(File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

G20 protester awarded $500 for illegal police search and goggles seizure

Ontario’s top court ruled police had no right to search Luke Stewart when he entered a public park

A man whose swim goggles were confiscated by officers following a search of his backpack on the eve of the turbulent G20 summit in Toronto almost a decade ago has been awarded $500 in damages.

In its decision, Ontario’s top court ruled police had no right to search Luke Stewart when he entered a public park. Requiring the search infringed his rights to free expression and to be free from arbitrary detention, the court found.

“The freedom to engage in the peaceful public expression of political views is central to our conception of a free and democratic society,” Justice David Brown wrote for the Appeal Court. “Freedom of expression requires zealous protection.”

As tensions mounted heading into the summit weekend in June 2010, police decided to search bags and backpacks as a condition of entry into Allan Gardens. Officers cited trespassing laws as justification, saying they were looking for weapons or items that could be used as weapons.

Three officers confronted Stewart, of Kitchener, Ont., and asked to search his bag. He refused, demanding to know their legal justification. They responded it was under trespass laws. Stewart, in the three-minute videotaped encounter, pushed past the officers, who then restrained him briefly.

They removed his backpack and, over his objections, took his swim goggles on the grounds he could used them to protect himself from police tear gas. Stewart, who refused to give his name, then proceeded into the park.

Stewart sued, claiming police had illegally detained him, searched his backpack, and confiscated his goggles. He argued they knew their actions were unjustified and in bad faith. He sought $20,000 — down from his initial claim of $100,000.

In July 2018, Superior Court of Justice Bernadette Dietrich ruled the officers did have the requisite search powers. She dismissed his action and claim for damages, prompting his appeal.

The Appeal Court noted in its ruling that the Supreme Court of Canada had clarified police powers after Dietrich’s ruling, finding the officers had no authority to target apparent protesters for searches.

“The police arbitrarily detained Mr. Stewart when he attempted to cross the police line into the park without submitting to a search of his backpack,” Brown wrote. “Mr. Stewart was not engaged in acts of physical violence or threats of violence.”

On the issue of damages, the appellate court concluded Stewart had shown no evidence of losses to justify the damages he sought. However, a “modest” award for the violation of his rights was justified, the court said.

The chaotic G20 weekend in June 2010 saw a relative few protesters —among the many peaceful demonstrators — engaged in serious vandalism. In response, officers arrested more than 1,000 people — in many cases illegally. The actions spawned numerous complaints and lawsuits over the heavy-handed police actions.

In Stewart’s case, the Appeal Court said, officers acted in good faith and professionally. Stewart could have recovered his goggles had he given officers his name for a property receipt, Brown said.

The court set aside an earlier $20,000 costs award against him and instead ordered police to pay him $20,000 for the costs of his appeal. His trial costs are yet to be determined.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaLaw and justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

B.C. village’s local government sees four mayoral changes within three months

Resignations and appointments happened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic

Indigenous B.C. tour operator keeps culture alive through virtual journeys in COVID-19 era

Campbell River based Homalco Tours is also in the process of setting up live cameras for bear viewing in Orford

Planning a beach fire? Bring a bucket

“Summer is here and as people gear up for beach and campfires,… Continue reading

Campbell River RCMP outline their approach to mental health calls

Recent events have spurred discussion of police interactions with people suffering from mental health concerns

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

Most Read