(File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

(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

Just Posted

My FED Farm, created by Food Eco District (FED), is aiming to help people affected by the COVID-19 grow food in their own back yard. The program is in collaboration with Sooke Region Food CHI, Transition Sooke and the Sooke Garden Club. (File - Black Press Media)
Sooke backyard food program returns

The Sooke Backyard Food Program is returning for a second year. Sooke… Continue reading

Colwood resident Maria Curcic shows off a one-of-a-kind hat that she created. Curcic is one of several artists that took part in the annual Stinking Fish Studio Tour. (Contributed - Maria Curcic)
Curtain closes on Stinking Fish Studio Tour

The Stinking Fish Studio Tour will live on through the lasting legacy… Continue reading

The HarbourCats’ 2021 season is cancelled. (Photo courtesy of the Victoria HarbourCats)
No at-bats for Victoria HarbourCats, Nanaimo NightOwls this season due to COVID-19

No Canadian teams will play in the 2021 West Coast League season

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. (Black Press Media file photo)
TRAFFIC: Protest occupying one lane of Douglas Street southbound

Extinction Rebellion activists are marching from Vancouver to the B.C. legislative building

One person has been arrested following an assault on a man with Down syndrome along Dallas Road April 17. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man with Down syndrome attacked along Dallas Road

Suspected assailant arrested, sent to hospital for mental health assessment

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
Out-of-region B.C. vacation bookings, RV ferry reservations to be refused

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to target people ages 40+ in ‘high risk communities’ with AstraZeneca vaccine

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future finally surfaces at Royal B.C. Museum

Museum dives into the world of the killer whale as delayed feature exhibition now open

Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)
Styrofoam done as a takeout option on Island’s Pacific Rim

Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

Most Read