legal Profession (Canadian Bar Association: Ottawa, 1999). 
[69]           More recently, in 2004, the Law Society commissioned a study entitled Diversity and Change: The Contemporary Legal Profession in Ontario.  This report attempted to establish a baseline for tracking diversity and equity in the Ontario legal profession.  It found that, when surveyed, lawyers of racialized communities are more likely to reveal that they were denied opportunities to take responsibility for cases because of client objections, and they also were more often subject to inappropriate comments by judges and other lawyers.  See: Kay, F. M.  et al. Diversity and Change: The Contemporary Legal Profession in Ontario (A report to the Law Society of Upper Canada) (Queen’s University: Kingston, 2004). 
[70]           It is reasonable to infer that as a group, Afro-Caribbean Canadian lawyers are economically and professionally disadvantaged when compared with their colleagues, and that many face diminished opportunity as alleged in this case by Mr. McSween.
[72]           The research into Canadian legal history shows that systemic racism has had a substantial impact on the legal profession.  It demonstrates that ideas of legal “professionalism” have been used to exercise power and exclusion based on gender, class, religion, and race.  The first minority individuals who sought admission to the legal profession faced significant barriers.  Those who succeeded in obtaining entry found that those barriers continued to impact upon their careers when they attempted to practise.  Significantly, an increased risk of disbarment was one such barrier for racialized lawyers. 
[73]           It would be misguided to be aware of this history and yet ignore its contemporary incarnations simply because the legal profession has today become much more diverse.  The legal profession has made no concerted effort to rid itself of the racism inherent in the practice.  As the evidence in this case illustrates, racialized lawyers continue to face barriers not experienced by their colleagues.
In Law Society of Upper Canada v. Terence John Robinson, 2013 ONLSAP 18 following from the principles in McSween, an appeal panel observed that:
[78]           In our view, McSween supports the proposition that systemic racism and discrimination which explains or provides context to why a licensee engaged in misconduct or conduct unbecoming is relevant. This is not unique to Aboriginal licensees. What is unique are the systemic and background factors that affect Aboriginal people, including Aboriginal lawyers and how these factors have affected them.
Any form of racism, particularly anti-Black racism will continue to fester and continue to pervade the halls of power when those in authority and with the power to prevent it take a bureaucratic approach that our staff were following procedures, when, as we know in this case, a thorough interrogation of the racism and/or circumstances would show that there were no procedures of the sort and if they were such procedures that the CEO says exist were not followed.

If that is the case, one can conclude that the adverse treatment was linked to discrimination based on race and that racism was a factor in the treatment.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Walter Rodney Debates - Guyana Parliament - August 04, 2016

Walter Rodney Report is the focus of Debates in the Guyana Parliament on August 04, 2016. This should be an interesting debate).

RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON THE DEATH IN AN EXPLOSION OF THE LATE DR. WALTER RODNEY <http://www.parliament.gov.gy/…/5851-report_of_the_commissio…
Background Information <http://selwynpieters.blogspot.ca/…/walter-rodney-commission…>
Ms Gail Teixeira, M.P. to move the following motion:WHEREAS the Report on “The Commission of Inquiry Appointed To Enquire and Report On the Circumstances Surrounding The Death in An Explosion Of the Late Dr. Walter Rodney On Thirteenth Day Of June, One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty at Georgetown” was handed over to the Government of Guyana on February 10, 2016;
AND WHEREAS the Government laid Volume 1 of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry in the National Assembly on May 12, 2016;
AND WHEREAS the Commission in its Report presented its findings including “Critical Findings and Summary on Gregory Smith” and 11 significant recommendations,
BE IT RESOLVED:
That this National Assembly adopts the Report and its findings;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:
That the National Assembly calls on the Government to take measures to implement the recommendations therein in order to ensure that the democratic architecture of the state is preserved and strengthened.
(Notice Paper No. 52 (M41 Opp. 8) published on 2016-05-31)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Georgetown Prison COI: Closing Argument of Counsel for the Guyana Prison Service

