Nightmare neighbour in Chelsea, Que
Chelsea resident and sculptor Theodore Burtick cited the Canadian Constitution, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression as justification for allegedly threatening to break the legs of two children who were playing on his centre village property earlier this year, court documents reveal.
On Feb. 8, 2021, two children under the age of 10 – who will not be named in this article because they’re minors – were playing on a vacant wooded lot that Burtick, 73, owns between the home of one of the children and Burtick’s centre-village home.
The child’s father – who will also remain anonymous – was inside when he heard the two terrified children screaming and his wife yelling.
“I thought someone was severely injured,” he told the Low Down.
The father said the situation brought up past trauma and anxiety stemming from his other child’s premature death years ago. “All I hear is my wife, terrified, screaming, ‘Theo threatened to break the kids’ legs,’” he said.
In July, Burtick pleaded not guilty to two counts of threatening bodily harm and one count of harassment. When contacted by the Low Down, Burtick declined to comment.
“All my actions were lawful under the Canadian Constitution, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression. [The] Plaintiff’s actions, unjustifiable, [and] unproven, are motivated not by facts, but by personal vendetta and financial gains,” an August affidavit signed by Burtick states.
The father told the Low Down that his wife witnessed Burtick’s threats. Howeever none of these allegations have been proven in court.
“She saw Theo come toward the children in a threatening manner,” he said, adding that his wife heard Burtick say, “I will break their legs.” His other teenaged daughter also heard the confrontation.
The father called the MRC des Collines Police, who responded around 7:40 p.m. Burtick himself emailed out that report to the neighbourhood.
Police issued Burtick a warning for the threats against the kids, which the report notes was sufficient for the parents at that time. The report states that two witnesses testified to hearing the threats to break the kids’ legs.
Burtick complained to the two responding officers that the children were trespassing, but was told that the children must be at least 14 years or older to issue them a statement for trespassing. It was only after Burtick continued to harass his neighbours that they decided to file charges against him, the father said.
“He didn’t want to hear it,” the report states, in French, about Burtick not being able to file trespassing charges.
Burtick then asked the officers to issue a statement for trespassing to the father. The police told Burtick not to contact the victims and that they wouldn’t take any trespassing complaints and left.
At 8:06 p.m. that same night, Burtick called the police station with a trespassing report. One of the officers who responded to the earlier call told him, again, that they wouldn’t be taking the complaint. The next afternoon, Burtick called the police station a second time to meet with an officer and file a trespassing report.
The same two officers went to Burtick’s home later that day, where he showed them a section of his property without a fence where there were “no trespassing” signs but also old footprints in the snow. The officers told him that the matter didn’t merit a trespassing report because the young kids have a difficult time knowing where the property line is without a fence. Since this was the third time Burtick tried to file a trespassing report against the children, the officers handed him a $500 ticket for calling the police without reasonable cause.
In the following weeks, Burtick’s behaviour toward his neighbours allegedly changed. According to the father, Burtick cut down part of a privacy hedge, which was on Burtick’s property, that gave him a clear view into the changing room of the alleged victim’s parents.
On Feb. 13, the father emailed Burtick telling him to stop cutting the cedars that shielded the view into their home. The email states that the tree cutting is particularly upsetting to the family in light of the incident just five days prior. It also states the names of the two children. Burtick forwarded this email, along with the police report detailing the incident and the ensuing ticket that he received, to about 60 people, including neighbours.
The father said that identifying the two threatened children is another instance of their victimization.
“The neighbourhood came to our ally, saying ‘Hey, we support you,’” he said.
Then came the signs.
“No trespassing” signs, featuring Disney icon Mickey Mouse giving the middle finger, appeared along the property line. The father said his child walks to the bus every morning with Mickey flipping them off — a reminder of the neighbour who they’re terrified of.
The father called this the “re-victimization” of his child.
“It’s like a welcome sign to our driveway,” he said of the signs. “[They are placed] in such a way to be clearly seen everywhere in this house.”
The father said that his childrens’ friends see the signs and ask about them when they’re at his home.
The father said he reported the signs to the municipality and the police, but was told there’s nothing he can do. If he goes and takes the signs down, he could get charged with trespassing, destruction of property, or theft. When the police contacted Burtick about the signs, he said that the middle finger is actually an arrow pointing to a reminder that the property is under video surveillance.
“It felt like an escalation,” the father said about the signs. “‘What’s next?’ we thought.”
That’s when he decided to file charges against Burtick.