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 <> (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 <>, 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.


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).

Background Information <…/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,
That this National Assembly adopts the Report and its findings;
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”


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


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 <>  (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: <>.  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

Attorney Nigel Hughes returns to Linden Commission of Inquiry

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.


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 … 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.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Police Interrogations and The Psychology of False Confessions

Selwyn Pieters and Rick Frank, Police Interrogations and The Psychology of False Confessions
Online <> Delivered on February 22, 2016 at 10th Anniversary Conference: "La psychologie des erreurs judiciaires/The Psychology of Wrongful Convictions, McGill Faculty of Law, Montreal, Quebec

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry Report Dumped at AG Chambers

By Julia Johnson
Prime News Inc, Guyana
February 10, 2016

Like thieves in the night the Walter Rodney Commission of inquiry report was handed to the attorney generals office and the commissioners headed by St Richard Cheltenham departed Guyana.
There are confirmed reports that the bound report has since been sent onwards to President David Granger, at his Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, office.

Now the whole issue about running short of ink seems a red herring, and here is why. Government wanted Sir Richard to hand over a copy of the contract he signed, but he said there was none for the over one half billion dollars paid the commission.

The need for a contract arose after sir Richard commission demanded of the government a "writers fee" for the report. This was in addition to the fee that would have had to be paid over for the week and now one week and a half of "work" in Guyana to facilitate the completion of the said report. one would have though that the fee for the compilation of the report would have been covered in the usual fees the commission received.

This government must tell us what and how much was paid to the last dollar for this report. And whether or not the commissioners were paid for the last week of so called work... work that included insulting Guyana's head of state. This was a presidential commission of inquiry!!


For closing arguments, transcripts of proceedings and various important material at the Walter Rodney Inquiry see, Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry - Oral and Written Submissions, August 04, 2015.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

R v. Constable James Forcillo - Is the judgement a licence to kill?

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 at the site
where Yatim was gunned down
On July 27, 2013, Constable James Forcillo a member of the Toronto Police Service, together with several police officers converged on a streetcar that was stopped at Dundas Street and Bellwoods Avenue, in response to an emergency alarm from the Toronto Transit Operator who was driving the 505 streetcar. Yatim was alone in the streetcar having allegedly threatened passengers who were sitting in close proximity to him.

Forcillo issued expletive laden commands to Yatim. Yatim responded with his own expletive laden words. Forcillo fired three shots at Yatim as he allegedly made a step forward on the streetcar in disobedience to Forcello's command.  That pathology report stated that the shots fired in this volley killed Yatim. That is not the end of the story. Whilst Yatim fell on the floor of the streetcar and was dying, Constable Forcillo fired six more shots at Yatim. The six shots were not lethal.

Constable Forcillo was arraigned before the Jury and tried for the following offences:
1) Second degree murder;
2) Manslaughter;
3)Attempted murder
4) Aggravated assault.

The first two charges relates to the first volley of three rounds fired at Sammy Yatim on the streetcar whilst he was close to the streetcar door with a knife in his hands. The third and fourth charges relate to the six shots fired after a pause and during the time that Yatim lay helpless on the floor of the streetcar dying.

On January 25, 2015, Constable James Forcillo was found guilty by a eleven (11) member mixed jury in a Superior Court Trial presided over by  The Honourable Edward F. Then.

The defence in this case raised the justification for the use of force under section 25 of the Criminal Code and self-defence  under section 34 of the Criminal Code. From all appearance the jury accepted the defence contention that there was some doubt that Forcillo's conduct amounted to second degree murder and/or manslaughter.

The jury however accepted the Crown's contention that Forcillo's conduct beyond a reasonable doubt established the specific intent offence of attempted murder. Constable Forcillo therefore was found to have intended to kill Yatim when he fired the six second volley of shots that were not lethal.

In R. v. McArthur, 2004 CanLII 8759, 182 CCC (3d) 230; 19 CR (6th) 38; [2004] OJ No 721 (QL); 184 OAC 108 (ON CA), <>, Doherty J.A. explains that:
47. Under our law, a person can only be convicted of attempted murder if he or she intended to kill. The moral culpability of the attempted murderer is at least equal to that of a murderer. He or she avoids a murder conviction and the automatic sentence of life imprisonment not because of any mitigating factor, but because through good fortune, the victim was not killed.

