2012-02-27 Laliberte: Statement of Facts submitted to Law Society of Saskatchewan (re Defamation Vellacott)
211 Avenue R South
Ph: (306) 249 0397
February 27, 2012
STATEMENT OF FACTS
REGARDING THE GUILTY VERDICT AND $5000 AWARD
FOR DEFAMATION OF MAURICE VELLACOTT
On February 15, 2012 I received a phone call from Saskatoon Star-Phoenix requesting comment/reaction regarding the guilty verdict against me for defamation to Maurice Vellacott, Conservative MP of Saskatoon Wanuskewin riding. Apparently, there was a trial that found me guilty, to which I had no knowledge of until I received the phone call from the Star-Phoenix.
The charge of defamation is related to my volunteer work for the Campaign to elect Liberal candidate Chris Axworthy in the 2006 Federal Election, Wanuskewin riding. Marie-Therese Verma was and still is the President of the Wanuskewin Riding Association. She was the campaign manager to elect Liberal Chris Axworthy at that time. The alleged incident of willful defamation on my part occurred during a televised live (Shaw cable) debate of federal candidates on January 17, 2006.
For the record, I have been a supporter of the Liberal Party all my life. My parents and extended family members have always been Liberal supporters. Further, I have known Chris Axworthy for many years as he has assisted me on many occasions in Aboriginal community development projects and functions. Chris Axworthy personally made commitments to attend many of our community Aboriginal functions. Therefore, in his bid for a Federal Liberal seat for Wanuskewin riding, Mr. Axworthy personally asked me if I was interested in volunteering in his election campaign in 2006 Federal elections. I enthusiastically accepted his invitation as I felt indebted to him for past contributions made to the Aboriginal community development projects. During the campaign, I volunteered wherever I felt I was needed. As one of his foot soldiers I handed out pamphlets, requested potential supporters to display Liberal posters on their property, and made phone calls to relatives within the Aboriginal community.
I am 63 years old, I am a recognized traditional ceremonial elder within my Aboriginal community. I have conducted ceremonies, provided workshops and presentations on Aboriginal value systems of healing, and provided individual counseling and group therapy (traditional healing circles). At the same time, I have been involved in many Aboriginal organizations in terms of assisting and directing their developmental process, as a consultant in Aboriginal value systems of healing. I have sat in many boards and committee’s as an advisor on our common vision of Aboriginal healing. Because of my experience and knowledge gained through many years working in the field of Aboriginal healing, I have been sought by Government organizations to do presentations and prayer, such as the Ministry of Health of Saskatchewan Government.
My personal circumstances that resulted in the current defamation that found me guilty as a result of 2006 Federal Election.
On Monday, January 17, 2006 as part of our volunteer activities and avid supporters of that campaign, I took some friends with me, including Ernie Poundmaker, (403-269-7729) to the Liberal Campaign headquarters, to assist and listen to the televised Federal candidate debate. Marie-Therese Verma, campaign manager of Chris Axworthy, approached me and asked if I could do a favor for her by making a phone call to the televised debate. She explained that she had to observe the debate in another room and she was unable to make the phone call at the same time; as a volunteer, I agreed to make the call. She gave me a paper with the phone number and three questions to ask Mr. Vellacott. She told me to wait and would signal me when to make the phone call. The three questions to ask Mr. Vellacott that were written on the paper as best as I can recall them were:
1. “Did you ever run for the Liberal Party?”
2. “Were you ever a pastor at North Park Church?”
3. “Were you ever charged with sexual assault of your secretary?”
Upon receiving the go ahead to make the phone call from Marie-Therese Verma, I dialed the number and asked the questions as I was directed. After asking the last question the TV station hung up on me, At that time I thought nothing of it, I got up to get a coffee and a donut. When I returned Kim Olfert (306-341-1782), who had been using the phone before me asked where the phone disappeared to, I told her I had left it on the table and I didn’t know where it went, apparently someone unplugged the phone and moved it. After that I left with my friends, Ernest Poundmaker and Kim. While driving home we had a discussion on the events of the debate, it was at this time my friend Ernest Pound maker told me that Marie-Therese Verma had approached him first to make the phone call. He declined because he was too shy and doesn’t like talking in public.
