Nanulik by-election candidate alleges government conspiracy
Preliminary motions stand in the way of $2.6-million lawsuit
Francis Mazhero had his day in court last week, but though it didn’t go quite as he would have liked, the Nanulik by-election candidate beamed with joy that his claims of massive government conspiracy were finally being heard.
Mazhero was a teacher at Victor Sammurtok School in Chesterfield Inlet from August 2001 to May 2002. In December 2001, a 14-year-old student accused him of inappropriately touching her, then quickly recanted her story and apologized for making it up.
He maintains, however, that the principal of the school pursued the accusation even after they were proven to be false, and fired him though he knew no wrongdoing had occurred.
But Mazhero’s statements of claim extend far beyond that single incident, delving into accusations of fraud and contempt of court against several government employees and a court clerk enlisted to help him, and even the arbitrator hired to hear his grievances.
In just a few months, the case has grown to nine grievances, five statements of claim, about 10 preliminary motions and more than 1,000 documents.
It is made even more difficult because few of the individuals named in the claims continue to work in Nunavut.
Justice Beverly Browne of the Nunavut Court of Justice will provide a written ruling by the end of the month on the first of the preliminary motions in Mazhero’s $2.6-million series of claims against the Government of Nunavut, the Federation of Nunavut Teachers, Chivers, Kanee, Carpenter, the law firm hired by the FNT to defend him, as well as the arbitrator, Arnie Peltz.
“You know, I saw on the list here there’s something against Arnie Peltz,” a court reporter said incredulously before the Aug. 7 hearing began.
Susan Cooper, the lawyer for the FNT, and the only defence lawyer present in the Iqaluit courtroom, nodded uncomfortably, with a quick glance at Mazhero, who is representing himself, and told the woman that this was indeed the matter involving Peltz.
Browne was named case-management judge during the hearing, which means, essentially, that she will be the one to plow through the towering stack of preliminary motions and determine whether the case should proceed to trial. If it does, another judge will preside over the trial.
Additional preliminary motions will be heard on Aug. 21 and Sept. 16.
Katherine Peterson, a Yellowknife lawyer representing the Government of Nunavut and the individual GN employees named in the claims, asked that two of her clients, Doug Garson, the lawyer representing the GN during the grievance process, and Lindsay Hudson, a labour relations consultant for the GN, be removed as defendants.
She argued that they were not parties to Mazhero’s employment contract or the collective agreement, and therefore were not parties to any breach of those agreements.
Mazhero countered that in an e-mail to Chris Purse, the director of Kivalliq School Operations at the time, Hudson made herself a party to the “sabotage” that he alleges.
The e-mail, dated Feb. 28, 2002, encourages a quick end to the matter. “If it is the case that the federation is not backing this grievance, in accordance with the collective agreement, it dies at Step 2. That is, the grievor cannot proceed to Step 3 without the federation, and the grievance cannot be sent to arbitration without an attempt at Step 3,” it reads.
“As a consequence of Hudson’s scheme, my grievances, which would have been dealt with in February 2002, have still not been dealt with,” Mazhero said.
But Browne told Mazhero the sheer number of motions and claims in the case is what is preventing the matter from being dealt with.
“It seems to me you should get on with your grievance as soon as you possibly can. We’re getting on with so much periphery your grievance is going to get lost,” she said.
“This is going to take years to settle. Five statements of claim will take a year.”
Mazhero countered that the proceedings were necessary to show that the parties were involved in a conspiracy against him.
“That’s a conspiracy, your honour, to get rid of my grievances,” he said.
He provided documents obtained through an access to information request that he said showed the arbitrator had been paid before an arbitration hearing in Rankin Inlet, despite the fact the hearing never took place.
“That’s when the conspiracy came in. They decided to scuttle the arbitration scheduled for Dec. 9,” he said.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with you,” Browne said.
“It’s not fair a government lawyer should approve an improper payment. Those are our tax dollars. I am a taxpayer,” Mazhero maintained.
“That’s maybe for the taxpayers to debate,” Browne said.
Peterson countered that according to the legal definition of conspiracy, a combination of individuals with the intent to act unlawfully, there is no evidence a conspiracy occurred.
“There are lots of combinations alleged, but in our position, there is no unlawful act,” she said via teleconference.
But Browne began to lose patience when discussion turned to allegations of civil contempt against Garson and Shani Watts, a court clerk in Iqaluit.
Mazhero alleged that Watts became part of the conspiracy when she returned documents to him in Chesterfield Inlet, unfiled.
“The clerk is required to receive and file documents. Instead of filing those papers, they were returned to me,” Mazhero said. “I had been defamed and it was very important that the defamation did not carry on unchecked.”
But Browne was unsympathetic. “You’ve got a long way to go before you convince me that she should be responsible for anything she did in her job,” Browne said. “Tell me where the dishonesty and fraud is. Those are very strong allegations to make against somebody.”
Mazhero claimed that Garson should be found in contempt because court staff showed favouritism toward him. “Court staff prefer Garson. He knows this and takes advantage,” he said.
“Mazhero makes very strong allegations which are not supported by any of the materials,” Peterson countered. “If the plaintiff doesn’t get the results he is looking for, the world is in conspiracy.”
One of the final matters the court heard was a request by Mazhero to be permitted to visit Victor Sammurtok School, where his daughter is a student. He was banned from the school upon his dismissal.
Peterson said she would seek instructions from her clients.
“Why was I banned?” Mazhero continued.
“That may be determined at a trial. I’m not going to get into it today,” Browne said.
“My challenge today is how to get the core problem solved. I’ve been in court since 10:00 this morning without a break and you just have to back off a bit.”