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Fiefdoms of Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Regional Parks

In the Regional Parks of Saskatchewan, people own their homes, on land leased from management authorities that operate at a frightening level of autonomy, enabled by political interference and willful blindness from their municipal and provincial oversight governments.



The constitutional principle of separation of powers supposedly protects the judiciary from political influence.

Who protects citizens if political influence does affect judicial decisions?


Who Judges the Judges?

Citizens can file complaints regarding the conduct of a judge with the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC).

A complaint regarding Justice Lyle Zuk, a federally appointed Saskatchewan Queen's (now King's) Bench judge, was filed in October 2020 with a review by BC Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson subsequently completed in February 2021 on Justice Zuk's adjudication of SK QB 230 of 2019 - Suffern Lake Regional Park Authority v Danilak/Ritchot,  dismissed.

Justice Zuk also presided over two additional court actions (number seven and eight respectively) initiated by the Suffern Lake Regional Park Authority in October 2021. In Chambers, Justice Zuk referenced his previous CJC complaint stating, "your concerns were valid". He rendered decisions for SK QB 174 and 175 of 2021 on April 20, 2022 in favour of the Plaintiff.

Respondents in both actions, Danilak/Ritchot and Wildman/Zigarlick have since filed complaints with the Canadian Judicial Council and await outcomes. (CJC submission pdfs below SKQB174/2022, SKQB175/2022, SKQB230/2020 and including SKQB231/2020 review of Madam Justice Goebel adjudicating). 

Justice Zuk consistently disregarded perjured statements presented by the Plaintiff and their Counsel and, in the face of sworn evidence, discredited Respondents' claims that assessments and taxation including Education Property Tax (EPT) had been manipulated at Suffern Lake.

Respondents have since discovered that evasion of EPT was provincewide involving tens of millions of dollars of property value primarily the second homes of the well-to-do.

There is valid concern that Justice Zuk was aware of these circumstances prior to making his decisions which require Respondents to sell their properties or have them default to the Park Authority as a Writ of Possession.

Canadian Judicial Council - Request for Conduct Review Justice Zuk re SK QB 174 of 2021 Wildman/Zigarlick

Canadian Judicial Council - Request for Conduct Review Justice Zuk re SK QB 175 of 2021 Danilak/Ritchot

Canadian Judicial Council - Request for Conduct Review Justice Zuk re SK QB 230 of 2019 Danilak/Ritchot

Canadian Judicial Council - Request for Conduct Review Madam Justice Goebel re SK QB 231 of 2019 Wildman/Zigarlick


Opinion: Norm Zigarlick - Respondent SKQB174/2019, SKQB231/2019, SKQB174/2021


Back in the early going: we believed we had done the right thing by exposing tax irregularities at Suffern Lake Regional Park to the appropriate ministries; we thought telling the Park Authority about the seriousness of truckloads of barked pine wood being imported into Saskatchewan and putting forests at risk was valuable information; we thought exposing conflict of interest in gaming fundraisers to the Park Authority and oversight ministries and agencies would be seen as helpful…  


We were wrong on all counts.  


This is a government that invests far more in punishment and coverups than acknowledgement and correction. This is a government managed by a Premier who was tickled pink his new Justice Minister would be more litigious than his last one.

They detest anyone pointing out issues that might lead to a poor political identity. 


Instead of thanks, a group of us became the targets in a wave of lawsuits, eight in total. All initiated by Suffern Lake Regional Park Authority a creation of Saskatchewan Government. Seven made it before judges. The same law firm represented the Applicant against the same group of five people, either individually, paired or as a group. This profoundly arrogant, high-profile firm had gone so far as to publish a guideline on how to defeat “financial weaklings” in court. 


The only way Respondents were able to survive the onslaught was because in every case they were Self Representing Litigants (I was one of them). In other words, we were able to stay in the game because we couldn’t afford a lawyer. 


Always in the shadows was the Saskatchewan government playing an off-stage role assisting in every action while insisting the Applicant was autonomous and government was not involved. 


Justice Lyle Zuk presided over four of the seven summary applications in Chambers Hearings. Three of his decisions appear dedicated to giving the Saskatchewan government a pass on responsibility for botched legislation, corrupt taxation processes and outrageous cronyism. 


This government has been using the Park Authority as a shock absorber to conceal inappropriate issues related to Education Property Tax since late 2017 when Park Planner Dominique Clincke was tasked with doing an internal tax review.   


By time we got to court in 2019 government was fully aware of tax evasion/manipulation schemes within Regional Parks and Seasonal Recreational properties provincewide. 


Before receiving decisions on our 2019 hearings in May of 2020, we had confirmation from the CEO of Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency that Suffern Lake cottage values were falsely low due to failed reporting required from the Park Authority under the oversight of the Rural Municipality of Senlac.


The Park Authority ran a long-term scheme to minimize property taxes and evade the historically unpopular Education Property Tax on recreational dwellings. To make things right, SAMA did an onsite revaluation of the entire cottage community which corrected inequities and doubled the amount of EPT due to the province. The main supplier of affidavit information to the court insisted our claims were false – his property assessment increased by about 330%.   


