Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why donate to my Legal Fund?

I was fired from my tenured full professorship at the University of Ottawa, Canada, because I stood for my principles in every facet of my professional life, and because I was an outspoken critic of the university administration and its executives. I stood for rational education based on proven research rather than obedience training, and I stood for ethical management rather than careerism. I was fired under the false pretext of fraudulent grading in a one-semester advanced physics course. I was handcuffed, arrested, and dragged off campus in front of my students for attending the weekly public discussion seminar that I had created and run for many years. Now the University of Ottawa is fighting in court to not allow me back on campus and is funding a $1 million private defamation lawsuit against me.

This is an appeal to donate to my legal fund (the Denis Rancourt Legal Fund) in order to provide a moderately fair trial in the private civil lawsuit that some observers have characterized as a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) against me.

I am committed to obtaining justice but justice is illusive when there is a large asymmetry of means between the opposing parties. At this point I will have exhausted all my financial savings within a month or so.

I was wrongly fired in 2009 from my tenured full professorship in physics at the University of Ottawa by a president, Allan Rock, who had a personal mission to get me.  He instructed his executives and hired lawyers to fire me, and this was executed without due process.

Under false pretence, in November 2008, my students and I were locked out of our laboratory and offices without warning.

My research associate of 12 years was summarily fired (she sued and won a settlement).

The laboratory was dismantled before I was even informed of the mock procedure to fire me that was initiated in December 2008 when I was banned from campus, again without notice, under police escort. 

The false pretext used was that I had fraudulently assigned grades in one advanced physics course in the winter 2008 semester. The University’s main witness at a recent hearing admitted under oath that the university had no evidence for this for any student.

The real reason that Allan Rock wants to shut me down may be my “U of O Watch” blog and its persistent criticism of university management and executives, including: criticism of the university’s treatments of students, criticism of Rock’s on-going career dealings, criticisms of administrators and colleagues who, in my view, act against public and/or student interests, exposing executive malfeasance such as doctoring documents “to make a point”, and so on.

The true reasons for firing me may also include: my development of a new and highly popular “activism course”, my weekly “cinema politica” public event on campus, my weekly on-going campus radio show, inviting critical speakers into my classes, my liberating pedagogical methods focussed on learning rather than obedience, my continued invitations in university classrooms as an invited intervener, and so on.

Rock hoped that firing me would be the end of me:

“With any luck, firing him will get him off campus …”
       -- December 15, 2008 email, Allan Rock to staff

After firing me at an executive meeting that he chaired on March 31, 2009, Rock continued to express his views about me and to search for ways to “get the facts out”:

“Far from having had ‘an impeccable pedagogical career’, Rancourt has spent the last several years undermining pedagogy, denying students access to an education and engaging in a cynical mockery of the whole education process; and

Rancourt is trafficking in fictions to try to save his own skin while recklessly and irresponsibly creating tensions in Ottawa’s religious communities. (As to ‘fiction’, I refer to the example of his lying about me going to Israel last July.)

How best to get the facts out?


      -- April 19, 2009 email, Allan Rock to Bruce Feldthusen (then VP, now dean of common law)

In what I believe to be the latest episode to “get Rancourt”, Allan Rock has, following a “recommendation” from Bruce Feldthusen, personally agreed to entirely finance – without a spending limit – a private $ 1 million defamation lawsuit against me, for a blogpost on my “U of O Watch” blog. The private litigant did not contact a lawyer until after the agreement for unlimited funding was made – according to sworn testimonies given in my recent court motion to dismiss the action (ref).

Irrespective of the legal merits of the defamation claim and irrespective of the legal merits of my defence, the plaintiff’s unlimited funding is such that, as an unsalaried self-represented defendant, I find myself pitted against two major law firms (Gowlings and BLG), thus creating a Charter breach to my fundamental rights (ref, at paragraphs 61 to 67).

The legal process is complex and expensive. I am working hard to learn the theory and practice of litigation.

Even if I do not pay legal fees to a lawyer representing me, there are court and proceeding costs, and, most importantly, each time I lose an interim procedural motion I must pay the legal costs of the opponents. On some motions, the University of Ottawa itself is a second opponent (using the BLG law firm).

There have been over ten such motions (or mini-trials) to date and I will soon (this month or next) have exhausted my life savings at this point. If I win a motion, the other side argues that I need not have costs because I am self-represented.

It is obvious to me now that a minimum degree of justice requires at least a minimum of funding.

At stake is freedom of expression on matters of public interest (here, namely, the possibility of systemic racism at the University of Ottawa). At stake is access to justice. At stake is fundamental fairness in the justice system itself in treating self-represented litigants. At stake is the need for SLAPP-informed funding rules in private civil litigation in Ontario.

Please contribute to my legal fund. All donations go to my legal costs to obtain a just treatment before the courts. All court documents are posted to the web (e.g., ref).

(LINK: Donate, Legal Fund -- donate web page)

Related articles:

This is what targeting a dissident tenured professor looks like in Canada

Hearings into dismissal of Rancourt reveal much

TVO (TV Ontario) interview with Denis Rancourt: