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Abuse of power

They say the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. A visit from the Grim Reaper is tragic but some Canadian taxpayers are finding out that when the Canada Revenue Agency comes to call, it can be almost as bad.
They say the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. A visit from the Grim Reaper is tragic but some Canadian taxpayers are finding out that when the Canada Revenue Agency comes to call, it can be almost as bad.

Elly and Nathan Foote found that out when they were surprised by 12 rubber-gloved CRA agents and RCMP officers who conducted an hours-long search of their private home and possessions. They were under investigation for something.  They didn’t know what.

They described the ordeal with words like “Stalinist Russia” and “Gestapo” and found the experience “incompatible with Canadian democracy.” That’s putting it mildly

The Footes are seeking redress in BC’s Supreme Court. They aren’t the only ones.

Hal Neumann faced a similar nightmare and he wasn’t even under investigation. Seven agents and officers demanded entrance to his residence to conduct a search and seizure. Strangely, they were looking for some documents he had already handed over. 

He also decided to sue and in a landmark case he was recently awarded $1.3 million by the BC Supreme Court. The Canada Revenue Agency admits nothing and is appealing the decision. 

Mr. Neumann can’t believe tactics like these are being used in Canada. He felt bullied and terrorized and decided it was his duty to challenge these actions in court.

In his opinion he was standing up for “ordinary folks in Canada who have been pushed around too long.”

He knows what he’s talking about. Mr. Neumann chose to live in Canada after he escaped the ruthlessness and tyranny of the East German government. He does not take his rights and freedoms lightly.  He pushes back. Other Canadians should take note.

It is easy to find cases like this where government agencies behave in a distinctly “un-Canadian” way. Canadians don’t respond well to strong-arm tactics. We still see ourselves as friendly, courteous and, above all, polite. 

Even Mr. Neumann, when asked what he wanted from the Canada Revenue Agency, said all he wanted was an apology. How typically Canadian.  All the CRA has to do to make everything right is say sorry. I wonder if anybody at the agency is Canadian enough to do that?

We’ve been hearing and reading for some time about the mean-spirited Conservative government and the bullying tactics of the prime minister. This is evident in the attack ads, the insults and cat calls in the House of Commons and in the way the country is viewed both at home and abroad.

Over time these attitudes gradually work their way into government agencies and are reflected in the way the public is served. It appears that this has occurred with the Feds. 

The way Canadians feel about their national government is different from one person to the next.  Some are disappointed, some are embarrassed, some are angry and, believe it or not, some are actually satisfied. I never thought in this country we would ever have to fear our own government or its agencies.

There is a legal term known as “duty of care” which obligates governments and individuals to act towards others and the public with watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence. 

The CRA itself brags about a series of checks and balances designed to eliminate situations such as the ones described here.

All agency employees are required to “exercise good judgment and common sense.” If you tell Elly and Nathan Foote or Hal Neumann about this they might be surprised again.

As a kid growing up in Canada I felt pretty safe and secure.  I still do. A free country is a great place to raise a family.
In fact, my entire generation grew up without ever thinking about things like personal rights and freedoms. It never occurred to most of us we needed protection from discrimination, oppression and intimidation.

As a result we grew up a little naïve. We thought our democratically elected government would always do the right thing and would accept its duty of care. 

Not so. The days of debtor’s prison may be over but more than ever we have a big responsibility to pull back the reins on the CRA. There is no reason why the taxman can’t be as friendly and polite as the rest of us. 

All I know is, death may be a certainty and it is always sad, but when it comes to the Canada Revenue Agency, it shouldn’t hurt to pay your taxes.

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