Monday, August 18, 2014

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No man's land: Appeal denied, open-ended law upheld, HRM gets back power struck down in 2008

Not only does the appeal decision of July 11, 2014 mean HRM can go ahead and do what decided to do in 2008 - namely, kill Brindi. It means it can and will do this in secrecy. And in the end, the decision is very likely to mean HRM seize, detain, and kill any other dog unimpeded: it virtually restores the power HRM gave itself in By-Law A-300 the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional in 2009 - in the case I brought against HRM.  
(see HRM's DILEMMA, below; click "read more")

The July 11 appeal decision also allows a number of other undesirable precedents set in the 2012 trial to stand, as well as s. 195 of the HRM Charter, which not only lets a judge order a dog to be put down without any defining any standard of dangerous or requiring evidence of anything related to the dog or owner. It also allows the judge to order virtually anything to be done to a dog with the words, "otherwise dealt with".  


And it left the question of Brindi's future - and whether I can do anything to stop her death - in limbo.  
We are now firmly in no man's land. 

I guess I shouldn't comment much more on the appeal decision except to say that it shocks me to the core for a world of reasons. But we live in a day and age when fundamental principles cannot be taken for granted, I suppose. 

Yet to be blamed as well for "failing to appeal in a timely manner", as if I purposely and willingly prolonged what was a nightmare upon a host of nightmares!?! Excuse me? As if the appeal process itself isn't long and arduous at best, rarely taking less than a year; as if the rules for "summary conviction appeals" aren't hopelessly murky (even for the head clerk) - where is the due consideration for a self-representing appellant? Or an appellant with PTSD, worsened by the stress of the appeal, compounding the ongoing effects of separation from my dog, major financial loss and hardship? The sheer difficulty of compiling a five-volume appeal book and writing briefs would wilt even the strongest man. And the file plainly showed that most of the delay was due to massive problems with the certified trial transcript I had to pay $1000 for, which turned out to be brimming with errors.  80 pages of defence testimony were missing; the "correction" came back with even more errors - the "worse court transcript in 30 years", the expert I paid to fix it told a judge.

The defective transcript wound up causing a nine-month delay, by the time it was redone. Dealing with it exhausted all the the energy and time I would have devoted to the actual appeal -and precious little leftover to deal with the massive backlog of other issues from all those years I was struggling to save Brindi, i.e., everyday life. It left me broke in the dead of winter, with burst pipes flooding my entire house and debt piling sky-high. Six more months to get a court to order a transcript refund, which the original transcriber, the cause of the delay, simply never paid. 



And, every delay was increased by the fact that - as the court knows - only one day a week is set aside for summary conviction appeals.

The judge also knew very well that 
I didn’t want to have to appeal in the first place. I tried everything possible to avoid it - just as I tried everything to avoid court since 2008. But the 2012 trial judge's bizarre ruling left Brindi's fate up to HRM, as if the city hadn't made up its mind long ago - my god, it demanded an order to kill from the same judge! 


So I had no choice but to appeal, especially as weeks before the appeal deadline in August of 2012, the city responded to my question about an assessment (inexplicably) ordered by the court, that they the results of any assessment they might do (and they had no plans to do one), would be kept "internal", i.e., not made known. As they "usually" do - which is not usual at all to do.


What more do you need to know - to prove - that HRM will simply finish Brindi off in some dark corner, make some weak-minded vet do it, and then stubbornly keep it a secret, forever and ever - fooling no one?

Even before the lawyers got hold of Brindi, HRM Animal Services was clearly interested only in "winning". That fact does not relieve the lawyers of moral responsibility for pulling out all stops to make the senseless killing of a beloved companion possible - well beyond "just doing their job", to even halfway perceptive observers, their brand of professional ambition is just another name for murder.

And as sick as it makes me, I also know, as ever, should I stop, and if I mess up - nobody else will take up the fight to save Brindi from HRM. After that, all bets are off. HRM is certain to block any Freedom of Information application to find out what happened. It would be pointless anyway; FOI does nothing. And Brindi would be dead.


I reject any use of "at least" when I say: even if she had to revert to her kennel mode - a fragment of her true self, which grieves me every hour - she is alive now (or so they say).

I guess I can't comment much more on the reasons given to deny my appeal. I will say that I found it pretty shocking to be blamed in it for "failing to appeal in a timely manner", as if I purposely and willingly prolonged what was a nightmare upon a host of nightmares!? As if the appeal process itself isn't long and arduous at best, rarely taking less than a year; as if the rules for "summary conviction appeals" aren't hopelessly murky (even for the head clerk) - where is the due consideration for a self-representing appellant? Or an appellant with PTSD, worsened by the stress of the appeal, compounding the ongoing effects of separation from my dog, major financial loss and hardship? The sheer difficulty of compiling a five-volume appeal book and writing briefs would wilt even the strongest man. And the file plainly showed that most of the delay was due to massive problems with the certified trial transcript I had to pay $1000 for, which turned out to be brimming with errors.  80 pages of defence testimony were missing; the "correction" came back with even more errors - the "worse court transcript in 30 years", the expert I paid to fix it told a judge.

The judge also knew that 
I didn’t want to have to appeal in the first place. I tried everything possible to avoid it - just as I tried everything to avoid court since 2008. But the 2012 trial judge's bizarre ruling left Brindi's fate up to HRM, as if the city hadn't made up its mind long ago - my god, it demanded an order to kill from the same judge! 

HRM's DILEMMA
People are sending in adoption requests from all over, and it's no surprise HRM isn't responding to them. Adoption is out: that would discredit the original decision to kill her, and their prior refusal of adoption. Adoption would confirm that everything they did going back to 2008 was unjustified. Of course, so does the string of positive assessments from that year up to 2012...   


