Letters March 10: Settling an estate; personal attacks

Decision on estate recognizes the victims

As a legal historian whose research focuses on the history of marriage, I submit that the letter writer who believes that the B.C. Supreme Court decision to split Michael Widner’s estate evenly between his first and second, bigamous marriage condones or encourages bigamy has it all wrong.

Bigamy has long been considered anathema to Western conceptions of Christian monogamy, which, for better or worse, is the basis for its criminalization in Canada.

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Prohibitions against simultaneous bigamy (the act of wilfully solemnizing marriage vows with a second spouse when one knows that he or she has a living spouse to whom they remain legally married in the eyes of the law) were first established by Canon law more than a thousand years ago.

In the 16th century, secular jurisdictions across Europe brought the prosecution and punishment of bigamy into their competence, which allowed these jurisdictions to punish bigamists with very serious penalties, including execution, hard labour, and, eventually, once the modern penal system had evolved, imprisonment.

Canadian law has inherited this criminalization of bigamy, the seriousness of the crime being reflected in the penalties associated with it in the Criminal Code of Canada.

At no point in the long history of religious or criminal sanctions against bigamy have courts intentionally penalized the first or the second spouse, whom law has considered the victims of fraud, and at one time, sacrilege and adultery.

In fact, in many historical and contemporary jurisdictions, courts have taken care of legitimate children from the second, bigamous marriage and have awarded spousal and parental support to the second wife because the court has acknowledged that she was tricked into believing she was part of a monogamous marital union.

In its decision, therefore, the B.C. Supreme Court has merely continued with this very long tradition of recognizing that both spouses are victims of fraud who believed they were legally married to the same man and thus entitled to the same matrimonial rights, such as the division of assets upon death.

This decision doesn’t condone the infringement of the penal code. It recognizes the victims of the crime.

Justine Semmens
Victoria

Check the estate ruling for hints about yours

Re: “Secret family and wife battle in court over dead Hells Angels prospect’s assets,” March 2.

Some readers are surprised because this case says multiple spouses are entitled to share an estate, even though polygamy is illegal.

There is another surprise in the judgement, which has meaning for many more people.

The deceased man’s estate is small, because he only owned two things in his name — an old car and an old boat. All the property was in his wife’s name.

The estate only reaches $150,000 because the judge ruled that he contributed that much to his wife’s properties. That amount is divided among two spouses and four children, and will be reduced by legal costs.

The judge’s ruling in this case is lengthy, but worth reading.

bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/sc/21/03/2021BCSC0325.htm

How she arrived at the sum of $150,000 is in paragraphs 206, 207, and 238.

If you own assets jointly with your spouse, or if some assets are in your spouse’s name alone, your estate might be even smaller — and that’s a good thing, generally. When you update or prepare your will, ask your lawyer to remind you what is in your estate and what is not.

George Jamieson
Victoria

Rejecting fences and force the right decision

Stephen Hammond’s commentary criticizing Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt’s complaint about CFAX radio host Adam Stirling’s “unbalanced and misleading programming” on the issue of homelessness is a good indication of why Hammond lost the 2018 mayor’s electoral contest.

He appears to have no clue about how a humane city council would act in an emergency.

In the midst of a world health crisis, would Hammond prefer that homeless people continue to congregate along Pandora Avenue, making the area a focal point for COVID-19 contagion?

Sure, this concentration-camp approach would have been more systemically policed. Hammond and Stirling are big on policing. But Victoria council properly rejected fences and force.

Instead, at a moment when few options were open, council decided to temporarily allow homeless people to set up tents scattered through city parks.

Meanwhile, council would energetically collaborate with agencies and other levels of government to provide more permanent housing.

Hammond’s commentary reveals that he still harbours political ambitions.

Like Stirling, he appears to think he can get mileage out of slamming the homeless, playing the get-tough card, and dragging down council members who strive to balance the needs of all the citizens of Victoria, not just the comfortable.

I’ll keep that in mind when I cast my ballot in 2022.