48. A conviction for attempted murder will almost inevitably result in a lengthy penitentiary term...

In Ontario, it is rare that police officers who has shot citizens whilst in the line of duty are convicted. In this case, the Crown's strategy to charge on second degree murder was criticized as an overcharge for which conviction by a jury would be a "herculean task". On the other hand, the Crown's splitting the conduct of Constable Forcillo into two distinct component resulted in accountability and the resulting criminal liability with the finding of guilt.

It is reported that Constable Forcillo will be seeking a stay of the proceedings prior to sentencing the principal basis is that he cannot be convicted of a crime when the very basis of the crime is the training he received as a police officer. A state actor raising argument that he is not deserving of a convicting whilst acting on behalf of the state and in the course of his duties as the premise of a stay application is quite novel. However, a stay is an exceptional remedy that is rarely granted. So there is little to no reason to believe this argument will prevail.

Sage advise
In this criminal prosecution the objective video and audio evidence, the testimony of numerous eye witnesses and the pathology report made a different. The finding of guilt, in my view, makes it clear that a badge, gun and state power is not a licence to kill. Police officers are required to exercise sound judgment, mental discipline and respect the right to life, even when dealing with encounters that could potentially be violent.

The reaction to the verdict on television and on social media, particularly twitter, was stark and contrasting:

Toronto Police Association President Mr. Mike McCormack expressed his disappointment, stated that the verdict created a chill and that a stay will be sought on the basis that Constable Forcillo acted consistent with his training.
Toronto Police Service Chief Mark Saunders, was combative and surly in his presser. He contradictory to Mike McCormack, praised the superior system of training that Toronto Police has for its officers. He refused to answer some of the questions posed to him by journalists. He announced that Forcillo would be suspended with pay pending the outcome of the criminal justice process.
Julian Falconer, counsel to the mother of Sammy Yatim, triumphantly thundered that the era of police impunity has come to an end. No longer is the police word against a hapless citizen’s but the police evidence not has to be squared against objective video and photographic evidence and its credibility is assessed on that basis.
Jeff Hershberg ‏@LawyerToronto  Criminal Defence Lawyer “The police often tout video surveillance as amazing and proves guilt. When posted online in #Forcillo case, it's trial by YouTube.”
Chris Marriott ‏@chrismarriott  “The absurdity of Canadian "Justice": Convicted of attempted murder when you're on video actually committing murder.”
Wendy Gillis, Journalist “No matter which way #Forcillo decision goes, verdict is hugely significant for police accountability, police use of force & video evidence.”
Desmond Cole ‏@DesmondCole  “Every day, people who work with the public de-escalate dangerous situations without guns, without killing.”
Andray ‏@AndrayDomise  “If anything is "chilling" about any of this, it's what the mouthpiece of TO officers just told us about their mindset.”

Police officers do need to think before they shoot. Police officers do need to resort to less lethal options in the use of force continuum and escalate only as necessary. Police officers need to de-escalate rather than escalate situations. Those are the implications of a guilty finding in this case on criminal liability.

It can be expected however that the the funders of Constable Forcillo's legal team will exhaust all appeal routes to keep him from being convicted and sentence to a lengthy term of penitentiary. A conviction and sentence to jail time will inevitably result in the loss of his employment as a police officer.


In August 2013, I provided legal commentary on the Sammy Yatim homicide on a Streetcar by Police Constable James Forcillio, on CP24, CTV, CBC Television, CBC Radio, Toronto Star, Global National: 

CBC, The National" Police officer gets bail in Sammy Yatim shooting" August 21, 2013; 

L'heure du monde - Relations difficiles entre les citoyens et la police de Toronto avec K. Djinko August 21, 2013; 

Toronto Star "James Forcillo: An explanation of the bail processAugust 20, 2013; 

Related Research...
Andre Marin's Investigation

Coroners Inquest

Public Statement from the Father of Michael Eligon Jr.



Doug Pritchard Eye-witness Account Interview regarding the Police Killing Of Michael Eligon
(Very good verbal re-inactment)

Media Report on SIU Director's decision regarding Eligon... Mentions TASERS...

