BCCLA Board member Craig Jones has filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court against the RCMP as well as the Prime Minister’s office for violating his constitutional right to peaceful protest during the APEC forum and leaders’ summit held in Vancouver November 18-26, 1997.
On November 25, Jones was arrested, assaulted and jailed for over 14 hours for simply displaying signs on the lawn of his campus residence. “It is really heard to imagine how this could have happened in Canada, which prides itself on fostering civil rights and freedom of expression. Those who were not there may find it difficult to believe that what I witnessed actually happened, but it did,” says Jones.
The lawsuit describes the events of November 24 and 25, when RCMP officers first ripped signs that Jones had placed on a fence along the motorcade route. The signs read FREE SPEECH, DEMOCRACY, and HUMAN RIGHTS. When Jones, a UBC law student and official observer of the protests on behalf of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, objected that removal of the signs violated his constitutional rights, he was told by a high-ranking RCMP officer: “Don’t be stupid; go to bed.”
On the next day Jones positioned himself with the same three signs along the motorcade route in an area which the RCMP had designated for residents of Green College, where Jones lives. Two of the signs were taped to rolling coat racks; the third consisted only of pieces of letter-sized paper arranged on the sidewalk. He was approached by officer who told him to remove the signs. When he politely declined, Jones was thrown to the ground by two officers, handcuffed and jailed for fourteen hours before being released without charge. The RCMP confiscated Jones’ three signs together with several more from other students present.
The lawsuit seeks damages, including punitive and aggravated damages for an array of unconstitutional behaviour, including infringement of Jones’ freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly, right to liberty, as well as for assault, wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Jones believes the lawsuit is necessary to ensure this type of blatantly unconstitutional conduct never happens again in Canada. He intends to contribute any damage award to worthwhile causes.
Subsequent to Jones’ arrest, the RCMP released a memo suggesting that his signs were posing a threat to the APEC motorcade, and that Jones has not been honest in his accounts of the events surrounding his arrest. “Not only is this ridiculous,” says Jones, “but now the RCMP are adding insult to injury by trying to paint me as unsavoury and dishonest.”
Jones is a third year law student at UBC, a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces primary reserve, an executive member of the Board of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and a volunteer with Amnesty International. His lawsuit is being filed by Joseph Arvay of the Victoria law firm of Arvay, Finlay.