APEC lawsuit now becomes 27 times stronger
By Brendan Howe
Lawsuits over police action taken against protestors during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit at the University of British Columbia are mounting as another group has launched legal action against the federal government and police.
Yesterday, 27 students, professors and other protestors filed a lawsuit against the Prime Minister's Office, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Police Department claiming their rights had been violated during the protest.
The new lawsuit comes in addition to one filed in December by UBC student Craig Jones and previews another suit planned to be announced within two weeks. Jones said he and the students involved in the upcoming lawsuit plan to merge their suits into the same trial because they both focus on breach of constitutional rights.
Aymen Nader, one of four lawyers representing the group, said the new wave of legal action focuses on events allegedly taken by police during the protest. This includes the use of pepper spray which protestors felt was excessive and the strip-searching of females who were arrested.
Alissa Westergard-Thorpe, a UBC student who was one of those strip-searched, said when protestors were taken to the Richmond Detention Centre none of the males were strip-searched but all the females were. She said the police only have the right to strip-search when they feel someone could be carrying something dangerous.
"If they were really worried about [the protestors] they would have strip-searched the men too," Westergarde-Thorpe said.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's press secretary Jennifer Lang and Russell Grabb, spokesperson for British Columbia RCMP, have both refused to comment on the protest since the first lawsuit was filed. The RCMP is currently conducting an internal investigation into actions taken during the APEC protest.
The group is seeking compensation for injuries suffered as well as punitive damages, Nader said. He added they are also asking for a declaration by the court that says through their actions, the Prime Minister and the RCMP violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Garth Mullins, who is not a student, said the Prime Minister is being sued because the group believes the police were being instructed by him on how to implement security. "The police way overreacted and I'm of the opinion it was under the direction of the Prime Minister."