Slumlord Threatens To Sue for Defamation Through Obvious SLAPP Civil Action, 2022
On Tuesday, April 12th, we were served with notice of a threatened lawsuit, and we couldn't be happier. That may seem strange to say at first glance, but when a person becomes so desperate as to hire lawyers to try to bully journalists into silence, we know we are doing our job. Instead of scaring us, it fuels our fire and motivates us to keep going and dig further into the truth of the story.
The allegations of libel/defamation came from Andrea Gonsalves, a partner at Stockwoods LLP in Toronto. Ms. Gonsalves advised us that she is representing Jason Hejja, the slumlord who rented to Jason Marche an uninsulated and poorly heated trailer that our friend, known to us as Bear, was found dead inside on February 26th. There was also no running water, no working cooking facilities, and no working sewage. It was a place not worthy of human occupation, for which the landlord was charging the Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services $700.00 a month in rent through the Ontario Disability Support Program.
From what we can see, this is not a legitimate threat of a lawsuit pertaining to defamation, as all we have ever said about the matter and the slumlord has been backed fully with evidence. This smells more like the threat of a SLAPP action intended solely to suppress the truth.
This is our response:
Thank you for your threatening letter and the reproductions of my work that were served upon me yesterday at my studio. Frankly, I have not wasted a lot of time reading the materials, and I don’t think I will do so. We all know the truth in this matter, and all the sabre rattling in the world will not change the facts as we have presented them.
(Those following this story on our website or on Facebook, the letter can be downloaded from https://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/files/22-04-12-letter-from-andrea-gonsalves-slumlord-lawyer.pdf)
Your statement as follows suggests to me that you are not acting in a manner conducive with the ethics of an officer of the court, and that your true intention is to bully me into submission through a disreputable SLAPP lawsuit:
"It is important that you do not disclose this letter or its contents to anyone except legal counsel. We will consider doing so to constitute further publication of the defamatory statements set out herein causing further harm to our client, and to be evidence of malice."
(Those following this story on our website or on Facebook, a definition of a SLAPP lawsuit can be found at https://www.torys.com/Our%20Latest%20Thinking/Publications//2020/09/whats-a-slapp)
Sadly, I will not be complying with your attempt at intimidation. As noted above, this afternoon I posted on my website a PDF scan of the first ten pages of your materials. I did not bother to scan the remainder of the package as it contained only copies of my articles that are publicly available, and which are NOT going anywhere.
We are journalists, and we make our living in the light of day telling stories that we can prove to be true. My experience with lawyers has been that they wallow in the shadows, using threats and making big boasts while trying to bolster the position of the guilty parties they represent.
Also be advised, I will continue to exercise my right under Section 2B of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to post scans of every motion record, every factum, every affidavit, and any and all other legal materials you choose to serve upon me. Personally, I doubt your client will be foolish enough to proceed with this action once he learns of the cost of trying to conceal the truth of his actions, abuses, and negligence. However, if he is arrogant enough to do so, he should know the reality of the costs of proceeding with fully defended litigation.
The things lawyers need to learn is that when you start off with a whole slew of threats you do so from a place of weakness. Your client has been offered the opportunity to present his side of the story but he has repeatedly declined. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to block me from being on the property at the request of Jason Marche’s family, in whose interest he sanctimoniously claimed to be working. Then after being told by police that the family had the right to have me present, your client tried to have me charged with trespassing. After a tenant stepped up and invited me onto the property, Jason Hejja tried to block me from entering the trailer where I photographed and video recorded the truth of the squaller of the ‘tenancy’ for which your client charged the Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services $700.00 a month by deceiving the Ontario Disability Support Program.
We are first and foremost journalists, and if you look at the content of the page at http://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/recent-stories.html you will see that this is not the first time we have exposed abuses and wrong-doing by lawyers.
