Volume 91, Issue 56

Thursday, January 8, 1998

El nino


RCMP/PM sued by UBC student

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

In the aftermath of huge protests at the University of British Columbia over the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in late November the effects are still being felt – one student is suing both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Prime Minister's office.

Craig Jones, a UBC law student, has launched a civil lawsuit as a result of treatment he allegedly received while protesting the APEC summit. He said RCMP officers unconstitutionally arrested and detained him.

"The police just acted in a totally offhanded way. It was done as a matter of routine and what frightened me the most was how happy they were to do it," Jones said.

RCMP officers threw Jones to the ground, handcuffed him and took him away, he said. He was arrested after officers told him to put his three protest signs, on the other side of a fence across from where a motorcade of international officials was going to pass.

Jones said he was arrested because he refused to move the signs and for saying he had a right to be there and a right to display his signs. Police held him for 14 hours while protests worsened and RCMP started using pepper spray.

Russell Grabb, spokesperson for the British Columbia RCMP, said the matter is before the courts so the RCMP would not comment on it. He did say, however, there are several internal investigations taking place.

Grabb explained security protocol when world leaders are present is different than protocol for a regular event. He said the RCMP had 78 internationally protected persons to provide security for and by international treaty they must undertake reasonable and proper measures to ensure security.

"Removing a sign just because of its content is not supportable but if an officer could establish that a sign could be used as a projectile or used to block a motorcade then it is [acceptable]," Grabb said.

Jones is suing the Prime Minister's office because he said they instructed the RCMP to remove any signs from vision by international leaders attending the event. He said their alleged instruction to do this was unconstitutional.

Jennifer Lang, Jean Chrétien's press secretary, said the government will not comment on the lawsuit either. When events involving the Prime Minister are planned, the Prime Minister's office meets with the RCMP and site coordinators, she said.

Jones said he has one of B.C.'s top constitutional lawyers, Joseph Arvay, representing him. The agreement between the two of them is one in which Jones will not be under a lot of financial strain because of the lawsuit.

"There has to be a strong judicial precedent established here," he said. He added there has been no dollar figure attached to the lawsuit but whatever amount he receives will not go into his pocket but will benefit the community in some way.

Jones said he is hoping for a sizable punishment so this type of thing does not happen again. He is also wants the courts to force officers to be better trained when it comes to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and civil liberties.

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