By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
Created May 16, 2016 


On March 02, 03 and 04, 2016, Guyana saw its worst prison riot in the 132 year old history of the Georgetown Prison. Alleged anger over the slowness of the judicial system and allegations of other prison conditions yet to be found, but are the subject of this Inquiry, exacerbated by the takedown of Collis Collison during a search in the Yard of Capital Block “A” spilling into the actual hostility of inmates to prison staff or acts by the inmates that evidenced aggression and hostility towards the Correctional staff and incitement to kill correctional officers, barricaded the Capital Block A Door, lit fires, damage state property. The resulting second fire on March 03, 2016 killed 17 inmates and injured 30 others. This was followed by a massive rebellion at the Georgetown on March 04, 2016 causing an explosion of demands and needs for a joint services (police, prisons, fire, army) intervention.

His Excellency Brigadier David Granger President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana appointed a Commission of Inquiry constituted for the purpose: “to enquire into all the circumstances surrounding the death of seventeen (17) Prisoners namely from the Camp Street Prison, Georgetown on the morning of Thursday 3rd of March,2016 to report the findings and conclusions to the Minister of Public Security and to make recommendations on any action that should be taken to avoid any recurrence”

WRITTEN AND ORAL ARGUMENT OF COUNSEL FOR THE GUYANA PRISON SERVICE

May 06, 2016 Closing Argument of Counsel for the Guyana Prison Service at the Commission of Inquiry into the Camp Street Prison Disturbances and Subsequent Deaths.

May 06, 2016 Book of Authorities (Case Book) of the Guyana Prison Service

May 09, 2016 Oral Argument of Selwyn A. Pieters, Counsel for the Guyana Prison Service, at the Commission of Inquiry into the Camp Street Prison Disturbances and Subsequent Deaths.


Georgetown Prison COI Day 23: Chief Prison Officer Patrick Crawford and S/Supt. Gladwin Samuels


Georgetown Prison COI Day 23: Cadet Officer Udistair Holligan


Georgetown Prison COI - Day 20: Gladwin Samuels - Deputy Director of Prisons


Saturday, April 23, 2016

SELWYN A. PIETERS, LAWYER AND NOTARY PUBLIC, RESPONSE TO PRESS RELEASE OF THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE CAMP STREET PRISON DISTURBANCES AND SUBSEQUENT DEATHS

on April 22, 2016 on or about 1:50 p.m. whist Chief Prison Officer Patrick Crawford, of the Guyana Prison Service, was in the witness box I was handed a document on the Commission’s letterhead titled “PRESS RELEASE”. That release had already been circulated to the media without my knowledge. 

When the Chairman berated me publicly on April 05, 2016 for a matter that really was put to bed the following day by the very News Source, it distracted me from my focus on a witness. See, Commission Chairman and Prison Attorney clash over video evidence, April 5, 2016 (date accessed: April 22, 2016). Today, another witness Mr. R. was to provide evidence and I could not continue as I felt sick to my stomach reading the Retired Justice James Patterson's press release that he put out to the public and provided to me in the presence of my client’s representatives and a witness in the midst of the proceedings in open court. These are two actions on the part of that retired justice that created a hostile and poisoned atmosphere in his courtroom. This action on April 22, 2016 is akin to serving a person with a writ whilst a witness is in a witness box in a courtroom: See, Curling v. Victoria Tea Co Ltd., 38 C.H.R.R. 216, 2000 CanLII 20870 (ON HRT), 2000 CanLII 20870 (ON H.R.T.).

Judges speak through their Judgments not  through a"Press Release" that is provided to the media and then served on counsel in that very Judge Courtroom in the presence of a witness, the media, the public, the other side and all present.  

Putting out a press release without using the formal processes that the law provides to a Justice to deal with any perceived issues in his/her courtroom brings the administration of justice into disrepute. It means an attack on the integrity of "Officers of the Court", the very Court that the Justice has inherent jurisdiction to control its processes.

