Deal to buy St. Brigid's fell apart after TUPC failed to make $100K in deposits: court documents

·6 min read
Ottawa Police officers stand in front of St. Brigid's on Aug. 25, 2022. The building is a former Catholic Church and arts centre that The United People of Canada were in the process of purchasing. Court documents state the controversial group failed to make several deposits totalling $100,000, causing the deal to fall apart. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ottawa Police officers stand in front of St. Brigid's on Aug. 25, 2022. The building is a former Catholic Church and arts centre that The United People of Canada were in the process of purchasing. Court documents state the controversial group failed to make several deposits totalling $100,000, causing the deal to fall apart. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A deal that would have seen The United People of Canada (TUPC) buy a church building near downtown Ottawa collapsed because the controversial group failed to make deposits totalling $100,000, according to court documents.

The sworn affidavit from the building's owner, Patrick McDonald, states TUPC failed to make three separate payments toward the purchase of the former St. Brigid's Church when they were due on Aug. 10.

That violated the agreement of purchase and sale for the property and, coupled with the $10,000 the group owes in rent and its failure to provide proof of $5 million in liability insurance, entitles the landlord to terminate TUPC's lease, reads the document filed in Superior Court on Thursday.

Those allegations will be tested in court during an appearance scheduled for Sept. 2 as part of an ongoing eviction effort.

"We are seeking a writ of possession," the landlords' lawyer, Gordon Douglas, wrote in an email. "The affidavit speaks for itself."

William Komer, one of TUPC's directors, said Friday afternoon that he had yet to see a copy of the affidavit and wanted to look it over before providing comment.

"This is news to us, these claims being made," he said in a statement to CBC News.

The affidavit is the first time this month that the owners of the former church have shared their perspective on the landlord-tenant saga that's raised concern among many residents in Ottawa's Lowertown neighbourhood, where the property is located.

A statement on July 25 from the St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts said the response to the potential sale had been "overwhelming" and had turned those involved into "targets." The group has remained silent since.

TUPC has links to the Freedom Convoy protests that paralyzed downtown Ottawa this winter, though it denies those ties.

Deal was to buy property for just under $6M

The court documents said McDonald, along with three others who own various properties around the church, entered into an agreement to sell them to TUPC on June 13.

A sale agreement dated June 8 — signed electronically by the owners and Komer — shows the site was to be sold for $5.95 million. That came with a series of deposits, starting with $5,000, which were set to increase over time.

McDonald's affidavit shows a second payment of $10,000 was supposed to be made 14 days later, then a payment of $30,000 at 30 days and one for $60,000 at the 45-day mark.

When all conditions were waived, which was set to happen within 120 days of the offer being accepted, a fifth deposit of $200,000 was to be paid.

Falice Chin/CBC
Falice Chin/CBC

McDonald writes that the initial $5,000 was paid, but as time went on, TUPC twice asked for the payment dates to be pushed back until the second, third and fourth payments — totalling $100,000 — were all due on Aug. 10.

When that date passed and the funds had not been deposited, the owners decided to terminate the agreement to buy the properties, according to the court documents.

Termination notices posted last week

The affidavit outlines that the deal to buy the church included allowing TUPC to lease the church building, outdoor grounds, basement of the Rectory Art House next door and the parking lot between them, though other tenants were supposed to be able to use the lot as well. Rent was set at $5,000 per month, plus HST.

Notices of tenant termination — posted on the buildings and dated Aug. 17 — said the lease had been terminated over $10,000 in unpaid rent and failure to provide proof of liability insurance in the amount of $5 million.

An attached notice said TUPC is also in violation of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Alexander Behne/CBC
Alexander Behne/CBC

In his affidavit, McDonald stated he believes TUPC breached heritage rules and bylaws by doing something that immediately caught the eye of community members: painting the church's front doors "bright red."

He also points to videos posted online by someone he says is a supporter of TUPC showing "construction and remodelling" being carried out.

A spokesperson for the City of Ottawa told CBC that a permit is not required to paint the doors, according to Heritage staff.

The Ontario Heritage Trust did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Komer previously told CBC the doors had been painted with the owner's permission.

Komer has also shared a heavily redacted piece of paper with the words "certificate of insurance" across the top, which are impossible to verify without broker information, which had been blacked out.

He further has shown reporters a copy of a bank draft for $5,650, dated July 15, and what appeared to be an original of another draft, dated Aug. 15, for the same amount.

Komer claimed the landlord has refused to accept this month's rent.

The court documents state a $5,000 payment was made on July 15 and put toward the first month's stay, but that the rent for July-August and August-September has not been paid by TUPC.

Other tenants share concerns

Other allegations outlined in court documents include that the bailiff who tried to change the locks at the church was blocked from doing so.

While the locks at the Rectory Art House were changed, McDonald writes that when he visited the property last Sunday, he found the doors to the garage, which allows access to the basement of the building, had been "forced open."

The owner stated he saw people he believed to be associated with TUPC setting up tables and chairs near the now-open garage and that a "large barbecue that I own," which had been locked inside, was now outside.

Among the documents are separate affidavits from other tenants with access to the property who were supposed to have access to the parking lot.

A pair of lawyers whose office is next door to the church stated they were blocked from entering the lot.

Sebantu Ruhanamirindi alleged those barring the way were with the "People of Canada" and they were not letting people park to "pressure" the landlord. Clients "felt intimidated," Ruhanamirindi added.

Andrea Mueller, who rents an artist's studio at the former rectory, wrote in her affidavit that she arrived at work on Aug. 19 to find the wooden doors to the garage had been pried open and metal bars put in place by the bailiff were on the ground.

The garage is connected to the Rectory Art House, she stated.

"I'm concerned about the safety and security of the businesses and people working in the building."