British Columbia

Flat Earth follower's lawsuit over COVID-19 arrest rejected as 'patently absurd and nonsensical'

A COVID-19 denier who accused the B.C. government of kidnapping him and committing terrorism when he was arrested for breaking federal quarantine laws has had his lawsuit tossed out.

Mak Parhar accused the B.C. government of kidnapping him when he was jailed for breaking quarantine

Mak Parhar bragged in a speech at the Vancouver Art Gallery in November about refusing to self-isolate after returning to Canada from a Flat Earth conference in the U.S. (YouTube)

A COVID-19 denier who accused the B.C. government of kidnapping him and committing terrorism when he was arrested for breaking federal quarantine laws has had his lawsuit tossed out.

Mak Parhar, a vocal member of both the Flat Earth conspiracy community and the anti-mask movement, has also been ordered to pay the government $750 in court costs.

In a decision handed down Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Murray Blok variously described Parhar's civil suit over his arrest as "frivolous and vexatious," "embarrassing or scandalous" and "an abuse of process" that "does not set out any assertions of fact."

Parhar was arrested in November 2020 for repeatedly breaking mandatory quarantine after returning from a Flat Earth conference in the U.S. — violations he bragged about during a rally in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. He currently faces multiple charges in connection with that incident and is scheduled to go to trial in criminal court this summer.

Not long after his arrest, Parhar filed a claim for "trespass" against provincial officials, calling himself "i:man:Mak of the Parhar family" and claiming he is not subject to the Quarantine Act or any other law. The claim is filled with pseudolegal language and says he plans to try the defendants in something he calls "Parhar Court."

Other documents filed with his claim allege "trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud," Blok noted.

But the judge dismissed all of those allegations.

"It is patently absurd and nonsensical. It is difficult to understand how anyone could come to believe any of its concepts," the judge wrote of Parhar's notice of claim.

'Laws do not work on an "opt-in" basis'

Blok said Parhar's claim bears all the hallmarks of an "organized pseudolegal commercial argument" (OPCA) — a thoroughly debunked type of legal theory favoured by fringe groups like Sovereign Citizens and Freemen on the Land.

These groups argue they are exempt from the authority of government, laws and the courts. Anyone who wants to avoid paying taxes or obtaining their driver's licence, for example, simply needs to learn the right words and phrases.

Blok said it was clear Parhar had been misled about how the law works.

"I am not without sympathy for the plaintiff. He spent four days in jail, evidently the result of alleged breaches of the Quarantine Act, and it appears this occurred because someone convinced him, or he convinced himself, that statute law does not apply to him," Blok wrote.

"It was a hard way to learn that laws do not work on an 'opt-in' basis."

OPCA arguments have seen a major resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among anti-mask and anti-lockdown activists.

During a hearing earlier this month, Parhar was joined by Christopher James Pritchard, an Ontario man who claims the only valid law comes from God in the form of the 10 commandments.

Pritchard has found a ready audience among COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and has helped a number of them draft pseudolegal claims related to pandemic restrictions.

As Blok described it, Pritchard told the court that Parhar "has a right to a trial by jury so that he may be judged by the people, and that this court and its rules have no jurisdiction."

In this as in Pritchard's previous court appearances, he failed to convince the judge.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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