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Surrey Roadblocks Violate Charter

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling on Surrey RCMP to end questionable roadblocks in Surrey. The RCMP has set up the roadblocks at the behest of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. The roadblocks are part of a strategy to respond to crime in the Whalley area, according to the mayor. This practice is, in the opinion of the British Colombia Civil Liberties Association, a violation of the Charter rights against unlawful detention.

“Stopping people for no reason and interrogating them is an affront to the Charter,” stated BCCLA Policy Director Kirk Tousaw. “It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you are in – you have a right to be free from arbitrary detentions and unreasonable searches. People who happen to travel through Whalley should not come under increased police scrutiny simply because there are some crime problems there. Mayor McCallum needs to remember that there are legitimate businesses in Whalley.”

The BCCLA identified at least two Canada Supreme Court cases bearing on this issue. The leading case, R. v. Hufsky, involved a challenge to roadside sobriety checkpoints. “The Supreme Court found that the roadblocks violated Section 9 of the Charter – which proscribes arbitrary detentions – but also decided that the sobriety checkpoints were saved by Section 1 because of their contribution to highway safety. However, in a later case, the Court ruled that police were only entitled to ask people about traffic offenses. They are not allowed to stop people in order to go on fishing expeditions,” explained Tousaw, “Police can not simply stop your car and question you about your reasons for being in an area. Frankly, I’m surprised and disappointed that the RCMP is going along with this plan.”

The BCCLA is calling on the Mayor and the RCMP to abandon their unconstitutional scheme. “We are sending the RCMP a letter outlining our concerns and bringing their attention to the Charter issues and Supreme Court rulings,” Tousaw said, “We are asking them to stop this practice now, before any more citizens have their rights violated.”

The BCCLA has been fighting for the freedoms and civil liberties of British Colombians, and all Canadians, for over 40 years. For more information about the BCCLA, or to join our fight for freedom, please visit www.bccla.org or send us a letter requesting membership information.