An appeal panel has rejected a bid by The United People of Canada to reclaim the former St. Brigid’s Church in Lowertown.
In a decision released this week, the judges dismissed the group’s appeal of the September 2022 ruling by Superior Court Justice Sally Gomery, in which she granted the landlord’s request to terminate The United People of Canada’s lease for the historic building.
In its appeal, the group’s lawyer had argued that it did not receive the proper notice for termination of the lease agreement.
But the appeal court panel said the landlord had the right to repossess the premises since the rent had gone unpaid for 15 days. The United People of Canada (TUPOC) was then $10,000 in arrears.
The appeal panel dismissed the balance of TUPOC’s appeal arguments, saying the group did not demonstrate that Gomery made any palpable or overriding errors in her judgment.
The panel awarded the landlord $12,000 in court costs.
TUPOC, a group with links to the convoy protest that besieged downtown Ottawa in February 2022, signed an agreement to rent and then buy the building last year and then went to court after being evicted.
According to evidence presented in court, TUPOC director William Komer signed an agreement to purchase the former church and adjacent buildings for $5.95 million. The deal included a provision that allowed TUPOC to rent the property for $5,000 a month until the purchase was finalized in December.
In her decision, Gomery said the terms of TUPOC’s lease were set out in an agreement of purchase and sale and included monthly rent, due starting June 13, 2022, and a sizable deposit due in August.
She found that TUPOC breached the agreement by failing to pay deposits totalling $100,000 by Aug. 10 despite two deadline extensions granted by the landlord, a numbered company represented by Patrick McDonald.
McDonald dispatched a bailiff to issue an eviction notice on Aug. 17. But when the bailiff returned the following day to change the locks on the old church, TUPOC’s supporters blocked him, accused him of trespassing and called the police.
In an affidavit, Komer claimed McDonald told him the first rent payment was not due until July 15, a month after the group moved into the building. Komer claimed that he had bank drafts to cover the required deposits along with a $10,000 cheque for the outstanding rent.
TUPOC’s lawyer argued the group did not breach the deal to purchase the building in a material way, which meant the agreement was still valid.
The judge disagreed. In fact, Gomery said, there was no indication TUPOC was ever in a position to pay any of the initial deposits, given its repeated pleas for an extension. It meant, she said, the landlord could have no confidence that the group could pay further deposits or the full purchase price upon closing in December.
Built in 1890, St. Brigid’s Church was sold in 2007 by the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Ottawa to a numbered company and renamed the St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts.
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