Does Harry Kopyto believe in the rule of law? The Law Society says no. Harry says yes.
The attack on Harry comes from his representation of clients who can’t afford to pay high-priced lawyers. A by-law of the Law Society forbids paralegals from doing lawyers’ work.
Harry explains it this way. The Law Society must follow four key principles set out in the Law Society Act. One principle clearly states that the Law Society must promote affordable access to the courts. If the by-law forbidding Harry Kopyto from representing them prevents access to the courts to his clients, it is in conflict with that principle. No by-law should be enforced when it is in conflict with a fundamental principle and purpose of an Act. That is clear law. Therefore, Harry says that he is justified to provide affordable access to justice―which is key to a civilized society―in cases where the Law Society and the monopolistic legal profession fail in their duty to provide it.
Harry’s Career Devoted to Rule of Law
Harry‘s history is full of records of his efforts to extend and protect the rule of law. From the time that he defended the right to trial by jury in the Morgentaler case to his volunteer efforts to monitor the show trials of opponents of the Polish Stalinist Regime in 1981, Harry’s entire legal career has been dedicated to the rule of law in the service of justice.
One of the best examples of Harry’s commitment to the rule of law goes back a long time. Harry’s witness at his Law Society hearing next Thursday April 17th at 9:30 a.m., John Riddell, a historian and writer, will testify to the illegal harassment and abuse that he suffered over years by people sworn to uphold the law. In doing so, he will highlight Harry’s role in helping John and his associates protect the rule of law; a case that is emblematic of the extent to which Harry has devoted his law practice to defend it.
RCMP Operation Checkmate Was Illegal
In the 1960s and 1970s, the RCMP Security Service was engaged in massive illegal activities directed against persons and organizations they thought would “destabilize” Canada. In Ontario, the RCMP implemented a secret illegal plan―Operation Checkmate. This operation targeted members of an organization called the League for Socialist Action and the Young Socialists. These were completely legitimate public legal organizations active in the anti-Vietman war movement, the women’s rights movement and in the NDP. Nonetheless, the RCMP engaged in a covert illegal vicious campaign to disrupt these organizations. They secretly penned phony letters pretending that they came from members or the groups in order to cause dissent within these organizations. They broke into the homes of members of these organizations surreptitiously leaving them in disheveled condition without any explanation. They sent false messages and notes that were often personal in nature. Their goal was to create uncertainty, confusion and a sense of vulnerability among the group’s members. They wanted these members to know that they were being watched. This operation went on throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.
The revelation of this secret cabal of law-breaking sleuths finally became public in the late 1970s, largely because of Harry’s efforts. At that time, the Ontario government set up a provincial commission to inquire into the breach of confidentiality of medical health records. This Commission was headed by then Superior Court Judge Horace Krever. During the course of his deliberations, the RCMP appeared before him under oath and falsely denied ever having breached the confidentiality of medical records.
RCMP Caves in―Admits Criminal Activities
When the RCMP’s denial was published in the newspapers, the former leader for the League for Socialist Action, Ross Dowson, brought to the attention of Harry Kopyto, (then a practicing lawyer in Toronto) leaflets that had been distributed at a convention of the Young Socialists in 1970s held in King Edward Public School. These leaflets, left on chairs in the public school auditorium where the convention was taking place in downtown Toronto during the prior night, made reference to John Riddell―the League’s then-leader―attending psychiatric sessions and falsely maligning him by falsifying his state of emotional health. Dowson and Kopyto quickly brought these leaflets to the attention of the Krever Commission counsel, Harvey Strosberg. Aghast at being lied to by the RCMP and the scope of this criminality by the RCMP itself, he threatened, under pressure from Kopyto and Dowson, to execute a search warrant on the RCMP headquarters in downtown Toronto if the RCMP wouldn’t admit that they had authored the leaflets.
The RCMP caved in. They were forced to confess their crimes before the Krever Commission under cross-examination by Harry Kopyto. Massive new revelations were made public regarding Operation Checkmate headed by two senior RCMP officers, Yaworski and Chisholm. As a result, there was a huge public outcry over a police force that systemically broke the law, with the approval of the Privy Council which included the Prime Minister’s office and Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. The RCMP argued that their conduct was justified because the targeted groups were gaining influence within the left wing “Waffle” group inside the NDP in the 1960s. That did nothing to assuage the growing public concern over the RCMP’s “dirty tricks”. Screaming headlines, a blow-up in the Ontario legislature and an outcry from civil libertarians across the country followed. The public was scandalized by a police force pledged to uphold the law breaching the criminal code with approval from political superiors.