James Patterson wrote:

These proceedings unfortunately have given rise for what we know in the vernacular as “grandstanding”.  Liberties were taken. Mr. Selwyn Peters, Counsel for the Joint services and Fire Service, was ferried away by his enthusiasm and made statements which, by any objective view, constitute a breach in civility and an affront to the Commission.  In very short order Mr.  Peters approached the Chairman and was profuse in his apologies for his delict. The apology was unconditional and was well received.

Mr. Christopher Ram, on the other hand, who appeared for the Bar Association as an interested party obtained “good standing” from the Commission to conduct his brief.  Mr. Christopher Ram was equally fierce on behalf of his clients, an amorphous lot though they be. The Commission has been unusually charitable to Mr. Christopher Ram whose forte clearly is not the art of the advocate.  His appearance has been pro bono, for the public good, and such appearances are clearly to be commended.  The Commission applauds Mr. Christopher Ram for his initiatives.

In his haste to issue a press release attacking counsel for all sides appearing before him he could not even get the spelling of my name right. It is Pieters not Peters. I also have several comments to make in response to retired Justice James Patterson’s press release about me. 

Throughout the two weeks that the inmates of the Georgetown Prison were testifying before the Commission of Inquiry, inflammatory comments were peddled in the press that attacked the reputation and integrity of senior members of the Joint Services who I was retained to represent. We could not allow that to stand unchallenged.

As was reported in the media, on Day 11 of the Commission’s sittings inmate Collis Collison took the witness stand. Allegations were made about the conduct of officers that were untrue. I clarified the truth in respect to the conduct of the officers with reference to a video that existed that presented objective evidence of what took place at the material date, time and place. I went up to the Commission’s Secretariat that day with my laptop and showed the Chairperson Justice Patterson the video from my computer. The Commission Counsel inserted a DVD into her device and showed a short clip that did not correspond to the very label on my disk. I followed up with the Guyana Prison Service representatives and was told that the entirety of all videos including surveillance videos were turned over to the Commission of Inquiry and soon after a request was made to the Guyana Prison Service.

On day 12 of the Commission Sittings (when Carl Brown was in the witness box) the Chairman entered the hearing, and similarly to April 22, 2016, where I was not given advance notice of a press release being sent out by the Commission, presented an article to me from News Source, that spoke to a video that existed that was shown to the media and asked me to comment. I commented on my interaction with the press the day prior. The Chairman was upset and the entire interaction between him and I was captured nationally and internationally because of the matter in which he chose to address it. I apologized to him because it is in my nature to apologize to any person that I may have unintentionally offended. I also have a lot of respect for the panel collectively.

I disagree with Justice Patterson, for reasons that will be seen below that there were any breaches of civility on my part. I could have ignored his comments and conduct or respond to it and I responded appropriately and professionally.

Justice Patterson never checked with the source of the article. News Source had obtained and seen the video of the encounter with Collison and the Officers well before I was retained by the Prison Service or even in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana:

News Source saw a copy of the video of the prison unrest and reported on it long before Mr. Pieters became involved in the Commission of Inquiry and long before he arrived in Guyana.

The Attorney never showed any video related to the Prison Unrest to News Source.

News Source was able to view a video recording of the prison unrest that appeared to have been captured by a prison officer.

See, Commission Chairman and Prison Attorney clash over video evidence, April 5, 2016 <http://newssourcegy.com/news/commission-chairman-and-prison-attorney-clash-over-video-evidence/>  (date accessed: April 22, 2016).

On the day that the Chairman was upset about the video he allowed me to be verbally abused by Carl Brown. I also challenged inflammatory statements Carl Brown made about Commissioner Erskine. The Chairperson, instead of warning Mr. Brown, responded he cannot control what comes out of a witness mouth. 

Mr. Dexter Todd later that day launched an attack on me. Go to 7:20 of this video and onward: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMkub_ZqMV0>.  All of that was in front of the National and International media and I have the video footage of it all. I was NOT allowed to respond to Todd’s abusive missive “I will not hear you” was Justice Patterson’s words. 