Larry Hannant
Victoria

Personal attacks won’t solve homelessness

I understand that Stephen Hammond and many Victorians are frustrated about the homelessness situation in Victoria. I am frustrated.

But Hammond’s personal attack on Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt was frankly disgusting. It took 14 paragraphs for him to acknowledge that there is a housing crisis. And the words “pandemic” or “COVID-19” do not appear anywhere in his piece.

If he thinks his divisive rhetoric and personal attacks are his and his associates’ path to future leadership in Victoria, he is wrong. In fact, I believe it disqualifies him.

John Blakely
Victoria

Council just following B.C. CDC directives

Stephen Hammond’s commentary on Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt’s complaint about CFAX radio host Adam Stirling raised an important issue about a controversial topic, 24/7 camping in city parks.

But in the article, Hammond, like so many critics of city council, fails to acknowledge the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s directive of June 8, 2020.

The notice said that homeless camps should not be dismantled unless homeless people are provided shelter and housing.

It also stated: “Local governments should consider short-term policy adjustments to the enforcement of local bylaws regarding overnight sheltering or camping in public parks or elsewhere.”

Victoria has, appropriately, followed that directive in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In fact, those recommendations have been adopted by all municipalities that have a concentration of social services in the central city, including Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, London and Hamilton.

If Hammond had been on council, would he have ignored that directive?

Finally, Hammond falsely implies that Isitt and city council have allowed “criminals and predators to attack persons inside the encampments and their surrounding neighbours.”

If those criminal activities are happening, it is the responsibility of the Victoria Police Department to stop them and prosecute the criminals.

Forcing the campers to remove their tents every morning is not the solution.

Mehdi Najari
Victoria

Victoria council must uphold policy of fairness

Victoria city council needs to develop common values and uphold them. There appears to be set of strategic objectives, however these do not provide a “moral compass” with which the mayor and councillors can be guided by.

What this had led to, from my experience, is an inconsistency of decision making. The mayor and councillors have no moral or ethical reference point when it comes to voting on matters before council.

As a result, newer councillors do not know what is expected, or what standards to apply when considering a matter before them (this is clearly evident by reading comments on early decisions made by Stephen Andrew, for instance).

While a small minority of councillors seem to have the wisdom to sort the wheat from the chaff, clearly most do not.

Mayor Lisa Helps seems readily able to impose her will, with a posse of councillors following in tow, unable to ascertain their own positions without values to guide them.

Existing policies, created to ensure fairness and due process, can and have been tossed aside at a whim.

Where does this leave those of us merely trying to follow the rules?

The result is a dysfunctional governance model that more often than not fails the average citizen and favours other interests.

Life-altering decisions are regularly being made in council chambers, with no ability for redress, or acceptance of responsibility. Council must uphold principles of fairness and be held to a higher standard than what we are currently witnessing in our city.

Bill Moffatt
Victoria

Money deposited — but not in my account

On March 4, a writer reported the difficulties he has experienced in attempting to claim the recovery benefit from the provincial government (as was promised during the election campaign). He is not alone.

I applied for the benefit in December and received notification that the money was deposited in my account on Dec. 31. Problem is, it was not.

Since then, I have repeatedly attempted to find out where the money went and why.

Contact with this program is difficult and exasperating. It is very hard to get a live person on the phone; they tend to rely on computer answers which of course are always the same, allow for no explanations and are only good for giving instruction, not for problem solving.

On rare occasions when it is possible to contact a human, it is just as bad. The folks answering the phone can only relay messages and request information; they do not give answers.

Unfortunately, they request the same information they have already been given multiple times. There has been no reason given as to why the funds went to the wrong account — our mistake, their mistake, fraud, hacking?

If they know, they are not sharing. The only definite information we received is that they will not pay our money until they recover the funds from wherever they were sent.

That may mean we never receive the money if they cannot recover it. Absolutely unfair, arbitrary and maybe illegal.

This program needs an independent investigation.

Keith Price
Campbell River

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