Volume 91, Issue 63

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

grape vine


More students to sue RCMP

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

Two more lawsuits are set to be filed against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the federal government as a result of alleged actions taken in protests during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Three graduate students at the University of British Columbia, Michael Thoms, Isabella Varela and Jodi Morris are planning to file a joint civil lawsuit against RCMP officers and the federal government either by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

The legal action comes on the heels of a lawsuit launched in December by another student involved in the same protest, Craig Jones. Rob Grant, a lawyer from the firm Heenan Blaikie, who is representing the three students, said the new lawsuit is different from the one filed by Jones because Jones' included the Prime Minister's Office while the latest one does not.

The three students did not get arrested but are suing for breach of constitutional rights, Grant said. RCMP officers allegedly forced the students to stop displaying signs expressing anti-APEC views during the summit on Nov. 25. Jones is suing for wrongful arrest and imprisonment.

"Our chances of winning are excellent. Whether we'll get much in the way of damages, no one can tell at this point," Grant said.

The lawsuits are seeking financial compensation for alleged breach of constitutional rights as well as a court injunction to force better RCMP officer training on constitutional rights.

Russell Grabb, spokesperson for British Columbia RCMP, said there are currently several on-going internal investigations regarding the APEC protests but he could not comment specifically on the lawsuit.

During the course of the APEC summit, 2,200 RCMP officers were involved in security for the 78 world leaders who were present.

Jones said he has been talking with the three other students who are suing since the protest and they decided the best route to take would be for separate lawsuits. He added they plan to combine them eventually since all four students were in the same place on the day of the protest.

"We pretty much knew right from the start this would be the case. This was the message we decided on," Jones said. He added having the two cases together will also make the process faster.

A third lawsuit is also expected to emerge. Jones said a group of 20 students who were protesting when RCMP officers started using pepper spray plan to take similar legal action.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998