Volume 91, Issue 73

Friday, February 6, 1998



Debaters swarmed by police

By Dan Yurman
Gazette Staff

When a group of fourth-year Carleton University students set off for the North American Debating Tournament in Montréal last Friday, they ended up talking themselves out of a situation that was not on their debating agenda.

Mike Peters, Jordan Tan and James Clitheroe came face-to-face with the wrong end of a plethora of police revolvers after they shot cap guns from their car window while parked outside fellow team member Linda McMillan's house. When nearby neighbours thought the students were firing real guns at pedestrians, they called the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police.

Stephanie Wanke, a student from the University of Alberta's debating team, was also in the car but was unarmed.

Tan, who purchased the toy guns, said he was confused when police arrived and thought they were approaching the car for a seat-belt infraction. He said when the officers unholstered their weapons though, he knew it was because of the cap guns.

All four students were arrested and taken to the police station.

"We were stupid," he said. "Theoretically, if we were to make the wrong move, we would have felt the wrath of the state pinching our necks."

Sgt. Gilles Larochelle of the OCRP said the students were very compliant with the officers, as they got out of the car one by one and surrendered without a fuss. He added there were no charges laid.

"There are a lot of factors taken into consideration [when laying charges], one of which is the probability of a successful conviction," Larochelle said. He added because they were students, the relative harmlessness of the incident and because they were cooperative with the police, charges were not laid.

A similar stance was taken by the Carleton University Students' Association, who funded the debating team's trip to Montréal. "We're not going to take any action," said CSA director of academics Craig Watson. "They were just fooling around and got into a little more trouble than usual – it's just a case of a joke gone bad."

Western Debating Society President Rob Silver said before the tournament started, the story had spread that the team from Carleton had been incarcerated. "When we first heard they had been arrested, we immediately thought they had been shipping illegal substances. We then felt intimidated because adversity seems to bring out the best in debaters."

Silver was referring to last year when the Western squad wrecked their van on the way to a tournament and ended up winning in spite of their unfortunate incident.

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