Franco-Albertan awarded $22,250 in damages after 2006 police assaults
Mario Dube was victim of ‘malicious’ misconduct for speaking French
An Alberta man who was assaulted by police after speaking French and taking photos of the officers has been awarded $22,250 in damages by a Court of Queen's Bench judge.
In a lengthy written decision, Justice Jane Fagnan described one officer's misconduct as "high-handed, malicious, arbitrary and highly reprehensible."
Mario Dube encountered police just north of Beaumont on a Saturday evening in June 2006 at an impaired driving checkstop being operated by Edmonton Police Service and RCMP.
Dube was driving his wife's truck. The judge found he was not driving erratically or speeding, and none of the officers smelled alcohol.
According to the details of the case recorded in the decision, Dube was hard of hearing and spoke very loudly in French. He began taking photos and recording audio when Const. Troy Forester approached the driver's window.
Forester said he repeatedly asked for Dube's licence and registration, but had no way of knowing if the driver understood what he was saying.
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Without giving any warning, Forester shattered the driver's window with his baton, sending glass shards flying into the 52-year-old's face.
Dube began bleeding profusely then drove away fearing for his safety, according to the document.
Police pursued the vehicle at speeds that were slightly over the posted 80 km/h limit. Two minutes later, Dube pulled over because blood was pouring down his face.
Forester got out of the police vehicle and immediately pepper-sprayed Dube in the face, then reached in and grabbed Dube by the neck as he tried to pull him out through the broken window. Dube was still wearing his seatbelt.
RCMP Const. Ryan Dlin then broke the passenger side window and unfastened the seatbelt.
Dube testified that he was thrown to the ground and handcuffed while four officers held his arms and legs. He was punched numerous times. He said that during the attack, one of the officers told him to "Speak English".
The judge found that Dlin hit Dube.
His concerns about the handcuffs being too tight were ignored. Dube was handcuffed for two hours.
The judge referred to photos of Dube taken at the time that show shattered glass embedded in his face, red eyes from the pepper spray, a torn shirt, and a cut and bump to his head. There was also a bloody footprint on the back of his jean jacket.
It had only been three minutes since Dube was first pulled over by police. He was charged with obstruction. The judge's written decision indicates Dube was later acquitted on that charge.
'Unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable force'
An ambulance was called and arrived about 30 minutes later. Forester rode with Dube to the Grey Nuns hospital.
In the decision, Fagnan writes that Forester continued to make "offensive comments and tried to persuade him to speak English" until Dube was released on a promise to appear.
The entire event caused Dube some emotional trauma, she said.
"He was subjected to unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable force," Fagnan wrote. "Courts are not oblivious to the fact that police officers have very challenging jobs. However, use of excessive force chips away at their moral authority, ultimately rendering the challenges of policing more difficult."
Fagnan awarded Dube $13,000 in general damages for the injuries caused by Forester and another $750 for the pain and discomfort he suffered after Dlin hit him.
The judge also awarded Dube $500 for the towing charges and damage done to the truck windows.
The judge called Forester's misconduct "a marked degree from ordinary standards of decent behaviour," which resulted in $5,000 in punitive damages that must be paid by Forester.
Forester is still employed by EPS.
Fagnan determined Dlin "punished" Dube for speaking French. She referred to that as misconduct and ordered Dlin to pay Dube $3,000 in punitive damages.
Dlin retired from the RCMP two months ago as a sergeant.
Dube's defence lawyer, Erika Norheim, did not respond to a request for comment about the case.