The Secretariat and the Commission Chairperson himself after I was retained as counsel continued to by-pass counsel, instead communicating directly with the Prison Director and the OC of the Georgetown Prison. I was advised by the OC Mr. Pilgrim that the COI had all of the relevant video footage. I believed him and still do have no reason to doubt the veracity of what he told me. I learnt that the videos was sent to the Commission in electronic downloadable format. It appears that the entirety of a video was not downloaded. When I was told of it by Commission Secretary, I directed the Prison Officer assigned to assist me to immediately turn the DVD over to the Secretariat. During the exchange with the Chairperson when I explained to him my understanding on the video issue he said in a very condescending tone “I chose to believe you.” I made it very clear as a lawyer and an officer of the Court if he did not believe me I was prepared to resign immediately. My integrity and my word is what I have as a lawyer and I will not allow it to be impugned when there was no evidentiary basis to support an assertion. I did not know the Commission did not download the entirety of the prison video and that was my word. My word is my bond.

I mentioned to the Chairperson that this issue of communicating directly with the client outside of the knowledge of the lawyer poses difficulties and that I should be copied on all communications to my client. That practice of communicating with the clients without copying me continued. It presented difficulties to me and the clients. An example being an ill officer being directed to report to the Commission the next business day whilst on sick leave. Another is the Director of Prisons being directed to provide evidence to the Commission that very next business day without speaking to his lawyer or providing a will-say statement.

I addressed that issue with the Commission on April 08, 2016:

On another note, a copy of the letter from the Commission Chairperson to the Director of Prisons was forwarded to my attention. Unfortunately, that schedule that the Commission sent to the Director after its counsel left the jurisdiction is simply not just. No discussion was held with the Prison Counsel in the case management conference in respect to the Guyana Prison Services witnesses. Those witnesses will be made available from April 18, 2016. 

It is the usual protocol that represented clients are communicated with through their counsel, while I cannot dictate to a Tribunal how it wishes to conduct its affairs that is how I know it since I have been practicing law. I am uncomfortable that I usually learn of the Tribunal’s correspondence to my clients only after the clients have forwarded them to me. That is not and cannot be acceptable in any quasi-judicial or judicial forum. I will be much obliged that I be copied on any correspondence to my clients so that I can properly be accountable to the Tribunal as an Attorney-at-law.

The Chairperson wrote:

The Chairman of the Commission, caught in the cross fire of the fierce contending parties, has on a regular basis incurred the wrath of both counsel that is to say, Mr. Christopher Ram and Mr. Selwyn Pieters, as each pressed their client’ case with understandable vigour.”

In respect to me, my significant concern that appears to be Mr. Ram’s concern is the chairman’s  inflexible approach in arbitrarily imposing a 20 minute time-limit for cross-examination of witnesses when some witnesses would, obviously require more time than others. In the following days after the 20 minutes time limit was imposed the Commission either sat half-day or not at all.

The chairman Justice Patterson issued a press release that does the profession in Guyana harm. The instant where and when Mr. Ram walked out of the Commission of Inquiry where he believed that his work was hampered is not new. A lawyer similarly walked out of the Linden Commission of Inquiry in 2012. In terms of the 2012 walkout I was reminded by another colleague present that "Mr. Hughes withdrawal was after a bizarre and excessive reprimand from the Chairman. On his return his cross examination by Minister Rohee was severely and frequently unfairly interrupted and curtailed by Mr. Knight."

Lawyers walked out of the Rodney Commission of Inquiry when they were subjected to bias and excessive interjections by the Chairperson and the panel members. In the Linden COI and the Rodney COI, these issues were not dealt with by Press Releases but within the jurisdiction of the COI and resolved so that the lawyers could return and protect their clients interest. In other words, the Commissions recognized the lawyers had a job to do and struck a balance that worked for all concerned.

