The Guardian November 27, 2002


Abuse by Canadian police

Members of the Vancouver Police Department have been linked to torture, 
beatings, unlawful detention, illegal entry into homes and illegal strip 
searches, a new study reveals.

The report, entitled To Serve and Protect, was prepared by Pivot 
Legal Society. It contains the results of a nine-month research project 
that collected affidavits from 50 individuals, each statement carefully 
documented and sworn before a lawyer. Many of the victims are residents of 
the Downtown Eastside, Canada's poorest postal code and a neighbourhood 
mired in a terrible public health emergency.

"We've heard horrific accounts of people being beaten while handcuffed", 
said John Richardson, executive director of Pivot. "These stories compelled 
us to investigate how police were acting in the Downtown Eastside. We have 
discovered that reports of beatings were only a small part of a bigger 
problem of police abuse."

Michael Jackson QC, a law professor at the University of British Columbia 
and a co-author of the report, said "The way state authorities treat the 
most disadvantaged members of society, whether in the back alleys of the 
Downtown East side of Vancouver or in the nation's prisons, is a fair 
measure of how far we have come in respecting the basic human and legal 
rights the Universal Declaration of Human Rights accords us all.

"By that measure, the Pivot report casts a deep and disturbing shadow over 
Vancouver's reputation on the international map of justice."

Twelve of the 50 statements report incidents in which members of the VPD 
used violence that meets the United Nations definition of torture. Six 
individuals report broken bones or teeth, and eight others describe 
incidents in which beatings took place after they had surrendered or were 
placed in handcuffs.

Thirty-six of the statements report incidents of unreasonable force 
exceeding police authority under the Criminal Code. In only eight of those 
36 cases were charges ever laid against the victim.

Seven statements report incidents of individuals being told to "get out of 
town", having "no-go zones" imposed on them or being arbitrarily 
transported to a different part of town.

Such limits on personal mobility breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 
and can only lawfully be imposed by a court after a full and fair hearing. 
No hearings were ever held for these individuals, because the police played 
judge and jury right on the street.

Seven statements report incidents of illegal strip searches, exceeding 
narrow limits put on strip searches by the Supreme Court of Canada. In one 
incident the individual was left naked in public while the officers 
laughed.

In seven cases, citizens who stopped to witness incidents were ordered to 
leave. Several were threatened with illegal confinement or assault if they 
did not obey, demonstrating a clear intention by VPD members to hide their 
acts from public scrutiny.

In the vast majority of reported incidents, a criminal charge was never 
laid against any of the police victims. The police actions took place 
entirely outside the formal criminal justice system and beyond the scrutiny 
of the courts.

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People's Voice, Canada's leading communist paper.

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