Sunday, 9 June 2013


Today I am a bit sad and melancholy having learned that one of my earliest Landlord and Tenant law clients was found in the river just outside of Ottawa.  Apparently he had been in the water for quite some time.  It was back in December that the Police had posted a missing person's report advising that he was missing and presumably it was in those several months between "missing"and being "found" that unbeknownst to us he had departed.

Denis Piffard was an exceedingly interesting character with many personal challenges.  He suffered from mental illness, specifically he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia combined with a litigious personality disorder.  He believed himself to be holy and in some ways would compare himself to the saviour.  He would often refer to himself as Saint D. and given the opportunity he would preach even to an unwilling and sometimes rather hostile audience.  He was always undeterred and my partners and I would muse when the inevitable legal action started how Denis thrived in that kind of conflict.

In one of my earliest cases with Denis his landlord was seeking to evict him from his apartment because he would go out onto his balcony and preach to his neighbours on their balconies.  The building was somewhat crescent shaped and this gave Denis a wonderfully captive audience.  In time, and I say this cheekily, his ungrateful neighbours would try to drown him out, yell at him, and they even threw vegetables at him.  On hearing of these antics, and having seen the gleam in Denis' eyes, my partners and I  would chuckle at how Denis felt enlivened by the actions of his neighbours.  These actions struck him as persecution---similar perhaps to that as felt by the saviour Himself.  Not to be outdone, or to allow his message to be suppressed, Denis responded to the vegetables and shouts with a bull-horn so that his amplified message could be clearly heard!

A fun thing about Denis was that for the most part he was clear minded and fully cognizant of the impact of his behaviour.  Of course there were some serious exceptions, but in the 15 or so years that I knew him he was most often "with it" enough to get into some mischief but also to do things that he loved.  Denis was a poet and a song-writer--though he also fashioned himself a bit of a singer.  His work often contained religious themes but not always.  I had the pleasure of often reading dozens of pages of unsolicited notes, letters, or random faxes that Denis would send my way calling for some kind of help in perhaps a sentence or two buried somewhere in the document with the rest being an exposition of what Denis was currently thinking about.

Notwithstanding the mental illness and some of the problems associated with it, I always saw Denis as a very kind soul.  His poetry and songs were about love and kindness and his demeanour in interacting with people was sweet.  He was a bit of a romeo and liked to think of himself as stylish, the "cat's meow" and he would wear an interesting hat or something to make himself stand out.  In every sense, he was to me, a very likeable character who lived cheerfully.  Denis knew of the impact of his mental health condition but I could see in him that he fought against letting it define him or limit him in any way.

Denis was a dreamer and would often corner me and tell me of his goal to be famous or more famous than he already was!  That was an interesting thing about Denis, though his mental health condition surely impacted and was the source of some of his grandiose behaviours it was rare for him to be deluded about them and in fact it seemed that he often had an insight about them that suggested a voluntariness imbued with a notion of a grand design (which grand design, unfortunately, was known only to Denis).

That Denis would die by drowning, after generating news stories as a "missing person", would undoubtedly have pleased him as he liked for there to be a stir or a fuss and if he could be in the middle of it, all the better.   I'm sad today that Denis is gone as he was a client, and I dare say a friend, who made my life a little bit richer and bit more interesting for being in it.  I will miss him.

Mike Thiele

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Any answers provided are intended to reflect the Law of Ontario, Canada. The answers are not legal advice and no one should rely on the answers provided as legal advice. The answers are intended to be general information about Ontario Law and are the personal view of the author based on the limited facts provided to the author. The answers may not be legally accurate and may indeed be contrary to the law of Ontario. Answers and conclusions drawn may have been different if facts had been shared that have not been disclosed in the comment/question. This blog is intended to assist people in learning about Ontario Landlord and Tenant Law. However, if you have actual legal problems this blog should under no circumstances replace proper legal advice obtained by retaining a lawyer or licensed paralegal to advise you. Nothing in this blog, comments submitted or answers provided, gives rise to a solicitor and client relationship. Comments are published as submitted and commenters should be aware that if they identify themselves in a comment that their identity will become public upon the comment being published. Comments that have been published may be deleted upon request to the author.

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About Michael Thiele

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Ottawa lawyer and partner at Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP.  Graduate of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.  Called to the bar in Ontario in 1997.  Undergraduate degree at Colby College, Waterville Maine, U.S.A.