Prior to the issuance of the "press release" from Justice Patterson I reached out quietly to Christopher Ram and the Chairperson, through his Secretary, to see whether the gap could be bridged. Mr. Ram's response was positive. I then wrote to the Commission through its Secretary:

From: Selwyn Pieters
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 7:36 PM
To: Teshanna Cox
Cc: Christopher Ram ; Glen Hannoman; Law Office of DEXTER TODD ; Selwyn pieters
Subject: Guyana Bar Association President Withdrawal

Good evening Ms. Cox,

We have been down the road in other Commissions where counsel left a Commission of Inquiry in a huff in the heat of battle over objections sustained or other rulings by the Commission. That occurred today in another COI. Obviously the Guyana Bar Association is an important stakeholder. Some middle ground may be able to be reached in a pre-hearing conference in Chambers. I have spoken to Mr. Ram and he is willing and able to attend in Chambers to meet with the Commissioners. I am reaching out to see whether or not the Commissioners can hold a pre-hearing conference tomorrow with all counsel.

I have enclosed the clips from the Linden Commission of Inquiry:

Nigel Hughes withdraws from Linden COI after refusing to retract inappropriate remark
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_57Io17aREo

Attorney Nigel Hughes returns to Linden Commission of Inquiry
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvXitIc4PGA

I am a member of the Guyana Bar and member of the Guyana Bar Association so I do respect the work of the Bar Association and it contribution to the COI vis-a-vis its members.

Please convey my thoughts to the Commission.

The very evening of April 20, 2016, Commission Secretary responded to me as follows:

4/20/16, 9:04 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: Hi
4/20/16, 9:04 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: I just spoke to Chairman
4/20/16, 9:16 PM - Selwyn Pieters: And what is his thinking?
4/20/16, 9:43 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: He said no
4/20/16, 9:43 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: He thinks that Ram's statement was made to publicly embarrass the court
4/20/16, 9:43 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: Well...
4/20/16, 9:43 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: And if he wants to re enter, he needs to be a man enough and make a public announcement
4/20/16, 9:44 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: Commissioners were pretty peeved this afternoon about the entire incident
4/20/16, 9:44 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: Chairman especially was upset at Ram's "short fuse"
4/20/16, 9:45 PM - Selwyn Pieters: I understand that why I sent Hughes YouTube video from Linden COI so that he knows to apologize to the panel.
4/20/16, 9:52 PM - Ms Tashana Cox: Very well. Let's see how that goes.
I heard nothing further from the Commission until the issuance of the Press Release.

Professionalism goes both ways. In all of the instances cited above, I was not treated professionally or with civility. 

Little to no legal recourse exist to deal with a retired Justice who has crossed the line with lawyers and his colleagues. 

I have been through worst abuse in my legal career and I will never ever “yield to the conduct and manners of the gutter.” Fortunately, for the period in question, all of the video footage are on my youtube channel and all and sundry are welcome to review each and every minute. The only time I showed some frustration was on Day 12 when I was not only subject to what was described above but also had my cross-examination of an important witness curtailed to 20 minutes and in language that was not particularly polite. Again, and thankfully, the entirety of these footage are on my youtube channel.



END

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Camp Street Prison Georgetown Commission of Inquiry

Toronto-based Human and Civil Rights Lawyer Selwyn Pieters has been granted standing to provide legal representation to the Guyana Prison Service, Guyana Police Force and Guyana Fire Service in the Commission of Inquiry constituted for the purpose: “to enquire into all the circumstances surrounding the death of  seventeen (17) Prisoners namely from the Camp Street Prison, Georgetown on the morning of Thursday 3rd of March,2016 to report the findings and conclusions to the Minister of Public Security and to make recommendations on any action that should be taken to avoid any recurrence”

“The government has the prerogative to choose who its legal counsel are and who it repose confidence in to represent the interest of the state and state bodies. Certainly the loss of 17 lives are quite tragic. Certainly we want to get to the truth of what occurred. Certainly we want tangible and meaningful recommendations to improve the prison system and to make it much better to ensure there is no further loss of lives so that prisoners are while in state custody can be treated in an humane manner, can be safe , while the public is protected and secured” says Selwyn Pieters

Video Recording of the Testimony of Witnesses











 The Terms of Reference

(1)             The Inquiry will investigate, examine and report on:

·         Examine the causes, circumstances and conditions that led to the disturbances on the morning of the 3rd of March, 2016 that resulted in the death of 17 Prisoners on the morning of the 3rdof March, 2016 and any other subsequent disturbances at the Camp Street Prisons, Georgetown.

