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