Legal fund for filmmakers sued by police officer

We are being sued for $150,000+ in damages by a Calgary police officer, Constable Christopher Harris, who claims we have defamed him in our documentary film, No Visible Trauma, which investigates very serious police brutality and accountability issues at the Calgary Police Service.

We emphatically deny Cst. Harris's allegations and dispute the claims in his court filings. Our legal costs are already piling up and we need your help to defend our work!

We are Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robinder Uppal, independent documentary filmmakers who were born and raised in Calgary. We have been working on No Visible Trauma for five years and it premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival  in September. A shorter version, Above the Law, was broadcast on CBC in July and is available through CBC Gem.

Trailer for No Visible Trauma:

The film examines several cases of excessive force, including the brutal 2016 arrest of a young Indigenous man named Clayton Prince. He suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, had a key shoved into his neck behind his ear, and spent five days recovering in the hospital.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Cst. Harris filed an emergency injunction and statement of claim (lawsuit). He alleges that we acted maliciously in incorrectly transcribing the word "should" as "did" in a subtitle, misrepresenting his role in the Clayton Prince incident and its aftermath.

In the scene in question, Cst. Harris is shown in dashcam footage conversing with a new recruit after the violent assault. The audio from Cst. Harris’s body-worn mic is very noisy, but after close analysis, we have no doubt that he told the recruit, “What you saw here did not happen” — not “should not happen”, as he claims.

Cst. Harris testified under oath that he did not immediately submit his notes about what he witnessed, despite being aware of instructions from a superior to do so. When asked why, he explained, “I felt that the notes that I wrote were accurate of what I saw and that those notes could have negative consequences for the other officers involved." While Cst. Harris’s testimony eventually helped convict one of the officers, his failure to immediately report what he saw raises troubling questions about his behaviour.

Watch the scene in this 7-minute excerpt from the film:

Despite our best efforts to avoid litigation by removing the disputed subtitle and blurring Cst. Harris’s face, he filed an injunction to prevent the film from being shown for the first time in Calgary at the CUFF Docs documentary festival. Fortunately, Cst. Harris’s application was denied and the screening is proceeding as scheduled, with the film available online in Alberta and Saskatchewan until December 1, 2020.

The response from the public to news of this legal action has been incredibly supportive so far, and we’re sincerely grateful to all those who have reached out to us. We are confident that we will prevail at trial because the truth is on our side and the issues we address in the film can’t be hidden any longer. Please donate what you can and share this campaign with your circles — every dollar counts, and all donors will be included in the final credits of the film.

With sincere thanks,
Marc Serpa Francoeur & Robinder Uppal

***All funds raised will be used to cover our legal costs. Any excess funds raised will be donated to victims of police violence and/or community organizations working to combat racism and police brutality.***
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Marc Serpa Francoeur
Toronto, ON

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