Denis Rancourt's Struggle for Justice

Stephen Lendman

U OF O WATCH: St. Lewis v. Rancourt - In A Nutshell
Denis G. Rancourt: Why Donate to My Legal Fund?

Injustice defines Western societies. America long ago spurned rule of law principles. Canada marches in lockstep. Democratic values are quaint and dying. So are honor, integrity, righteousness, and believing right over wrong matters. Even university officials and complicit staff members are tainted. Academia proves not so hallowed ground.

Denis Rancourt is a distinguished tenured University of Ottawa physics professor. He's a recognized expert in his field. His students called him a "phenomenal teacher." His classrooms provided an enriching learning experience. He inspired student confidence and academic achievement. He also champions equity, justice, and human rights. Political activism led to his dismissal. On U of O's campus, it's not safe to advocate right over wrong.

Beginning in September 2005, university officials targeted him unfairly. They oppose his support for Palestinian rights.

The Palestinians are some of the world's most oppressed people. They live under militarized occupation hell. Institutionalized racism harms them. Israeli state terror is policy. Palestinians are treated like subhumans. Their crime is praying to the wrong God. Rancourt eloquently supports them.

He also expresses views forthrightly on political and environmental issues, professional ethics, lobbying, scoundrel media influence, and the right of all persecuted people to live free. He does it in articles, broadcasts, blog postings, at public venues, and in classrooms when he taught. He did the right thing and got punished.

In 2007, he criticized the university's irresponsible pro-Israeli position. In response, administration officials targeted him unfairly.

On June 3, 2008, Allan Rock became president. He's a former Canadian politician, UN ambassador, and staunch Israeli supporter. As UN ambassador, he voted against supporting Palestinian rights. As U of O president, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association reprimanded his banning a student poster about Israeli Apartheid Week. The student-run Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) supports Palestinian rights. Rock pressured a student union president into distancing the organization from OPIRG. Rock's unprincipled pro-Israeli position puts him at odds with human rights advocates like Rancourt.

In September 2008, he instructed his executives and hired lawyers to target Rancourt. By November 2008, he and his graduate students were locked out of their laboratory. Their equipment was dismantled. By December 2008, Rancourt was suspended and removed from campus under police escort. Rock launched a personal vilification and persecution campaign. He went all out to get Rancourt. In March 2009, he was fired. His office books and research files were crated and removed.

Rock runs U of O like a police state. Academic priorities are secondary to wealth, power and imperial interests. Students and faculty alike are targeted for supporting issues he and like-minded extremists spurn. Fundamental international and Canadian laws don't matter.

Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a constitutional bill of rights, states:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Article 7 assures

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person and the right not to be deprived thereof in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

Academic and speech freedoms are inviolable. Without them all others are at risk. America spurns them with impunity. So does Canada and university officials like Rock.

Spurious pedagogical reasons were used to fire Rancourt. Claiming them was sham cover for political persecution. Rancourt explained as follows:

"I was fired under the false pretext of having arbitrarily assigned high grades in one course in the winter 2008 semester." [In doing so,] "the university had to dispense with due process. In the words of the professors' union's lawyer, my dismissal was 'both a denial of substantive and procedural rights....and a contravention of the basic principles of natural justice.' "

His "critical pedagogy" focused on learning. It rejected regurgitating professorial views for high grades. Most Western university classrooms operate their way. Doing so betrays students who come to learn and become better prepared for adult life. Political activism led to Rancourt's firing. His teaching methods had nothing to do with it. He became persona non grata.

Weeks before his dismissal, he learned that university officials used a "fast track process" against him. They wouldn't engage him in dialogue. They refused to appoint a committee of his peers to evaluate him. Rock ordered him hung out to dry. Methods used against him would make despots proud:

They included covert tactics, false pretense inquiries, a student spy, and professional reporters enlisted to produce transcripts of his academic and professional talks at other universities to use against him.

It may have been the first time a university used a student to spy on a professor and like-minded students. The student hired reported directly to Rancourt’s dean and to U of O's Legal Counsel. Doing so violates Canadian and international law.

