British Columbia

Tax-evading 'natural person' claims B.C. courts don't have jurisdiction over him

A B.C. man who describes himself as a "natural person" not subject to tax law has taken his fight against prison time to the province's highest court — and he has lost, resoundingly.

Michael Millar faces prison after Appeal Court says his arguments have 'no merit'

Michael Spencer Millar was convicted of tax evasion, failing to remit GST and counselling others to commit fraud. (Canadian Press)

A North Vancouver man who describes himself as a "natural person" not subject to tax law has taken his fight against prison time to the province's highest court — and he has lost, resoundingly.

Michael Spencer Millar was once an instructor with the Lower Mainland organization Paradigm Education Group, which charged students for bogus advice on how to arrange their affairs so they wouldn't have to pay taxes.

He was one of dozens of people charged with tax evasion after the Canada Revenue Agency opened an investigation into Paradigm. Two years ago, Millar was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and fined $24,000 for tax evasion, failing to remit GST and counselling others to commit fraud.

But he maintains his trial in B.C. Supreme Court was meaningless, arguing the court had no jurisdiction over him, the CRA had no authority to investigate him, the Crown had no authority to prosecute him and the Income Tax Act did not apply to him.

Millar appealed his convictions to the B.C. Court of Appeal, also claiming he had been unfairly handcuffed during an outburst in court and there was an unreasonable delay in his trial.

A panel of three justices rejected every one of Millar's arguments in unanimous reasons issued Monday.

Of the suggestion that Millar was not subject to investigation or prosecution by Canadian authorities, Justice Gregory Fitch wrote: "There is no merit in any of the appellant's jurisdictional arguments and we did not call on the Crown to respond to any of these issues."

'Unable to plead into a fiction'

Before his arrest in 2013, Millar and his colleagues at Paradigm taught their students the bizarre theory that only "artificial persons" need to pay taxes or obtain a licence to drive. The idea is people who can declare themselves to be "natural persons" are exempt from many laws.

The natural person argument has been rejected over and over again in Canadian tax evasion trials, even as defendants argue that sources like the Bible, the Magna Carta and even the Queen's coronation oath line up with their interpretation of the law.

Millar was first charged in February 2012, but it took police 14 months to locate and arrest him.

During a court appearance in October 2013, he refused to enter any pleas, saying, "I am unable to plead into a fiction," according to court documents. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf.

Millar represented himself in court, and at one point, the judge ordered the sheriff to restrain him with handcuffs. According to the Court of Appeal reasons, Millar had repeatedly interrupted the proceedings and ignored warnings to stop.

Millar had to be handcuffed at one point during his trial in B.C. Supreme Court. (David Horemans/CBC)

In his appeal, Millar argued the judge's actions showed she was biased against him, but that was soundly rejected.

"The appellant holds strong beliefs, and it is clear from the record of proceedings that he is capable, intentionally or otherwise, of acting in an overbearing and obstructive fashion," Fitch wrote. "While the appellant is entitled to adhere to his mistaken beliefs, he was not entitled to ignore the judge's directions."

In the end, prosecutors proved Millar had personally evaded about $24,000 in taxes, but records show Paradigm's overall impact was much larger.

As of February 2017, 32 people connected to the company had been convicted for evading more than $4.2 million in taxes, according to the sentencing decision in Millar's case. The husband-wife team behind Paradigm evaded more than $200,000 together.

Millar could not be reached to ask if he will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay has more than a decade of experience in B.C. journalism, with a focus on the courts, health and social justice issues. She has also reported on human rights and crimes against humanity in Cambodia. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.