My name is Doug Amell, I am a dedicated husband and father to 3 little girls. My family is my world.
For about 7 years, my family has been targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency for crimes of tax evasion they say we have committed, but they cannot, or will not provide an understandable legal explanation. I have been sentenced to 16 months and my wife 5 months and conditional sentences have been denied. Worse though are the procedural transgressions we have had to endure that have denied us fundamental justice.
We were “NOT” given the opportunity of a trial where we were judged by a jury of our peers. The Crown prosecutor for Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has the “power to choose” whether an accused person is to be judged by a “JUDGE ONLY” or by a “JUDGE and JURY”. We had no control over this.
Should we not have been given the option to be judged by the people who pay into the income tax system? With the risk of substantial jail time, shouldn’t it be our right to be tried before a jury of our peers? The Crown choosing to proceed with the indictable offense of tax evasion as a summary offence, denied us the right to a jury, as well as depriving us of more automatic rights to appeal at higher levels of Court. This procedure is what the Crown is using to try to incarcerate us and deprive us of having our appeal heard by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals.
We never hid the fact that we were being paid amounts under private contracts, and never had secret bank accounts. Not once did CRA ever contact us as individuals to get clarity on what we were doing.
The real issue at hand for us was not simply one of “refusing to pay income tax” as has been reported in the media, and which is false as it pertains to us. Instead, it was whether or not it is illegal to not pay an income tax on amounts that were not required to be reported in the first place.
Based on my extensive legal research over many years, I believe my reasoning to be sound based on interpretation of income and profit, and the Crown prosecutor even said this to me during my cross-examination “I think the worst of it what you’re doing is that you actually believe this…” This shows the Crown prosecutor admitting I obviously had no criminal intent and I simply went forward based on my study and understanding of the law as to what was income to me.
Power of the Canada Revenue Agency
During the original trial heard by Justice Douglas Kovatch of the Provincial Court in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan there were many factors brought up during the trial that were ignored, or simply disallowed by the judge, which we feel violated our rights to a fair trial. This excluded evidence is crucial to our case and includes:
1) EARLY WARNING REPORT – Evidence arose during the trial of the existence of a secret report known as an Early Warning Report that was made about us 3 years before CRA conducted a search and seizure. This report is believed to have been used to warn the government of a politically sensitive case that may have special interest and oblique political motives to high ranking officials within our government. This is a very secretive report, made obvious by witnesses attempts to lie about its existence in court before being confronted with evidence of its existence. They attempted to deny remembering anything about it, before the Crown finally stated that they could not readily find it. Then the Court deemed it not relevant without even having seen it.
Both levels of courts have denied us access to this Early Warning Report. There are a couple of potentially strong defences to be made from the information that report likely contains, including certain Charter violations. The courts should have no right to deprive us of our right to explore important paths of defence.
During the trial, Brian Ackerman, a CRA Trust Examiner based out of Regina, SK was questioned about the “Early Warning Report”. After a letter written from us to him, asking for clarification on his legislative authority to demand certain things from our business, evidence shows that Mr.Ackerman was told to issue an Early Warning Report by his supervisor Dale Knapp, a CRA Supervisor based out of Regina, SK to Dave Marshall”. We do not know the position or department within the government that Dave Marshall works in – we have no idea who he is and what his interest in our case is! We never had any correspondence with CRA from this point until we were searched under warrant 3 years later.
Mr.Ackerman first denied the report’s existence while testifying on the stand –stating that he did not remember filing it – but acknowledged later that he must have done so after evidence was produced proving that his supervisor had asked him to do so. When asked how many Early Warning Reports he filed in his 20 year+ career – he stated “only one other than this one”. He also admitted that it is “a report to Ottawa…in regards that a file and client I’m working with may be a high profile…” Later, Susan Stromich, CRA Chief Investigator based out of Regina, SK for this case admitted to interviewing Mr.Ackerman. In this interview she asked him about the Early Warning Report at which time he admitted he had done the report and sent it to his supervisor Dale Knapp and to a Dave Marshall.
When Susan Stromich was put on the stand, she also tried to deny ever hearing about such a report. Then her own notes showed her questioning Mr Ackerman about this very same report and writing down his answers about it. Her only note about the nature of this report is that it was “political”. Here are two examples of CRA agents who testified under oath on the stand denying any knowledge of this report. These were the two most important informants to CRA’s case. What does it appear to you that they were doing?
The judge denied our Motion to compel CRA to produce this report. As unrepresented accused, case law requires that the judge has a duty to help us procedurally in any way to help ensure our defense is brought forth with most force and effect. The judge would NOT ALLOW us to subpoena the two individuals who had purportedly received this report. We believe that the very existence of this report, and the fact that the judge and CRA will not allow us to have it proves that it contains something fatal to their case. Audit powers are not available by law after an investigation is in progress, by decision of the Supreme Court.
What does this judge and Canada Revenue Agency have to fear by releasing this Early Warning Report? Who is behind this secretive report, and why do they want to cover this up? If this is how our justice system works, we are terrified for the freedoms of our children and the people of this country.
2) SEARCH WARRANT – In 2007, without any form of prior communication for 3 years, our home and business was searched by CRA. Instead of going through the Income Tax provisions to get their search warrant, CRA used the Criminal Code of Canada to allow a low-level agent to get a search warrant, issued by a justice of the peace with little experience in the complexity of the laws around income tax.