Greiving Father hopes Truth will come out...
Andre Marin Slams SIU

Rogers TV Coverage of Police Service Board meeting 
Reuben Abib - BADC Deputation by Reuben Abib begins around the 1hr:33min mark...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Review of Selwyn Pieters, Pieters Law Office more important, challenging and interesting work in 2015

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 December 28, 2015

This is a review of my year of litigation. In 2015 my journey through litigation took my through several practice areas including education law, human rights, police law, criminal law, civil litigation, administrative, constitutional and public law. I won some, I lost some, I resolved some and other cases were litigated on principles so that whether lost or won, the important issue was the principle and standing up for justice.

Constitutional and Public law

McAteer et al. v. Attorney General of Canada 36120 – Constitutional – freedom of expression – Citizenship Oath to Queen Elizabeth II  - Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied. See, McAteer, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, 2015 CanLII 8563 (SCC). See also McAteer v. Canada (Attorney General), 2014 CarswellOnt 10955, 2014 ONCA 578, 121 O.R. (3d) 1, 242 A.C.W.S. (3d) 772, 27 Imm. L.R. (4th) 216, 376 D.L.R. (4th) 258 affirming McAteer, Topey, Dror-Natan v. Canada (Attorney General)  2013 CarswellOnt 13165, 290 C.R.R. (2d) 332, 20 Imm. L.R. (4th) 121, 117 O.R. (3d) 353, 2013 ONSC 5895, E.M. Morgan J. (Ont. S.C.J.). See also Roach et al. v. Canada 2012 CarswellOnt 7799, 2012 ONSC 3521 (ON S.C.). The applicants' position in this case was the Oath to the Queen in the Citizenship Act violates sections 2(a) and (b) Charter of Rights and Freedoms and cannot be saved by section 1. So the Oath Challenge failed. Mr. Dror Bar-Natan took the oath of citizenship in November 2015 and immediately renounced it upon receiving his citizenship certificate.

Taylor-Baptiste v. OPSEU is one of the more significant labour and employment law cases in 2015. It was argued at the Court of Appeal by my friend Ranjan Agarwal.…/Top_10_Employment___Labour_La… I argued the case at the Human Rights Tribunal and my colleague Ranjan Agarwal argued at the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal in  in the case of Taylor-Baptiste v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 2015 ONCA 495 affirming  Taylor-Baptiste v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 2014 ONSC 2169 (Div. Ct.) and Taylor-Baptiste v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union et al, 2014 ONSC 5218 (costs). Counsel at the Court of Appeal and Divisional Court was Ranjan Agarwal and Amanda McLaughlin of Bennet Jones. At the Human Rights Tribunal I represented Correctional Manager Mariann Taylor-Baptiste in the ground-breaking competing rights case of Taylor-Baptiste v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 2012 CarswellOnt 8965, 2012 HRTO 1393, 2012 C.L.L.C. 230-022 reconsideration denied in 2013 CarswellOnt 1033, 2013 HRTO 180, 2013 C.L.L.C. 230-019 at the HRTO. The case is now at the Supreme Court of Canada on an Application for Leave to Appeal

Human Rights Law

In January 2015 Lawyers for the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in a case of alleged racial profiling of a Pakistani Pilot Javed Latif. Human Rights lawyers including Preet K. Bell, Ranjan K. Agarwal, Selwyn A. Pieters, Faisal Bhabha, Khalid M. Elgazzar, Faisal Mirza, Aymar Missikala participated as counsel in Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et desdroits de la jeunesse) v. Bombardier Inc. (Bombardier Aerospace TrainingCenter), 2015 CarswellQue 6297, 2015 CarswellQue 6298, 255 A.C.W.S. (3d) 79, 2015 SCC 39 (CanLII). The Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision in July 2015 dismissing the appeal but upholding the reasoning of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the 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.).

Rohan Roberts application is in the early stages of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario processes. The complaint is alleging racial profiling in the provision of services by the Toronto Police Services Board, Ryan D’ena and Andrew Keown. This is a walking whilst Black case involving allegations of police harassment, brutality and racial profiling.

The decision on the merits in Lewis v. Toronto Transit Commission was released. Mr. Lewis, an African-Canadian male, filed an Application under section 34 of Part IV of the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, as amended, alleging discrimination with respect to employment because of race, colour, place of origin and reprisal. The application was dismissed: Lewis v.Toronto Transit Commission, 2015 CarswellOnt 3092, [2013] O.H.R.T.D. No. 2137, 2015 HRTO 256, CHRR Doc. 15-0756 (Whist).

