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Another Ontario Judge Tells it Like He Sees it

Another Ontario Judge Tells it Like He Sees it

In past blogs, I have focused on some interesting Ontario decisions in which judges rather uncharacteristically “told it like they saw it” in terms of assessing the parties’ character or credibility.
For example, you’ll recall that in my blog on Bruni v. Bruni  http://bit.ly/lhJ15r , I highlighted some of the amusing quips by Mr. Justice Quinn in a family law matter.  And in my blog about a case called Pirbhai v. Singh (c.o.b. Sarwan Auto Sales)  http://bit.ly/l0Tt86 I excerpted passages in which that same judge was unusually forthright about his conclusion that one of the litigants was completely untrustworthy in his evidence and re-telling events.

A different judge in a recent Ontario case continues this trend.  In Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre Brampton v. Dhadda, Mr. Justice D.L. Corbett was asked to resolve a dispute involving two Sikh temples, which were owned by a corporation.   However, acrimony had developed between various members, directors and congregants of the temples.   Eventually – amidst allegations of financial mismanagement, theft of donations and other similar assertions – control of the both temples had been seized by a group of individuals, who purported to install a new board of directors and oust certain others from the temples’ membership rolls.

Not surprisingly, this prompted a great deal of chaos within the temples’ congregation, which was punctuated by rancorous meetings of various groups, together with continued mud-slinging across different factions. Ultimately, the corporation took the matter to court to obtain an injunction, and to have control restored to it.

Against this background, Justice D.L. Corbett wrote:

[3]           The defendants resist the injunction.  They say the plaintiff [corporation] is now run by a small clique.  They say that 1049 members have been disenfranchised illegally.  The defendants have been trying to put matters right.  They say the plaintiff has mismanaged its money.  The defendants say that donations are being stolen and something must be done.

[4]           The plaintiff has a long sad history of conflict.  And this just has to stop.  It is an embarrassment: the plaintiff is an important religious, social and cultural institution.  The conflicts have been riotous, often petty, and are concerned with issues of control, and not the high-minded principles cited as justifications for this lawless behaviour.

Before outlining the history of the legal proceedings, Justice Corbett commented generally on the behaviour of the participants, writing:

[11]      Some of the defendants have engaged in gross misconduct in the conduct of this litigation.  For them apparently, the ends justify the means.  It is offensive that some defendants should perjure themselves so blatantly in their evidence.  The ends do not justify the means.  Through their misconduct, these defendants have, in the end, only discredited themselves.

[12]      Litigation is not some childish game.  It is serious process of conflict resolution.  It is not acceptable to lie under oath or to falsify documents to try to win a lawsuit for control of a temple.
Justice Corbett then went on to examine – in great detail – the various events that led up to the usurping of control by the group of members.    After cataloguing a large number discrepancies between certain of the parties’ evidence and the established fact – including the false assertion by some members that they never received certain trespass notices – Justice Corbett wrote:

[184]       It is telling that, again, the defendants deny receiving the trespass notices.  It is clear from the record that they did. Their principled defense to these notices is that management may not bar them from attending a properly constituted meeting of members, since they, themselves, are members.  But rather than take the principled approach, they contest the notice itself.  It is so sad that these defendants, in the guise of invoking important points of principle, are prepared to tell such naked lies under oath.  The notices were served by the corporation’s solicitors, as evidenced by affidavits of service.  In addition, the notices were posted at the temple itself, and were handed out at the temple on the day of the meeting.  The on-site surveillance cameras show the defendant Dhillon walking in the hallway of the gurdwara, reading the trespass notice he had been handed.  And yet he claims under oath he did not see it.

[185]       Does the oath mean absolutely nothing to the defendants?  What conclusion do they think the court will draw about them when faced with such overwhelming evidence that they are prepared to lie so baldly under oath, and then persist in lying when the evidence is placed before them?  With great sorrow I conclude that the defendants care nothing for telling the truth or following the law.  The only explanation appears to be that, where they think their cause is just, they need not observe the basic moral tenets so fundamental in any society governed by the Rule of Law.

While Canadian judges can always be counted on to hear cases and evaluate credibility with a certain measure of objectivity, in cases like Bruni v. Bruni, Pirbhai v. Singh (c.o.b. Sarwan Auto Sales), and now Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre Brampton v. Dhadda, it is refreshing to see such articulated candour in judges’ realistic assessment of the litigation and litigants that come before them.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre Brampton v. Dhadda, 2012 ONSC 716 (CanLII)  http://canlii.ca/t/fpvk4

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