The Income Tax Act has its own provision regarding search warrant authorization. Because of the increased difficulty in getting a search warrant authorized through the Income Tax Act – CRA chose to use the Criminal Code to authorize a search warrant.
In doing so, CRA was able to bypass the process that Parliament laid out in their own Income Tax Act that tells them they need to have the Minister of National Revenue bring facts to a Judge of a superior court, where the warrant can be granted by the discretion of this judge from FACTS placed before him. Their own process laid out in the Income Tax Act itself, gives greater private protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The process of procuring a Criminal Code warrant simply involves a justice of the peace, with no knowledge of the intricacies of the Income Tax Act, rubber-stamping a warrant based on the oath of a lowly CRA officer that she believes an Income Tax Act offence to have occurred. This becomes problematic when one considers that this very same agent was inaccurate on the stand.
Also, the agents expanded the provisions of the search warrant by taking multiple photographs inside our house, that weren’t authorized by the warrants, as well as searching our private vehicles, which was also not authorized by the warrants. Neither judge seemed to feel this was a problem.
Should all of their evidence collected by these means have even been allowed to be admissible? Allowing CRA to not be punished for these serious infringements on privacy rights, by allowing them to use evidence collected in this manner, sends the message that they can break the rules of law and still get to have things proceed the way they wish. Our argument was that the allowance of them to use all evidence gathered in this manner brings the administration of justice into disrepute.
Our search warrant argument has been denied by 2 levels of judges so far. Why are we expected to follow the law, but not CRA? Parliament provides provisions for the proper obtaining of a search warrant that provides greater Charter protections. Why does the justice system allow CRA to have such absolute power and control over our Charter rights and freedoms?
3) CHIEF WITNESS WAS ALLOWED TO HEAR TESTIMONY OF OTHER WITNESSES – The Judge allowed CRA’s chief witness, Susan Stromich, to sit in on all the testimony of other witnesses before her turn on the stand, thus allowing her to corroborate evidence once it was her turn to be cross-examined. All of this was done over repeated objections. This goes against fair court procedure in a trial where evidence is given by different witnesses about common events. She got to hear all the cross-examination before it was her turn.
4) JUDGE ENTERED PLEAS WITHOUT OUR KNOWLEDGE– Prior to the trial starting we stated that before we proceeded we needed to understand the charges properly. We replied that we did not understand the charges because the definition of income as it relates to the amounts we received and Income Tax Act was not defined, so we were forced to plead into an issue of law blindly. The judge denied our request to have a point of law answered first so that we could make a proper plea, and then advised us that he had already entered pleas of not-guilty on our behalf. The Appeal Judge claims the Criminal Code states he can do this when the defendant refuses to plea, but we had never refused to plea.
5) TRIAL PROCEEDED FORWARD WITHOUT ACCUSED PRESENT DUE TO ILLNESS – As the Judge had no interest in answering the above question for us, we felt rushed into a defense trial. The stress of this caused my wife who was 3 months pregnant to haemorrhage, which started a miscarriage causing us to lose our baby. After this miscarriage early in the trial, the judge REFUSED to adjourn court for the 2 weeks of bed-rest which she was medically advised to have. This meant that she, as an unrepresented accused, was not even able to be present for a good portion of our trial. Her evidence and assistance was also unavailable to the other defendants.
6) HARSHNESS OF SENTENCE - As soon as I was found guilty, I was immediately ordered to be remanded into custody with all of the dangerous offenders being pulled off the street during that same time period, until 17 days later, when my sentence would be pronounced. There was no reason for this malicious order, as I had had plenty of time to flee up to this point if I was a flight risk, and I was not dangerous; two points I pleaded before the judge as he had me shackled and sent away. In response to my plea, he only added “I have made my decision”. I never got to kiss my little girls goodbye as I had no idea I would be immediately sentenced to confinement even if I was to be convicted.
The Crown and the Judge spoke repeatedly about the harshness of the sentence being necessary as a deterrent to the rest of society. If the extreme personal costs of being forced through weeks of court proceedings, and having your reputation tarnished by numerous mass media accounts as well as heavy fines wasn’t enough of a deterrent, the justice system felt it necessary to give me a longer sentence than someone convicted of rape? According to Statistics Canada, the median sentences for sexual assault and for other sexual offenses are both 360 days.
I am not trying to sway anyone as to whether or not I am guilty of the crimes of which we have been accused, although I firmly stand behind our innocence. I am writing to inform you of the wrongs committed against my family by our judicial system, and to ask for your help in getting us fair treatment by the Courts, and to force Canada Revenue Agency to provide us with all of the disclosure that was our legal right to receive – ie the Early Warning Report.
Any one of these issues should be grounds for appeal, let alone the whole collection of procedural transgressions, like the denial of full disclosure, the unlawful search and seizure, the secret entering of pleas without our knowledge, the main witness being allowed to sit in on other witness testimonies, the proceeding with trial in the absence of the unrepresented defendant present, etc. Canadians should expect more from our court system, and not worry about having to experience such disregard for due process whenever the Government, or more specifically Canada Revenue Agency, is the plaintiff.
And the incarceration we have already endured as well as what could be forthcoming, along with substantial court fines, is based on the judgement of one man without the impartial judgement of a jury of our peers.If I am incarcerated, my practice will be destroyed, my family will be devastated, and my kids will be without a provider and father. And we would lack funds to continue this fight. Is this perhaps their intention?
Thank you for taking the time to read our story…. we appreciate your time more than words can express.