In a story entitled “Barrie Mothers Call For Police to Investigate Rental Fraud, ‘Landlord’ Arrested, 2019”, located at http://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/barrie-mothers-call-for-police-to-investigate-rental-fraud-landlord-arrested-2019.html we exposed rental fraud that was being committed against mostly single mothers. This story, I am told, resulted in the previously ‘untouchable’ fraudulent landlord being charged with multiple allegations of fraud. Further, if you look at the article “Tyger Shark Has Threatened Legal Action Against Benevolent Community and Charity Service” located at https://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/tyger-shark-has-threatened-legal-action-against-our-benevolent-community-and-charity-service.html, you will see what happened when a highly experience lawyer and self-identified member of Mensa decided to threaten me with similar action as you are proposing for an equally groundless reason. There are more examples available, but I will leave you to find them.
I am the owner of a provincially registered media company, an internationally experienced journalist who has worked in places like Bosnia during their civil war, the past Deputy Editor of a National European Newspaper, and a one-time private investigator who specialised in online research and technology. I also have an interesting history as a self-represented litigant in both the local Small Claims court and the Superior Court in Toronto. I will get to that shortly.
Five Points Media is a division of the Ontario Community Awareness Network, a provincially registered not-for-profit community media service. As we are an altruistic enterprise, we donate all services to charities and benevolent community groups. We have been established within the Barrie media community for more than seven years, and we have donated more than 250 videos to more than 180 local community groups and organizations, donating an estimated $500.000.00 in services to those in need. You might want to consider that before you proceed with any more nonsensical threats or allegations. You might also want to take a look at https://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/testimonials.html to see what those who lead our local charitable community have said about us. Be assured, I will be calling many of these people as character witnesses and presenting the work we do for the community. I have no issue with balancing off your client’s self-serving fantasies with true facts told by those who dedicate their lives to helping others.
You can in truth do little if anything to suppress this story. If it was as easy as making threats, the Toronto Star and the CBC would waffle and yield to every lawyer who does not want their client to be exposed for their bad behaviour. So, should I choose to continue telling this story, which I will definitely be doing now due to your threats, all you can do is read the articles and watch the videos while gritting your teeth. This goes also for your client, who could have prevented all of this by renting only legal apartments and by not protecting the actions of a seller of ‘confectionaries’ who lives in the building.
(Those following this story on our website or on Facebook, a video of a street brawl involving chainsaws and attempted hit and run is viewable at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1HbZwSc0Mc)
You might also want to look up the case of Mustang Investigations vs. John Ironside. You will find it in the online CanLii archives. There you will find the tale of a three-year-long very expensive litigation battle between a very wealthy company in Toronto and me as a self-represented litigant. That totally unnecessary lawsuit also started with threats just like yours, and the claimant was just too stupid to know when to quit and acknowledge their wrongdoing.
My father was a Business Auditor with Revenue Canada, and through doing my taxes he caught how Mustang Investigations had defrauded me, and by extension all of their employees for a period of eight years. When I politely asked them about it, they went nuts and tried to sue me into submission.
They hired a violent convicted felon and disgraced ex-cop turned lawyer, named Norman Groot, who attained an Anton Pillar based on lies they later could not prove, which is why they lost in court. They never intended to prove their case, but instead to abuse the authority of the court. Ultimately Groot was ripped in a rather indignant manner from the website of the prestigious Bay St. law firm for which he worked, and I was told by the secretary at the firm that he had been terminated due to his handling of the case against me.
Like you, Groot and the owners of Mustang fully expected me to kowtow to threats. In their case, it was a claim of $500,000.00 in damages that they did not think we would fight. To say the least, they were surprised, and they had no plan B. I will never forget the look on face of the first (of many) lawyers when the Superior Court Justice who had issued that order looked at my 30-page perfectly formatted affidavit and my 300 pages of evidence before telling the lawyer for Mustang that ‘You might be in for a fight this time.’ Nobody knew on that day how prophetic his statement would prove to be. That Justice later recused himself from the case after telling Groot not to come back to him for any more favours.