2019 court decisions by Justice Zuk and Madam Justice Goebel were wins for the Respondents but a kind of "shut up and go away" win that discredited Respondents while failing to acknowledge the tax wrongdoing at the heart of the long-running dispute.  


SLRPA didn’t let the 2019/20 courtroom failures slow them down. They launched a new round of lawsuits in 2021. This time Justice Zuk heard both cases even though Respondents to his 2019 decision had requested and were granted a Judicial Conduct Review of that decision. 


Justice Zuk then ruled in favor of the Applicant. But again, it was odd the 2022 losses weren't losses for the Respondents at all. The circumstances in which Respondents would have sold and relocated would leave the Park Authority with nothing for their years of legal fees.  In short, after four years of punitive legal actions, the Park would be left standing empty-handed and exposed while broader Government mismanagement and wrongdoing went undetected.  


Had the Respondents’ properties been sold as directed in the decisions and the Respondents left town, perhaps $35 million in bogus exemptions and under-assessments would not have been publicly exposed and would have just faded from history as financial reporting rolled into new operating years.  


However, it isn’t likely SLRPA was paying for all the real legal fees; you don't get seven court hearings in three years for under $100,000 yet that’s what SLRPA reporting to stakeholders has claimed. Something smells bad… one scenario might look like this: if a big law firm did enough other government work or did work for big political contributors, it would be easy to bury SLRPA fee payments in unrelated invoicing and nobody on the outside would know the difference.   


Local representatives on the Park Authority probably had no idea what was happening or that they had been used as political cannon fodder to hide something 20+ times larger than their local issues. A simple matter of calling it autonomy, then letting unsuspecting local folk wear it. All the while they felt strong and important with good lawyers and all kinds of supportive direction from government.  


Can we prove that? Probably not, when a law firm has a century of history behind them along with fondness for publicly funded clients, they will be very good at covering their tracks.  


But tracks have been left. They got careless (arrogant) with Justice Minister/ Attorney General, Don Morgan connections. A true case of Government intrusion into the Judicial System. 


The cast of characters active in SkQB 231 of 2019: Minister of Justice, Don Morgan; his wife, a legal assistant working for Robertson Stromberg; James D Steele of Robertson Stromberg, counsel for the Applicant (Suffern Lake Regional Park Authority); and Madam Justice Goebel, former Robertson Stromberg LLP partner who was still active when Mr. Steele was head hunted to article for the firm. 


Put that in a movie script and everybody would say... naaaah, that's not realistic, that sounds like Alabama in 1935!  

 All things considered, we were lucky to get out of there alive and hindsight being 20/20, it should have been obvious that nobody hires a 100-year-old prestigious law firm just to handle what started as a minor tax dispute in a small park. 


In his June 2019 submission to the court for SKQB 174 of 2019 (dismissed on procedure) James D Steele asked the question: why would a big government be involved in some conspiracy in a small park in Northwest Saskatchewan?   Apart from Mr. Steele not knowing where the Park was located (we were pleased to correct him) we can now answer his question. 


There were between $35 million and $50 million in property values across rural Saskatchewan that were not paying their fair share of taxes or put differently there were at least 35 million reasons to take part in a conspiracy.   

What we can’t answer is who were these lucky people? We do know about 20% of all the tax exemptions involving Seasonal Residential properties across Saskatchewan’s 296 Rural Municipalities took place in just one Municipality. That Municipality just happens to be in Justice Zuk’s backyard. 


I recognize Saskatchewan has a small population of lawyers and judges and perhaps its pure coincidence that Justice Zuk had once been a business manager for a Conservative candidate in a provincial election, or that he was a cash contributor to the SaskParty before coming a judge. It may also be coincidence that he once represented Wakaw Lake Regional Park in a court action and that Wakaw Lake Park seems to have a few odd financial behaviors of its own going on.


It seemed odd that Justice Zuk was eager to preside over the 2021 cases even though two Respondents had officially questioned his conduct only a little more than a year earlier.  Even more odd was the same Applicant at the heart of his first problem was at it again.  


Given all these considerations, you might think Justice Zuk would not want to be near these new cases. Prior to the hearings getting started he commented on his surprise when he learned he was scheduled to hear the cases. He offered to recuse himself but made a pretty good case that he would honor his oath.


If we look at the history of this adventure, it is bizarre.  Every attempt at mediation was refused including by Justice Zuk. Mediation is considered by the court system to be a prime method of resolution, we don’t know why a judge would toss that idea out with the trash, but he did.


In total eight lawsuits were initiated where the court system was involved.  From these cases, four requests for Judicial Conduct Reviews have risen. One against Madam Justice Goebel, three against Justice Lyle Zuk. Two were completed, two are in progress. 


Thousands of hours have been spent on these efforts. Over the course of seven years, this series of disputes has seen a staggering amount of money spent trying to knock down a group of seniors who are guilty of nothing more than questioning incompetent authority and exposing a thoroughly corrupt property tax system. A system where paying taxes doesn’t come with the right to vote on how they are spent.


No reasonable person would consider these actions of the Saskatchewan government and its agents to be reasonable, fair, or competent.




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Marsden, SK S0M 1P0, Canada


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