LukeStewartG20Trial

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Raised by 19 people in 5 months
(Photo: Murray Bush)

G20 protester is unsuccessful in lawsuit against Toronto Police for unlawful detention, search and seizure at 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto.  Help Luke Stewart raise $8,000 to order trial transcripts so he can appeal the decision.

Personal Statement from Luke Stewart

I am appealing the July 2018 decision in my civil lawsuit Stewart v. Toronto Police Services Board  for unlawful detention, search, and seizure on Friday June 25, 2010, at Allan Gardens Park during the G20 in Toronto. For now, I need $8,000  so that I can order trial transcripts to appeal this decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The decision significantly expands the scope of police powers to detain/arrest people, search their belongings, and seize their lawfully held property at rallies, marches and protests and creates a slippery slope for the erosion of civil liberties in the future.

In the aftermath of the G20 in Toronto, journalists, commentators, and ordinary people rightfully asked if the rampant and widespread police violation of civil liberties could happen again. Rulings by the Superior Court in my case demonstrate that if the police can simply surround a protest, arbitrarily detain or arrest someone, search their belongings and seize lawfully held items such as goggles, then what happened at the G20 will happen again.

Unlawful detention and arrest, search, and seizure were core tactics used by the police at the G20 in Toronto and must be condemned in every instance. What the police did at Allan Gardens Park is inherently contrary to civil liberties and an affront to democratic values. Such tactics are central ingredients in the criminalization of dissent and a move towards what Justice Nordheimer calls in another G20 case ‘one of the hallmarks of a police state.’

My interaction with the police was caught on camera and released on Youtube by journalist Lisa Walters.



The Costs

Suing the Toronto Police has been an eye opening and educational experience to say the least. One of the sad lessons I have learned is that the Canadian justice system is available only to those who can afford it. To appeal this decision is very expensive, estimated to cost over $8,000 - just for the trial transcripts.

This $8,000 will only cover ordering the trial transcripts. This does not cover my own legal costs.  My lawyer, Davin Charney, is currently working pro bono.

Unconnected to the court fees needed to launch the appeal, the judge in my case awarded $25,000 in costs to the Toronto Police Services Board . We are also appealing this cost award. This case was pursued in what the courts rightfully recognize as a public interest case. Even more than this, the case concerns a significant event in Toronto and Canadian history in which unlawful detention, search and seizure were rampant. The signal is clear: anyone who wishes to sue the police and seek justice in the courts will now have another reason to be afraid to do so. 

Therefore, I have no choice but to raise money and personally appeal to you to help donate to my legal fund in order to challenge a decision which is an affront to democratic values and the civil liberties of everyone in Canada and sets a dangerous precedent for the future.   

 
More Information

In June 2010, the Group of 8 (G8) and Group of 20 (G20) came to Huntsville and Toronto. People from all over North America traveled to Toronto to demand that another world be possible, other than the one being negotiated behind closed doors by the world’s richest economies. The subsequent police crackdown on protest has since been widely condemned and the summit is now infamously known as the “Austerity Summit” as the 20 largest economies agreed to cut social services and public investment in order to shore up the financial sector in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 global financial meltdown. 

On June 25, 2010, the day the G8 began in Huntsville, the Toronto Police preemptively surrounded Allan Gardens Park and made a search of everyone’s bags, backpacks, purses, wheelchairs, strollers and other belongings a condition of entry to the Justice for Our Communities rally and march. This unprecedented police tactic was specifically designed to seize “items to defeat police tactics,” weapons and would-be weapons. Evidence at the trial showed that items such as flag poles and sticks used to showcase protest signs were seized. Other items such as bandanas, vinegar, bike gloves, and drum sticks were also seized. In some cases, as one police officer testified at trial, people refused to be searched and simply left the park.

On that day, I was one of the countless people asked by the police to consent to a search of my belongings before entering the park. In the months leading up to the G8/G20 Summits, lawyers at “Know Your Rights” workshops across the province informed us that we did not have to consent to a search of our belongings and that the police did not have the right to search us unless we were detained or arrested. I subsequently challenged the police’s authority to search my bag and crossed their perimeter where we allege the police unlawfully detained me, searched my bag, and seized my goggles.  

In 2011, I first launched a lawsuit in Ontario Small Claims Court challenging my unlawful detention, search, and seizure. One year later, after appealing and receiving the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) report which indicated severe breaches of my rights, I moved my legal claim to the Ontario Superior Court where we were joined by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) as an intervenor in the case.

Cover letter from OIPRD Director Gerry McNeilly dated 6 January 2012. The letter found Discreditable Conduct and Unlawful Exercise of Authority on the part of the police at Allan Gardens Park.

32609042_1535787132183233_r.jpeg

After 6 long years, the case finally came to trial in February 2O18 and the decision was released in July 2018. In the case of Stewart v. Toronto Police Services Board, the judge upheld the police’s right to form a perimeter around a public park and make a search of people’s belongings and the seizure of their lawfully held items such as swimming goggles a condition of entry into the protest.

We are not simply challenging the fact that my goggles were seized by the police. We are challenging the right of the police to decide on the fly that they will surround a protest and make search of peoples bags, purses, backpacks, strollers and wheelchairs a condition of entry. Moreover, we are challenging the right of the police to unlawfully detain or arrest anyone who refuses to consent to a search and use this as a basis to seize lawfully held property. Finally, we are challenging the intimidating signal this sends to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation asking if it is worth suing the police if they will be handed a large financial cost award if they lose.

Such tactics are not unique to the G20 and what many of us learned on the streets of Toronto in June 2010 happens every day to marginalized and racialized communities across Canada. The crisis of carding or street checks by police relies on the same premise of detention and searching of a person’s belongings. Democracy and civil liberties cannot simply be phrases we utter and we must be vigilant lest we lose them.

I have decided to appeal this decision on behalf of the civil liberties of everyone to attend a protest without being unlawfully detained/arrested, searched and their legal property seized by police.

 

For more on the case:

Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) - https://ccla.org/g20-civil-case-toronto-police-board-begins-today/

News

VICE NewsToronto police are in court following largest arrests in Canadian history (12 February 2018, by Ashley Renders)
Toronto Star: G20-related lawsuit on police brutality to begin Monday (4 February 2018, by Colin Perkel)
CBC: Rare G20 protester civil suit went to trial because ‘settling wasn’t possible' (6 February 2018, by Flora Pan)
+ Read More

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