From what prosecutor Salsman said in court when she tried to get the appeal dismissed last October, it's clear the city is quite prepared to go ahead and put Brindi down. During that hearing, I listed off to the judge how many times and ways Halifax rejected my offers of reasonable alternatives that would have avoided every single court proceeding since 2008. 

Salsman's method of dealing with the truth was to say, in a tone of privileged position, she "hoped" he would not give any weight to what I said. Before she could finish he was already going right along with it, saying "Well, she hasn't provided any evidence for it," as if the very day before he hadn't assured me he'd give me time to gather and submit any evidence that became necessary - which was proper, as nobody had bothered to inform me about the hearing; I was there by sheer chance). 


Continuing, Salsman went into full smug: "And even if all that she says were true, m'Lord, why should we abandon our position?"



That mind-searing sentence is a perfect and chilling reply to the question of why Halifax and its lawyers have been so singularly ruthless in its pursuit of killing Brindi and, frankly, destroying me. 

What better proof is there that this whole life-destroying gambit was never about public safety, or animal control, truth, or justice? 


It was a shameless display of an ethos that goes against every principle espoused by the barristers society, laying bare the rock-hard, consistently merciless treatment of me and Brindi at every turn. Manipulating fact and fiction, exploiting every trick in the book to defeat an unworthy opponent - a dog that never bit anybody and a woman who foolishly believed the truth meant something. Salsman roundly dismisses  as "irrelevant" any and all contrasts to routine animal control decisions - of course; it clearly shows the lack of merit in her position. 


"Why should we abandon our position?" is a justification for a trajectory of conduct that has abandoned all reason. It is plain abuse of the law, of authority, of the truth, that left me feeling sick to my core. 


The decision to withhold assessment results from the public - before even scheduling an assessment - is consistent with this Kafkaesque mentality. 


With five years of positive assessments, faking a negative assessment is out of the question, and disclosing positive results would force them to adopt Brindi. Better to act like a small child who believes if it covers its eyes, it's invisible. Nothing is more childish than to attempt secrecy when the truth is plain to see. The secrecy merely confirms it.


So I am stuck with the impossible task of applying for a second appeal. I have no problem admitting  I have no stomach for another bout of torture. I don't know who I am anymore; my real life is long since a feeble memory. I have no stomach for even finding out how to do the appeal.


____________ 

And me? I suspect even Kafka would find this hard to believe. Since 2011, l live in perpetual fear that HRM will seize my house and property and sell it off. It's a genuine and present threat, orchestrated through calculated sidestepping and distortion of fact, procedure, and law. Power. The same wintry day in 2010 they evicted me (my deceased father's birthday), they put up a fence around my house as soon as I was no longer in sight. This was to create a false impression that it was somehow so dangerous and kids could get hurt cutting through my property.

By the end of the following summer, they had issued a conditional demolition order - a completely unheard of creature - and mugged the Heritage Act in the process. Then after forcing me to hire unqualified contractors to pour a foundation - what better torture for an architect??! -  they put a lien on my house for the cost of the fence and boarding on the windows they added later for effect. Since "lien" usually means something filed at the deeds office, a problem only if I ever wanted to sell my house, I did not worry about it.  

But there was no HRM lien at the Register of Deeds. 'Course not! HRM - which poo-poos such standard conventions as zebra-stripes at crosswalks - has its own version of a lien. And it's not a lien at all. Unseen hands simply took the cost of the fencing - $15,000 - and dumped it into my paid up property tax account and labeled it - falsely - "arrears". How false? My taxes are about $700 a year; I bought the house in 2006. How did I rack up $15K in four years? On top of this, they added a 15% annual interest charge. I delved back into the HRM Charter and lo and behold, way down in the depths it says they can do this very thing - but with Council approval. To make that easier, there is a blanket approval option - Council simply gives "staff" carte blanche on all cases. 


And if there was specific Council approval, nobody told me. I had no idea any kind of lien was under consideration, just as I had no idea of eviction. And the same female HRM lawyer who presided over the demolition hearing with an iron fist had assured me four months earlier that she and HRM had absolutely no intention to tear down my house...

 Never mind that no kid ever dreamt of cutting through masses of thorn bushes  to get to the parkbehind my house, especially when there is a entrance driveway right next door. Never mind that my house was supported on huge steel I-beams and cribbing, and withstood two years of hurricanes. Nothing in the building code and by-laws permits or requires a fence around a freestanding house under renovation with a legal permit! 

So after creating its own kind of lien, the HRM law also says that if you don't pay it in full after a year, they can put your house on the tax sale auction list along with people who owe back taxes- at which point the law prohibits you from going to court about it. Imagine a by-law blocking access to the courts while also blocking the constitutional right to be heard! Chalk up another startlingly undemocratic (I dare not use other words) feat of legislation, literally institutionalizing procedural unfairness - or due process. Kind of a big thing. 


But they did it. Oh, they offered an appeal: a subjective, non-disinterested review by a member of HRM staff. Done without any input from me or anybody else, at a time not known to me. Once again fully at odds with the Canadian Charter. You can guess the outcome.


 In the year that followed, which led up to the trial, there was simply no humanly possible way to go to court about it to head off a tax seizure and sale. All I can do in the meantime is make small payments every month. If I wanted to deal with it, I would have to apply for permission to apply after the one year period expired, etc. Very time-consuming, exhausting, frustrating stuff. But equally petrifying. 

So if HRM drops a notice about selling my house for nonexistent back taxes... I will have two weeks' flat to raise the money or I am facing homelessness. Again. 

I can't think about that much now. I have to think about how to get these papers filed. The threat will still be there after that. 








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