The game plan was get Rancourt. Underhanded, devious, lawless practices were used. They couldn't fire him on legitimate grounds because there were none. So contrived reasons were invented instead. Doing so violated legal, ethical and moral principles.

Rock colluded with Israeli Lobby efforts. At issue was institutionalizing ideological extremism on campus. Outliers are targeted for removal. Rancourt became U of O's public enemy number one.

He called what went on emerging fascism. It's virulent in politics and at universities. Under Rock, it infests U of O's campus. His administration relegates academic freedom to quaint artifact status. Only what he says goes. Violate that rule and get fired. That's how despots operate. Rock does them proud.

Democratic values [too] are non grata on his watch. U of O is a hotbed of autocratic extremism. It's inhospitable to academic freedom. Learning also suffers.

U of O Law Professor Joanne St. Lewis colluded with him against Rancourt. Last year, she sued for $1 million for comments about her on Rancourt’s blog. She charged racism. Doing so was spurious. At issue was her unprofessional relationship with Rock. The student union released a public report about systemic U of O racism. Rock asked St. Lewis to immediately assess it in writing. He wanted her to discredit the student report. She obliged.

In response, Rancourt called her a "house negro." He cited Malcolm X. In 1963, Malcolm first used the term.

In response, a Statement of Claim (SOC) against him said:

"The Defendant's conduct and actions are reprehensible insulting, high-handed, spiteful, and outrageous. Such conduct warrants condemnation by this Court by means of an award of punitive damages." "Professor St. Lewis will rely upon the entire conduct of the Defendant before and after the May 16, 2011 Notice to the date of judgment in this action." [It added that] "(t)he Defendant defamed Professor St. Lewis in furtherance of his personal animosity towards President Allan Rock and the University of Ottawa which terminated him as a Professor."

Last October, it was learned that U of O is paying St. Lewis' legal fees. Borden Ladner Gervais' chief attorney wrote Rancourt, saying:

"The University of Ottawa is reimbursing professor St. Lewis for her legal fees incurred in her defamation proceeding(s) against you." "Your defamatory remarks about professor St. Lewis were occasioned by work which she undertook at the request of the university and in the course of her duties and responsibilities as an employee." [He added that U of O officials have a] "moral obligation" [to support St. Lewis.]

It smacks more of collusion. Rancourt said funding her violates his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"It is established that a corporation or in this case a large institution that is publicly funded cannot sue an individual citizen (for) criticizing the institution or corporation," [he explained]. "An individual is always allowed to sue someone else individually to protect their reputation like in a defamation lawsuit, so professor St. Lewis had the right to litigation against me but the university does not."

Rancourt called her action a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). They're used to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with legal costs until they're bankrupt. Winning is secondary. Often it doesn't matter at all.

Rancourt one-on-one against St. Lewis is one thing. Right or wrong, she's entitled to sue. Doing so with U of O funding is quite another matter. It discredits her action altogether. It shows rancor and malicious intent. It suggests a conspiracy to inflict maximum harm. It's not about alleged defamatory comments.

It's an all-out assault on a distinguished, principled academic. He deserves praise, not persecution. St. Lewis allied with the wrong side. Maybe one day she'll acknowledge her mistake. So far she shows no signs of relenting. Perhaps Rock eggs her on.

Rancourt filed a so-called "champerty" motion. On August 29, it will be heard in court. He moved that her action be dismissed for abuse of process. At issue is U of O's deep pockets funding her. Doing so smacks of collusion and injustice.

On June 20, Rancourt also filed a "refusals and productions" motion. At the motion hearing, he was denied the right to cross-examine a U of O affiant.

He also submitted an expert's affidavit. It established the authenticity of a document showing a March 2012 Rock/St. Lewis' counsel Richard Dearden email communication.

The expert's affidavit was called inadmissible. Reasons may be explained when the court rules on his "refusals and productions" motion. On July 24, proceedings on it resume. Rancourt represents himself against two experienced legal teams. They're from two of Canada's largest law firms. Public funding and student tuitions pay them. Fairness and justice are absent in proceedings. Defaming, persecuting, and breaking Rancourt alone matter.