In the end, after three years of litigation, as they tried to crawl out of court with their tail between their legs, Mustang Investigations admitted in court to spending $400,000.00 hiring nine lawyers from three Bay Street law firms just to lose every motion of importance in three separate courts. I was self-represented throughout the entire case, so yes, I defeated nine Bay Street lawyers with nothing but my life experience and access to the Internet and the marvels it now offers. I am not claiming to be a lawyer or anything of the sort, but the law is based on evidence and precedent, and I had both on my side as I do in this matter.
Mustang Investigations also told the court they had lost half a million more in business due to my ongoing exposure of their abuse of our civil court system. They also tried to stop me from telling that story, as you claim you are able to do though “injunctive relief”. In reality, the court would not provide such ‘relief’ even though that story was being told on a private website. Five Points Media, a division of the Ontario Community Awareness Network, is a registered media business, and as such Section 2B of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects our publications and productions. So, honestly, what chance does your client have fighting the rights of a seven-year-old fully established media company with hundreds of donated community videos to their credit? Also, how will it look to sue a not-for-profit service that exists to help our community and the charities that call Barrie home? I recommend you take a look at the repertoire of our work before you tiptoe into that public relations minefield.
Ultimately, Mustang went broke and was taken over by their primary competitor, Forensic Investigations. They also lost the $1,000,000 house that they called their office and which the owner called home. The primary reason for this was the 400,000 followers of the story, who were comprised mostly of professionals working within insurance companies, private investigation companies, law firms, and other services linked to the services Mustang provided. In making his ruling of costs in my favour, Justice Perel called the effects of my ongoing publication “the Internet blood-war”. You might want to chat with Ryan Swinson, the son of the owner of the former Mustang Investigations, before following this route any further. He now tends bar or something at some tavern in the south end of the city.
After the dust had settled on the Mustang case, I found myself battling a less than ethical detective of the Barrie Police Service who on the instructions of a morally challenged corrupt local politician took it upon himself to try to coerce me not to tell a story about abuse of power and fraud of public money. That resulted in multiple false charges being laid against me that the detective offered to make go away if I pulled the story. I declined and demanded that the matter go to trial. The result was a 32 month very public battle that resulted in all charges being dropped, and the court dismissing the allegations as being nothing more than violations of my rights under, you guessed it, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Finally, few people have the distinction of having provided sufficient proof to establish the malicious actions of a Vexatious Litigant, as there have only been about 200 of them in total during the past 300 years. However, I can take some level of pride in having taken down just such a person. https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/court-declares-barrie-man-a-vexatious-litigant-799623. In that case, the individual hid behind Welfare while suing for whatever made up reasons he could think of while publishing defamatory libel about them. Apparently, the plan was to put pressure on the intended victim until they paid what amounts to extortion. This person targeted me multiple times, as well as many others, and in the end, I was able to prove that his actions were without merit and malicious.
I find the following statement quite revealing as to your ignorance of the facts:
“Your conduct reveals a deliberate destructive campaign of insinuations about Mr. Hejja that appear calculated to destroy his reputation. Your published statements indicate that one of your aims was to have the Defamatory Publications appear on a Google search of Mr. Hejja's name, including so that his employer or prospective employers would discover your damaging statements about him. You are actively promoting a public campaign to have him charged and prosecuted. Your actions plainly appear to be motivated by a malicious intent to cause Mr. Hejja harm.”
I am hoping that you are aware that a human being DIED in the uninsulated and poorly heated ILLEGAL trailer that your client, Jason Hejja, rented to a DISABLED man while DEFRAUDING the Ontario Disability Support Program by claiming it was a legal and winter-worthy room or apartment. How is it possible to “destroy his reputation” any further than he has done with his own actions? All you want to do is suppress the truth through threats that you don’t want to be made public because you know this is nothing but a SLAPP lawsuit that cannot be sanctioned by the court nor the Law Society of Upper Canada.
