Two Nelson doctors are facing the long arm of the tax law.
Dr. Warren Fischer, the “academic dean and chief lecturer” of the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences is accused of three counts each of making false statements and evading tax payments in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Fischer was charged in March, made his first court appearance last month and pled not guilty. He returned Tuesday, where supporters packed the courtroom.
Irene-Maus Gravenhorst of the Sovereign Squamish Government, acting on Fischer’s behalf, began reading a statement arguing the court had no jurisdiction, and persisted when Judge Lisa Mrozinksi told her to stop.
Gravenhorst was eventually escorted from the courtroom by sheriffs.
“I will sue you for assault,” she said. “I reserve the right to remain sovereign. This is police brutality.”
A federal Crown prosecutor told the judge the trial is estimated to take three weeks due to the extensive tax information involved and issues surrounding execution of search warrants.
The Star has learned agents from Canada Revenue Agency raided Fischer’s home and business in March 2011, with the help of the Nelson Police Department.
The prosecutor said the trial could be reduced to as little as three days if Fischer is willing to forego his challenge of the warrants.
“I do not consent to being the accused here,” Fischer told the judge.
Fischer was also ordered to turn himself in to the Nelson Police Department by 4 p.m. Monday for fingerprinting, or a warrant would be issued for that purpose.
“I do not consent to fingerprinting,” Fischer said.
His next court appearance is June 5.
As the hearing concluded, Fischer began to make a statement, but the judge stopped him.
“I’m finished with you now,” Mrozinski said
Outside court, Gravenhorst said for the past year Fischer has been an ambassador of the Sovereign Squamish, a group that claims “freedom from taxes pursuant to legislated common law jurisdiction governance.”
Others have unsuccessfully tried variations on the sovereignty defence when charged with tax evasion.
Fischer and the Sovereign Squamish also counted the support Tuesday of the Sovereign Sinixt Nation Government and together taped a notice to the courthouse declaring Sinixt sovereignty.
“Tax slavery is not something human being want to engage in,” Gravenhorst said. “That contract has to go … Revenue Canada is war. We’re interested in peace.”
“There is a resistance by the courts to hear our testimony and statements,” said local Sinixt spokeswoman Marilyn James. “They have again and again refused Sinixt jurisdiction over our sovereign land. We are a sovereign nation on unceded territory.”
According to his biography on the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences’ website, Fischer holds a bachelor of science in biochemistry from McGill University, as well as a degree from Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology, and was the only foreign student in a class of 40.
After returning to Canada, his medical practice “grew quickly, fuelled by the testimonies of those who had been helped. He felt compelled to ensure that the medicine was competently practised and accurately represented to the public.”
He co-founded the Academy in 1996 and was appointed in 1999 to the first board of the College of Traditional Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC for a three-year term.
In an unrelated case, Dr. Martha Wilson pled guilty to failing to comply with the income tax act for not filing a return in 2008, and was fined $1,000.
Wilson, who runs a family practice in Nelson, admitted to one count in February and was sentenced last month to the minimum fine while a second count was stayed. The outstanding return has since been filed and she has until April 2013 to pay her fine.
It’s not clear how much she owed.
Wilson declined comment except to say she found it “extraordinary” that Canada Revenue Agency issued a news release about her case.
In a section on its website detailing tax convictions, the agency explains it publicizes such cases “to maintain confidence in the integrity of the self-assessment system, and to increase compliance with the law through the deterrent effect of such publicity.”
The BC section of the site lists two dozen other convictions dating back to last November, including a Castlegar man who was fined $1,000. News releases are archived online for six months.
Communications manager David Morgan added prosecution is “only considered after a long chain of other compliance activities have been taken and have not resulted in compelling the filing of returns voluntarily.”
If someone doesn’t file their tax return, they are issued two requests to file. Failing that, the account is reviewed, and in some cases an automatic assessment prepared. If income can’t be fully determined, officers contact the taxpayer to learn their situation and make filing arrangements.
If a mutually agreeable arrangement still can’t be found or is not complied with, the file is reviewed again.
“When the officer has exhausted all other means to resolve a file, a requirement to file is personally served on the taxpayer, setting out a time frame,” Morgan said. “If this is not complied with, and if warranted, prosecution is undertaken.”
Those convicted of failing to file tax returns must still file them and pay taxes owing plus interest in addition to fines imposed by the courts.
People who haven’t filed returns for previous years or not reported all their income can still voluntarily correct their taxes and many not face penalties if the disclosure comes before Canada Revenue Agency takes action against them.