U of O Assistant Law Professor St. Lewis teaches civil liberties, social justice, comparative South African and Canadian constitutional law. She also taught courses in critical race theory, history of legal thought and criminal justice administration. She co-chaired the Canadian Bar Association Working Group on Racial Equality. Given what she teaches students in classrooms and perhaps lectures on publicly, her actions against Rancourt are especially unprincipled.

She'll have to explain her motive better than what's claimed so far. Saying Rancourt maligned her doesn't wash. He freely expressed his view. Canadian and international law permit it. Suing against what's legal and just suggests something else entirely is involved.

Rancourt's endured months of expensive legal proceedings. His struggle continues. He deserves much better. American and Canadian courts target their best. Justice doesn't matter, only might over right.

On August 29, 2011 Law Times News headlined "U of O law prof suing colleague over 'house negro' remark," saying:

In 1963, Malcolm X first used the term. He said it described subservient slaves to their white masters. In return, they got special privileges. They included better living conditions and treatment.

The St. Lewis/Rancourt dispute dates from November 2008. U of O's Student Appeal Centre (SOC) of the Student Federation released a report titled "Mistreatment of Students, Unfair Practices and Systemic Racism at the University of Ottawa." It said "Arab, Black, and Asian men and women - these are the students that most often get accused of academic fraud."

In response, Rock had St. Lewis evaluate its findings. She called the report "very unprofessional." She said its findings were "unsubstantiated, inconclusive and inflammatory."

She claimed racist accusations were exaggerated. Doing so ignored prima facie evidence. Her evaluation ran 19 pages. She alleged "significant methodological errors." She cited an "apparent lack of understanding of the administrative processes of the university." She claimed it showed "complete failure to conduct a systemic analysis in support of its conclusions of systemic racism." She said at most a miniscule percent of the university population too small to matter is affected.

Doing so ignored systematic U of O racism and abuse. A November 2011 lawsuit charged it. A January 30, 2012 press release explained, saying:

"Dr. Waleed AlGhaithy (Neurosurgery Residency Program, University of Ottawa), Dr. Khalid Aba-Alkhail (Cardiac Surgery Residency Program) and Dr. Manal Al-Saigh (same) have filed a joint action against the University of Ottawa and several of its officials."

Those charged include Dr. Jacques Bradwejn (Dean of the Faculty of Medicine), Dr. James Worthington (Ottawa Hospital's Vice President of Medical Affairs and Patient Safety), Dr. Paul Bragg (Associate Dean Postgraduate Medical Education), Dr. Eric Poulin (Chair of Cardiac Surgery), Dr. Richard Moulton (Neurosurgery Chair), Dr. Fraser Rubens (Cardiac Surgery Program Director), and Dr. John Sinclair (former Neurosurgery Program Director. Charges relate to university discrimination against foreign medical students at both provincial and national levels. It also focuses specifically on U of O abuses.

They're not isolated examples. They're systemic against domestic and foreign students as well as university staff of color.

Plaintiffs charged conspiracy to injure, public office malfeasance, defamation, intimidation, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, breach of contract, U of O liability for negligence and breach of contract, vicarious liability, and violations of the 1990 Human Rights Code.

They also said defendants treated them "in a high-handed and oppressive manner. The conduct of the University and the individual defendants described herein constitute such wanton and reckless disregard of their professional duties, their contractual obligation as well as their Charter obligations, and (have) caused such devastating harm that an award of punitive and aggravated damages is warranted."

Damages plaintiffs suffered include loss of income, reputation, mental distress and suffering (including depression and anxiety), loss of future employment as surgeons, and loss of time and opportunity to pursue other medical specialties.

In 2008, St. Lewis prepared her assessment. A January 30, 2012 press release announced the above lawsuit. However, U of O racism is likely longstanding. St. Lewis is Black. She teaches civil liberties, social justice, and Canadian constitutional law. It's hard imagining she's not familiar with examples of campus racial injustice.