Public Outcry Results in Security Service Disbanded
The exposure of the RCMP’s dirty tricks campaign and the public outcry that followed it reverberated throughout Canada. Shortly after the Krever Commission completed its hearings, the revelations regarding Operation Checkmate became part of the record of the proceedings before a federal Commission that had been appointed in Ottawa to look into RCMP wrongdoing throughout the country including Quebec, where the RCMP was found to have committed arson and other crimes against the movement for Quebec independence. In addition, during this time, Harry attended an investigative session of the McDonald Commission organized in Toronto to hear further evidence from several of Harry Kopyto’s clients about additional revelations of RCMP harassment. The work of both Commissions and especially revelations from Harry’s clients eventually resulted in the RCMP Security Service’s being disbanded in the early 1980s and replaced by a civilian force independent of the RCMP.
Following the revelations of Operation Checkmate, Harry Kopyto, through a series of civil suits and criminal proceedings that took him twice to the Supreme Court of Canada, attempted to get justice for the victims of the RCMP illegality which the federal government completely ignored. His work involved more than 80 court appearances, all of which were done voluntarily without charge. The first of Harry’s appearances before the Supreme Court reinforced the historic right of private prosecution which the Ontario government violated by blocking criminal charges against Yaworski and Chisholm laid by Ross Dowson.
Law Society Ignores RCMP Illegality
Harry’s legal campaign to have the RCMP held accountable for their conduct and to be treated equally with other persons who break the law was widely supported.
Thirty criminal lawyers called for the Law Society to bring discipline charges against then federal Justice Minister Robert Kaplan for professional misconduct, which the Law Society ignored, for stating that the RCMP was legally justified in breaking into the homes of innocent people to plant bugs as part of Operation Checkmate. An equal number of criminal lawyers volunteered their services free of charge to prosecute RCMP officers who admitted to criminal conduct when the federal government claimed it lacked the resources to do so. Both of these projects were led and organized by Harry Kopyto. Harry’s efforts also received international support from such luminaries as Benjamin Spock, Noam Chomsky, Jessica Mitford, and Linus Pauling for campaigning for the rule of law against RCMP criminals. But every court Harry went to, blocked his efforts to prosecute the RCMP or sue them. When Harry, in a last-ditch effort, tried to sue Yaworski and Chisholm in the Toronto Small Claims Court, his case was dismissed because―according to Judge Marvin Zuker―they acted in the course of performing their official services at the time that they committed the vast array of criminal acts.
Kopyto Targeted―RCMP Let Go
Harry Kopyto responded. He made a public statement to the Globe and Mail accusing the courts and the RCMP of being stuck together like “Krazy Glue”. Ironically, Harry Kopyto ended up being charged with contempt of court for making this statement while the RCMP never had to face their day in court for admitted criminal conduct. Of course, the Law Society had a role to play in all of this. The same Law Society that has forced Harry into the current “good character” hearing jumped into the arena seeking to charge Harry Kopyto with professional misconduct for his famous “Krazy Glue” comment. Because of broad opposition to this move by the public and the bar, the Law Society backed off and found a more convenient way of driving Harry out of the legal profession.
John Riddell will be testifying as Harry Kopyto’s last witness on the morning of April 17, 2014. He was the chief victim of the RCMP dirty tricks campaign in Ontario. His testimony will show the profound commitment Harry had shown in fighting for the rule of law. Harry spent a decade of his professional career to achieve justice against the RCMP. John Riddell will describe the circulation of false leaflets about him at the Young Socialist Convention in 1970. He will point out that that was only one of the series of criminal acts that was committed against him and the members of his family and his organization for which no one has even been found accountable in any civil or criminal court in the country.
Law Society Ignores its Own Principles
Back to the Law Society’s campaign against Harry for breaching their unauthorized practice by-law. The real choice for Harry’s clients is not to choose between his help or the help of a lawyer. The real choice for them is between Harry helping them or having no representation at all. Harry’s assistance, often for little or no compensation, has allowed his clients to access the courts and use Harry’s knowledge and experience to defend themselves and pursue their legal rights. Such affordable access is fundamental to a civilized society. Without such access, injustice thrives not only for the poor but for the majority of Canadians who can’t afford astronomical fees lawyers charge and which courts gladly award against losing parties in litigation. It is the Law Society’s obligation to ensure the fulfillment of such a basic constitutional right as affordable access to the courts. And while the Law Society abandons its principles without accountability and ignores the evil involved in denying access to the courts for the majority in Canada, it sanctimoniously accuses Harry of bad character for breaching its by-law.
It should be the obligation of lawyers who have a monopoly over legal services to provide such access. Yet poor Harry, trying to save a scintilla of dignity and rights for his clients, is hoisted on his petard for doing what the Law Society and lawyers are failing to do.
John Riddell’s testimony will be given at Harry Kopyto’s good character hearing in the Museum Room at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday April 17th. The hearings are likely to be over around lunch time. It will be the last day for calling evidence in Harry’s case.
Your presence and support on this last day of hearing evidence in Harry Kopyto’s good character proceeding will be an important signal of public support for Harry to the legal establishment and to fair-minded Canadians. Be there.