It wasn’t until the next morning I began to realize the seriousness of the situation, as I started getting phone calls from the media from all over Canada (Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, etc.) In one hour there were about an average of ten calls coming at me. I tried answering the media questions to the best of my ability but for the most part I didn’t know what to say, it was very frustrating trying to answer the inquiries as I didn’t really understand the issue. I started hanging up and didn’t bother answering my phone altogether. It was at this time I called Chris Axworthy at home and asked him what was going on and if I did something wrong. I expressed to him that I felt that I was unjustly targeted by the media as I felt I didn’t do anything wrong. He told me not to worry about anything and that the party will take care of everything, at the same time Mr. Axworthy confirmed that I did nothing wrong, he informed me that one of their lawyers (Liberal) would contact me and that they would take care of the situation. Since then it has been my position to just leave the conflict to the Liberal Party and their Lawyers, to which I regret to this day.
Not long after my phone conversation with Chris Axworthy, a lawyer contacted me. At no time during this controversy did I ask or seek a lawyer but rather was assigned to me by the Liberal Party, the first lawyer that contacted me was from Saskatoon McKercher Law Firm, to which I cannot recall the lawyers name. He is not the same lawyer as who apparently represented me recently in Court decision that found me guilty, the recent lawyer name is Tim Froese, also from the McKercher Law Firm.
A couple of months after the incident, (can’t recall the exact date) I was invited by the Mckercher lawyer who had set up a meeting with Maurice Vellacott, to which apparently was a Court Mediation, at that time I didin’t know that’s what it was. By this time my health was starting to deteriorate as a result of the incredible stress that I was going through. I attended this meeting as requested by the Mckercher lawyer. I felt at that meeting Mr. Vellacott was okay. Initially, he wanted from me compensation in the amount of $200,000.00 I apologized to him for the anguish that I have caused him, I acknowledged to him that it was me that made that call and tried to explain how I got involved the whole fiasco. I told him didn’t know anything about him before or during the elections and that I had no issues against him. I informed him that I was unemployed and I didn’t have any money. Then he lowered his compensation down to $50,000 and eventually came down to $500.00 towards the end when Mr. Vellacott knew that I was not willing to accept his offer, he threatened that he was going to take me to court and get my entire pension. Right after the mediation, I called Chris Axworthy a few more times, eventually he stopped answering my phone calls altogether.
Since the incident I became very depressed and had to leave Saskatoon for a few months at a time to escape the controversy. As a result of the incredible stress that I was experiencing I began taking sleeping pills to the point that they eventually did not even work for me. In April of that year, I had a minor heart attack and the following October 16, 2006 of that year I suffered a major heart attack that required a heart surgery the following October 26, 2006, to which has caused me to become mostly unemployable since then.
The mediation in 2006 was the last time I was personally involved with this case, after the mediation I hadn’t heard anything about the case. It was my assumption that Mr. Vellacott had decided to drop the case against the Liberals and myself. It wasn’t until I received the phone call from Saskatoon Star Phoenix that I learned that I was found guilty of defamation and that I had to pay $5,000.00. During this trial against me, I never received a summons to appear in Court, I never received a phone call or letter in my mailbox stating that there was a trial against me. I was surprised and caught off guard when I received the phone call from the Star Phoenix after the fact, I told them I had no idea what they were talking about. About half hour later after the call from Star Phoenix, I received a phone call from Tim Froese of the Mckercher Law Firm, who apparently was representing me throughout this trial against me. Up to that point, I never met Mr. Froese nor did I not know who he was. He explained to me of the Court decision and what had occurred, he suggested that the $5,000.00 SHOULD be taken care of by the Liberal Party, however he suggested that I might have to launch a lawsuit to recover those costs. At this point I was very upset, I told Mr. Froese that If I take the Liberal Party to Court then I would be asking more than $5,000.00 for all the turmoil they have caused me as result of my loyalty to the party and Chris Axworthy. His response was, “in that case I would have to back out of this.” I questioned Mr. Froese on why he did not try to contact me during this trial against me, when in fact I have not change my address since 2006. He informed me that he tried to contact me several times, however I informed him that I am mostly at home and I have never received correspondence or a visit to my residence during my trial that I did not know about. Mr. Froese apologised over and over for not being able to contact me.
I feel a grave injustice has been brought upon me, I feel that I have been abandoned by the Party that I have been loyal to all of my life. I was told not to worry about anything and that the lawyers that were assigned to me in 2006 would take care of everything. Since then up to 2011, I have been in a very negative state financially and health wise. In the last year I have recuperated significantly and felt my spirit coming back to normal. This latest court decision has brought me back to a place that I hoped was all behind me. Be as it may, I have decided to gather my resources and do what I have to do, to regain my dignity and salvage my reputation. This experience has caused me great anguish, not to mention denied me future opportunities in my career choice. I was willing to let go and move on, however this recent case has given me no choice but to seek a remedy for the injustice that I have gone through.