Criminal Law

I am involved in drugs, guns and gang case "Project Rx". In that case over 70 persons were arrested by police officers in a joint forces operation. The preliminary Inquiry was completed in October 2015 and my client K.C. was discharged. The issue in that case was possession of firearms and drugs. 

Recently I was counsel in two cases where Black men in the Jane and Finch communities in Toronto were harassed then when they question that harassment, they were terrorized, brutalized and to add further injury charged with assault police, resist arrest or obstruct police. The charges were withdrawn in both instances of Michael Duru and Rohan Roberts. When such instances occur, we taken the view that it is a total abuse of their office. And, as I said before, using the courts and the justice system inappropriately to legitimize racial profiling. 

On March 16, 2015 the Court of Appeal decision in the long-standing racial profiling case of R. v.Steele, 2010 ONSC 5397 released by Justice Kathryn Feldman, Justice Janet Simmons and Justice Gladys Pardu: C53511 - R. v. Steele, 2015 CarswellOnt 3334, 2015 ONCA 169, [2015] O.J. No. 1253 (Ont. C.A.). Leave to the Supreme Court of Canada denied:  R. v. Steele, 2015 CanLII 43092 (SCC). In this case, the Court of Appeal ruled that a passenger has no rights to privacy in a motor vehicle during a traffic stop.

Civil Litigation

Bogiatzis v. Davis - Client died unexpectedly in the middle of preparation for examination for discoveries. This was quite shocking.

CV-14-512539 - Lam v University of Western Ontario Board of Governors, 2015 ONSC 5281 (CanLII), <>    and Lam v. The University of Western Ontario Board of Governors et al., 2015 ONSC 1642 (CanLII), <>. Two attempts by the Defendants to have the claim struck without leave to amend failed. The matter now moves to discoveries.

CV-13-491631-00A1 P.P., v.OCSDA v. J. H, T. F. and A. R. litigation involving minors on a field trip arranged and supervised by their school.

Police Law (hybrid Human Rights)

In Afzal v. Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board The applicant, a police officer filed an Application under s. 34 of the Human Rights Code, alleging discrimination with respect to employment because of race, colour, place or origin, ethnic origin. He later retained counsel to assist him with the process.

Bartol v. Waterloo Police Services Board  - This was an application where a Dispatch officer alleged discrimination against her in employment on the basis of disability contrary to sections 5(1) and 9 of the Human Rights Code. The application also alleged that the employer took retaliatory action against her in contravention of section 8 of the Code.

Education Law

I represented former Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Director Christopher "Chris" Spence before the University of Toronto Tribunal in respect to plagiarism allegation in respect to his PhD Thesis. 

Dispute Resolution
For 2015 I have settled numerous cases through the mediation process at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Other cases involving employment law were settled in direct negotiations with employers' counsel.

International Law

Walter Anthony Rodney Commission of Inquiry in Georgetown, Guyana. The Government of Guyana terminated the evidentiary phase after the elections of May 2015. Closing arguments were made in July 2015 and the final report may be released on January 31, 2016.

On April 20, 2014, when the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC)] announced its participation in the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, it concluded its press statement by saying “Guyana and Guyanese deserve closure to this chapter of our history and an end brought to use of Rodney’s name as a wedge. The GTUC is prepared once again to play its part to the achievement of this end.” The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry took up a lot of my time and efforts in 2015. The fact remains that the taxpayers spent $400 Million dollars. Further, the fact remains that a lot of time and effort of a lot of people were put into that Commission. As well, the fact is there needs to be closure for the Rodney Family, the Burnham Family, the Smith's Family, people like Ogunseye (who faithfully attended most of the proceedings including closing arguments), The PNC persons (who felt their characters were at issue) and many others who need that aspect of Guyanese history to be done and historically wrapped up. The sensible thing is to provide the time required to complete that report. The Commissioners are paid to Inquire and Report. Its taxpayers money, let it be done. Presenting the report at [January] month's end closes the matter..... We can then move on [in] 2016 without the Rodney name being used as a wedge, as Lincoln Lewis describes it.