Rancourt criticized her assessment. He said

"rather than being an independent report, and far from being of professional caliber, (her) evaluation is prima facie intended to diffuse a media and public relations management liability for the University."

He suggested that St. Lewis

"acted like president Allan Rock's house negro when she enthusiastically toiled to discredit a (credible) 2008 SAC report about systemic racial discrimination at the university."

He added that Malcolm X first used the term. He provided a video of him stating it. People in Western countries use pejoratives often without retaliatory lawsuits.

Filing them is rare. Why bother when targeted individuals can respond in kind. St. Lewis' action was politically motivated. She seeks $500,000 in general defamation damages, $250,000 in aggravated damages, and $250,000 for punitive ones.

She also wants a court order to remove Rancourt's post and a published apology. A member of her legal team, Richard Dearden, said:

"The damages to professor St. Lewis increase and continue every day that the defamatory publications are available via the Internet - these defamatory statements must therefore be taken down." "The compensatory and punitive damages claimed relate to the injury to reputation caused by the defendant."

Rancourt defended his comments, saying:

"Those who argue that the same point could have been made without using the term 'house negro' have the onus to explain why this racial socio-political term should not be used in circumstances where it applies." "Public discourse is not served by those who, in this way, would censor accepted expressions which contain taboo words." "Those who argue for this censorship in all media circumstances are saying 'be polite' and 'be sensitive' as a first requirement, thereby effectively drawing attention away from the actions which are being criticized." "It is the institutional behaviour that needs examining, not the arguable benefits of censorship or self-censorship."

When justified, proper, and credible, it's legitimate to call a Black person a house negro. When accurate, it's not racist. It's no different than calling Wall Street bankers and other predatory capitalists crooks or saying politician A, B, and or C is corrupt.

These and similar charges happen regularly. So do people making true or untrue defamatory comments all the time. Some do it against business or professional associates. Others target neighbors. SLAPP lawsuits don't follow. If they did, courts couldn't handle the volume.

Allegations against Rancourt aren't proved. Hopefully they won't be. They never should have been filed in the first place.

On June 30, Rancourt updated his "champerty" motion. On August 29, it will be heard in court. U of O deep pockets fund St. Lewis. Doing so violates his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

St. Lewis and U of O jointly stand to gain. Rock admitted under oath that he decided to entirely fund Plaintiff's litigation. No spending cap is imposed. He'll do what it takes to get Rancourt. That's his mission, not justice. St. Lewis apparently is a willing co-conspirator. Do her social justice/civil liberties courses teach this stuff? Her students and prospective ones ought to know. Perhaps they're better off in other classrooms. U of O ill serves them. Enrolling elsewhere should be prioritized. Allan Rock's death grip should be avoided. He defiles speech and academic freedoms. He spurns Canadian and international law. He enforces what no one should tolerate.

Systemic racism and institutionalized injustice infest the University of Ottawa. An environment inhospitable to learning results. Politicized campuses defile speech and academic freedoms. Avoiding U of O should be prioritized.

A Final Comment

Rancourt represents himself. He's pitted against experienced teams from two of Canada's largest law firms. Litigation is expensive. It exhausted his savings. His legal defense fund needs help. All donations go for legal and court costs. Please visit his funding page and help as able.

Stephen Lendman: I was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. Raised in a modest middle class family, attended public schools, received a BA from Harvard University in 1956 and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of PA in 1960 following 2 years of obligatory military service in the US Army. Spent the next 6 years as a marketing research analyst for several large US corporations before becoming part of a new small family business in 1967, remaining there until retiring at the end of 1999. Have since devoted my time and efforts to the progressive causes and organizations I support, all involved in working for a more humane and just world for all people everywhere, but especially for the most needy, disadvantaged and oppressed. My efforts since summer 2005 have included writing on a broad range of vital topics ranging from war and peace; social, economic and political equity for all; and justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians. Also co-hosting The Global Research News Hour, occasional public talks, and frequent appearances on radio and at times television. I also am a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. I live in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit my blog site and listen to The Lendman News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. My new book "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" can be ordered HERE.



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