January 18th, 2010
The case involving the August 2002 arrest of well known Vancouver human rights lawyer Cameron Ward was argued in the Supreme Court of Canada on January 18th. Mr. Ward was arrested, handcuffed, strip searched, held for close to 4 hours and released without charge in what the police later claimed was a case of mistaken identify. Police also claimed that Ward fit their description of someone they thought might try to throw a pie at the Prime Minister, although the description did not fit Mr. Ward in significant ways. Mr. Ward was a high-profile lawyer who had acted against the police in the well-publicized APEC Inquiry, the “Riot at the Hyatt” and in various civil actions involving deaths in police custody. In a suit against the City of Vancouver (who are vicariously liable for the VPD) and the Province of BC, the B.C. Supreme Court awarded Mr. Ward a total of $10,100 damages: $5,000 against the Province for the illegal strip search, $5,000 against the City for wrongful detention, and $100 against the City for seizing and towing his car. After the B.C. Court of Appeal confirmed the damage award, the City of Vancouver (on behalf of the VPD) and the Province of BC appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. There were nine interveners: five supporting the respondent Ward (the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Criminal Lawyer Association of Ontario, the Association for the Wrongly Convicted and Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto); and four supporting the City and Province (the Attorneys General of Canada, Ontario and Quebec and the Association of Police Chiefs). The decision is under reserve.