In a decision handed down on November 10 the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of Toronto Police Services Board v. Good, dismissed the appeal by the Toronto Police Services Board from a lower court decision. The Police board was seeking to overturn an Ontario Court of Appeal decision to allow a group of protestors infamously kettled during the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto to receive the necessary certification to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the police department. The decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss this appeal not only clears the path for a class action suit to be brought over this incident, it also sets an important precedent in Canada in favour of future class actions in response to Police violence.
The class action is brought by lead plaintiff Sherry Good, on behalf of a group of protestors all detained by the police in 2010, many of whom were strip searched and some even beaten. In a recent CBC story, Good said “we’ve been fighting for over six years now and we’re committed to another six if it’s necessary,” Good, 58, said in an interview. “We want justice no matter how long it takes.”
The party that Ms. Good represents has been given leave to bring a lawsuit as a class action on two issues:
- Did the mass detention that occurred at Spadina Ave and Queen St. West, as well as other similar detentions, constitute false imprisonment under the common law or arbitrary detention and imprisonment contrary to s. 9 of the Charter?
- Did the treatment received by the detainee protestors held at the police’s detention centre amount to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment under s. 12 of the Charter? Was the right to retain and instruct counsel under s. 10(b) of the Charter violated? Were the protestors detained for an excessive and unnecessarily long time contrary to s. 9 of the Charter?
This means that the issue in any class action lawsuits brought by this specific group of plaintiffs must be limited to the kettling incident and the remanding to the police’s detention camp. Individuals are still free to bring their own individual lawsuits against the police board for the conduct of police during the G20, but class actions are a much more effective at levelling the playing field between individuals and more powerful organizations. The fact that it has taken 6 years for this claim to get certified is a testament to the difficulties groups of individuals face in Canada in obtaining the right to pursue an action against an organization as a class of persons rather than as separate individuals.
To clarify, the Supreme Court’s decision does not make any finding against the Toronto Police Services Board, it merely confirms that the protestors have the necessary certificate from court that grants them leave to pursue a class action lawsuit against the police. Whether their ultimate lawsuit is successful remains to be seen and will likely take many more years before a final decision is reached.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.