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How to Prevent Conflicts from getting out of hand and avoid the Hatfield and McCoy’s Conflict Escalation

The Quebec case of R. v. Epstein, 2023 QCCQ 630, published on February 24, 2023, received national headlines.  The Honourable Dennis Galiatsatos, J.C.Q., dealt with a criminal harassment complaint, an uttering death threat complaint between fractured and feuding neighbors.  The alleged events occurred between March and May of 2021. 

The Court quoted “In the modern-day vernacular, people often refer to a criminal case “being thrown out”.  Obviously, this is little more than a figurative expression. Cases aren’t actually thrown out, in the literal or physical sense.  Nevertheless, in the specific circumstances of this case, the Court is inclined to actually take the file and throw it out the window, which is the only way to adequately express my bewilderment with the fact that Mr. Epstein was subjected to an arrest and a fulsome criminal prosecution.  Alas, the courtrooms of the Montreal courthouse do not have windows. A mere verdict of acquittal will have to suffice.”

In this scathing decision, Justice Galiatsatos wrestled with what amounted to a neighborhood dispute. On a thorough review of the facts and evidence, the Court resounding acquitted the accused.  The Court mused that it was deplorable that the complainants weaponized the criminal justice system in an attempt to seek revenge on an innocent man, for some perceived slights, that are, at best, trivial peeves.  At one point, the Court noted in evidence that the accused kept walking while staring at the complainant and giving him the finger.  The court dealt with this non-event and interaction between neighbors that are in conflict.  The court noted that it was not a crime to dislike a neighbor and it is not a crime to express it.  The court noted to be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger. 

“Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belong to every red-blooded Canadian.  It may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly. Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability.”

This dispute clearly escalated between the parties.  One must wonder whether an early intervention with the help of a trained mediator would have helped resolve the dispute prior to it escalating to the point of criminal charges being laid. 

There is a strong measurement of agreement that conflict can be deescalated, and healthy relationships can be transformed into opportunities for problem solving in mediation.  

Mediation is an alternative to Court, in that it provides an opportunity for de-escalation of conflict, enhanced communication, trust building and integrated problem solving.  

Mediation can help parties avoid an escalation of conflict and a psychological principle called “entrapment”.  Entrapment occurs when an individual become invested over and over again in a cycle of conflict, and continued involvement in the conflict justifies the past. When stuck in this conflict cycle, it becomes difficult to disengage and admit how possibly purposeless their past involvement in the fight has been.  

Mediation provides a forum where parties can move off the track of conflict escalation and to provide a concrete solution to parenting plans, division of family assets and division of family finances (spousal support and child support).  It does so in a civil, structured process (no middle fingers allowed).  It allows parties to settle their conflict and move forward with their lives.  

If you wish to get more information on mediation, please do not hesitate to contact a mediator at Moe Hannah LLP.