The BC Civil Liberties Association is calling on the Victoria Police Board to stop Victoria police officers from conducting illegal searches this Canada Day. The Victoria Police Department has already received notice of the illegality of the proposed searches in a joint report authored by the two government police oversight bodies that operate in British Columbia.
FOI documents obtained by the BCCLA suggest that Victoria police officers will demand transit passengers be searched before they are allowed to take transit on Canada Day. Officers are advised by VicPD policy to use broad and subjective factors including “the past experience of the individual officer. . . with similar subjects in similar situations” to determine whether people should be searched. Any passenger that refuses to be searched will be denied access to transit and ejected from transit property.
“We’re looking to the Police Board to maintain confidence in the Victoria Police Department as one that respects the rule of law and the provincial oversight body in B.C. In our opinion, having BC Transit put a no-alcohol rule in place for bus riders and having the police engage in random searches in conjunction with that violates at least the spirit and likely the letter of the ruling already made. It is inappropriate for law enforcement authorities to seek to do an endrun on legal rulings,” said Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “Canada Day is a time for celebrating the rule of law, not engaging in efforts to circumvent it.”
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, in partnership with B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner examined transit laws in B.C. specifically on the point of whether or not police could use those rules to conduct alcohol searches around major events. The report is unambiguous: “The British Columbia Transit Act and Transit Conduct and Safety Regulation do not authorize the searches of passengers’ bags.”
“If the Police Board does not intervene, the Victoria Police Department appears likely to engage in practices that violate people’s rights,” said Holmes. “We expect more from our public agencies both on Canada Day and throughout the year.” Despite the clear findings of the oversight bodies responsible for policing in Canada and British Columbia on this issue, the Victoria Police claim to be supported by a legal opinion they have received. The Police Department has not released that decision, or the facts on which it is based.
Robert Holmes, President, 604-838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, 778-865-7997