As you are no doubt aware, on September 10, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada released companion decisions considering Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation: Bent et al. v. Platnick, et al. and 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association, et al. The anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) laws are aimed at prohibiting groundless litigation that is intended solely to silence individuals and organizations and prevent them from speaking out on issues of public interest. I believe it would be an easy matter to prove that this action, if filed with the court, qualifies under these rulings for dismissal and an order of costs. You can be assured that I will defend against this kind of legal abuse all day every day.
You also seem in your statement to be surprised that a JOURNALIST would want his articles and videos to reach the public. For the record, I know where Jason Hejja works and as I am a journalist, I am fully within my rights to contact his employer. I have not done so, yet, but your actions are motivating me to rethink my professional restraint. After all, if you are going to sue me for what I have not done, I might as well do it.
Finally, with regards to the following demands as made by you, all I can do is shake my head and laugh:
“3. post on the the Five Points Media website and the OCAN Facebook page an unequivocal retraction of your statements and an unequivocal apology to Mr. Hejja, using the following statement: Since February 27, 2022 we published several statements on this site about Jason Hejja that were entirely false and unfounded. We should not have made these statements, as they were untrue, and we retract them fully. We recognize our statements have caused harm to Mr. Hejja, which we deeply regret. We unequivocally apologise to him for our actions.”
I honestly do not who you think you are, but you need to check your ego at the door. You are demanding, under the threat of potentially expensive legal action, that I defame myself, that I grovel to your slumlord client, that I denounce myself as some kind of charlatan instead of being the highly experienced and fact-based journalist that I am. I would tell you where you can shove your bluster and blather, but I was raised to be a gentleman.
It will be a cold day in hell before I ever capitulate to a bully. This is well established by my various victories in civil court and with regards to how I took on the entire Barrie Police Service, the Crown Attorney’s office, and the entire criminal justice system simply so I could tell my story. By the way, the last time I saw that ‘detective’, he was in uniform, without a sidearm, and apparently doing administrative or evidence duty. Neither is an indication of continued upward mobility within a police department where he had once been highly respected.
I have found that in court as in media, facts and evidence tell the story. I wish I could say that I feel sorry for Jason Hejja or that I could see his side of the story. However, not only has he not shown the courage to present it, but he has also taken advantage of two disabled people, one of whom suffers from a brain injury, for the sole purpose of profiting from the rental of illegal accommodations. For me, that is not redeemable.
I invite your claim of damages, as the Discovery process will open doors to information and allow me to summon people who are currently inaccessible to my story. I will also now be producing further programming based on your attempt to use a SLAPP action to suppress this story. The focus of that social documentary will be slumlords in Barrie, with special attention being drawn to the story of our friend Bear.
While you try to cover for your client’s many flaws, consider that Jason (Bear) Marche was a kind man who died on February 26th in an uninsulated and poorly heated summer trailer rented to him by Jason Hejja that did not have working plumbing, cooking facilities, or access to the sewers. These are facts that were recorded on the day and supported by the victim’s own mother who held up her son’s piss jar that he had to use because the plumbing was frozen.
Likely on Monday, I will be forwarding the scan of your client’s threatened SLAPP lawsuit along with a press release to the CBC, CTV, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and a few hundred other media services for which we have contact information.
I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend.
Producer / Director
Five Points Media
A division of the Ontario Community Awareness Network
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Throughout 2014-2022, our crew at 3B Solutions and the OCANetwork, also known as Five Points Media, has been identified as the “Best Videography in Barrie” by Three Best Rated; an independent consumer advocacy group that bases their ratings on testimonials and referrals from local businesses.
A directory of several articles pertaining to this story can be found at: https://www.fivepointsmedia.ca/justiceforbear.html
If you haven't done so, please sign our petition seeking the prosecution of Bear's slumlord, Jason Hejja, at https://www.change.org/justiceforbear