TORONTO – Police authorities are turning to the Supreme Court of Canada in hopes of squelching two class-action lawsuits arising out of the G20 summit six years ago before any trial on their merits.
The application for leave to appeal has angered the two lead plaintiffs in the case, who argue they were among hundreds of people wrongfully arrested or detained six years ago.
The plaintiffs, Sherry Good and Tommy Taylor, are calling on the Toronto Police Services Board to explain its action.
“We are deeply saddened and dismayed by this decision,” Good and Taylor say in a letter to the board this week.
“When will the board stop its legal delay tactics and address the wrongs that occurred and implement the reforms that are needed?”
In its notice to the country’s highest court, the board essentially repeats grounds already rejected by two courts, including the Ontario Court of Appeal, namely that claims of wrongful arrest and detention should be treated individually rather than as a class proceeding.
“By their nature, (they) require examination of the grounds existing in respect of each individual subject to arrest,” the notice states.
In addition, the board questions whether the changes in how the class actions were formulated “creates unfairness, procedural prejudice and conflict in the jurisprudence.”
Board Chairman Andy Pringle did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a spokeswoman said it was unlikely he would because the matter was before the courts.
In April, Ontario’s Appeal Court gave the green light to the class actions, saying the remedies the plaintiffs want – a declaration that class members’ charter rights were violated and an award of damages – would be “stronger instruments of behaviour modification” than the non-binding recommendations that flowed from various investigations into how police behaved.
During the violence-marred weekend in June 2010, police arrested or detained more than 1,000 people in what was later described as one of the worst violations of civil liberties in Canadian history. Many were kept in appalling conditions at a makeshift detention centre. Almost all were released without charge within 24 hours.
“It is important to remember that the police cannot sweep up scores of people just in the hope that one of the persons captured is a person who they believe is engaged in criminal activity,” Ontario’s Appeal Court said in its ruling in April.
The courts had originally ruled against certifying a class action, but Divisional Court overturned the ruling on initial appeal and instead split the action in two, saying the mass arrests could be seen as “one of the hallmarks of a police state” and therefore needed a thorough airing as class actions.
Good was among scores of people police “kettled” in torrential rain at a downtown intersection, while Taylor was sent to the makeshift east-end detention centre.
Both want damages for false arrest or imprisonment, and violations of their constitutional rights. They maintain a senior officer gave orders for the indiscriminate roundup of anyone present at various downtown locations – including peaceful protesters, bystanders and journalists.
Police conducted “humiliating” strip searches, “needlessly beat people, and held detainees in overcrowded wire cages in a makeshift jail, treating them like animals,” the plaintiffs say in their letter to the board.
“We believe the board is at least partly responsible for what happened.”