·         Inquire into the nature of all injuries sustained by the Prisoners during the disturbances on the morning of the 3rdof March, 2016 and any other subsequent disturbances.

·         Determine whether the conduct of the staff of the Guyana Prisons Service who were on duty on the morning of the 3rd of March, 2016 and thereafter was in compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures of the Guyana Prisons Service.

Determine whether the deaths of the 20 prisoners was as a result of the negligence, abandonment  of duty ,disregard of instructions, inaction of the Prison Officers who were on duty on the night of the 2nd of March,2016 and the morning of the 3rd of March,2016.

(2)             Recommendations

The Commission shall determine comprehensive and plausible recommendations to ensure the safety of the prisons.

(i)                                      Examine and make findings and recommendations to improve the physical infrastructure of the prison;

(ii)                         The existing security arrangements in respect of the custody, management and control of prisoners.

(iii)                       The appropriate treatment of prisoners in compliance with legal and other requirements.

(iv)                       To prevent a recurrence of any such disturbances.

(3)              Rules of Procedure

(i)                            The Inquiry must consider the views of stakeholders including:
·        Staff of the Prisons and their Unions;

·        Members  of the Judiciary;

·        Prisoners accommodated within the Camp Street Prisons

·        Staff of the Ministry  of Health and the Ministry of Social Protection and  Human Services;

·        Any other stakeholders the Inquiry deems appropriate.

(ii)                         This commission shall render its report, findings and recommendations to the Minister of Public Security no later than the 31st of March, 2016.
(iii)                       This Inquiry shall be conducted continually at the (Venue) and in such other places as the Honourable Chairman may determine.
(iv)                       The Inquiry shall be held in public, with reservation nevertheless to the Commissioners to exclude any persons/persons if they deem fit for the due conduct of the Inquiry, the preservation of Order or for any other reason.
(v)                         The Commission shall commence work on the …..day of March,2016 and the said Chairman shall take appropriate steps to ensure that the Commission complete its work and submit its report within the aforesaid time.
(vi)                       The Chairman and one other Commissioner shall constitute a quorum.
(vii)                    Subject to the above, this Commission shall establish and regulate its own procedures for the conduct of the Inquiry and shall be governed by the aforesaid provisions of the Constitution of Guyana, the Commissions of Inquiry Act, Chapter 19:03, the High Court Act, Chapter 3:01and any other Laws enabling.

Monday, March 07, 2016

TTC "The Bed Bug Way"


By Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., L.E.C.
Lawyer & Notary Public (Ontario, Canada)
Attorney-at-Law (Republic of Guyana, Island of Trinidad)
March 07, 2016

As a frequent user of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Toronto, I have had my own experience with various pest and insects crawling on the seats, the windows and various parts of the interior of the bus, streetcars and trains. So it was not news to me when CTV Toronto lead story tomight was Documents show 12 confirmed cases of bedbugs on TTC vehicles since 2014

The Transit system is for all residents of the city, whether from the very right, to middle class to the poor to the homeless to those who live in shelters. It is therefore not a stretch that bed-bugs are highly adaptable and can survive and thrive in almost any environment where there exist human blood to feed off of. Bed bugs are a public health hazard and a severe nuisance.

The TTC response to the issue in most cases was to publicly deny the existence to prevent a publicity disaster. However, by not publicly declaring this hazard it probably will lose customers, more out of fear of involuntarily taking these pest home than the inadequate response of the TTC.