Academic explorations of anti-authority movements are virtually non- existent in Canada. We have no reliable primary data or empirical insights into Freemen-on-the-Land (FOTL) or other similar contingents. What we do know comes largely from Associate Chief Justice Rooke’s decision in Meads v. Meads (2012). He refers to the loose collection of individuals and small cells as “vexatious litigants.” In the absence of any academic assessment of these movements, we embarked on a one-year pilot project, bringing an exploratory and multi-method approach to this first such study. It is grounded in interviews with law enforcement, lawyers, judges, notaries, and movement adherents (n = 32), along with analysis of open source data which included media reports, court documents, and movement websites.
In terms of distribution of the movement, the largest concentrations appeared to be in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Quantitatively, participants noted the challenge in measuring how expansive adherence to the movement might be. Most, however, roundly rejected the oft-cited estimate of 30,000, suggesting instead numbers closer to 5,000 to 10,000. Another shift in thinking that emerged over the course of our study was that the “movement” we were examining was slightly more diffuse than simply the FOTL bloc. It is, instead, a broadly-based anti-state or anti-authority movement consisting of many diverse, and frequently contradictory arms. In fact, some adherents explicitly distanced themselves from the FOTL label, while others embraced ideologies and practices that bore only passing resemblance to FOTL specifically.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.