Rare G20 protester civil suit went to trial because 'settling wasn't possible'

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is intervening in Luke Stewart's G20 summit civil suit. The group says the case is going to trial because of its unique nature of being a Charter of Rights and Freedoms lawsuit.

‘This isn’t Russia,’ says Canadian Civil Liberties Association about Luke Stewart's case

Luke Stewart argues with Toronto police officers in Allan Gardens during the G20 summit in Toronto in June 2010. Police searched his backpack and seized his swimming goggles. 'You have illegally detained my goggles,' he yells at officers after the search. (YouTube)

Eight years after the G20 summit in Toronto, a civil suit launched against the Toronto Police Services Board made it to trial.

That is something that isn't very common, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

"Usually the police want to settle," CCLA executive director Michael Bryant said.

He told Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition on CBC Radio, the reason this case went to trial is because of its "unique" nature and because "settling wasn't possible."

Luke Stewart, the plaintiff, argues the police unlawfully searched his bag, detained him and seized his swimming goggles when he went to Allan Gardens for the protest. Stewart is from Kitchener and in 2010, he was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is now a professor in France.

This isn't Russia. This isn't a country where the police stop people based on broad state powers that are not grounded in the constitution.- Michael Bryant, executive director of Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The police board said the search of his bag was necessary and the officers were only doing their jobs to preserve peace and defend public property.

Bryant wasn't able to provide details as to why settling didn't happen in this case. But he said this case is different because Stewart was seeking Charter of Rights and Freedoms damages, not common law statutory damages.

Setting limits on police

CCLA are part of the case as interveners, arguing "on behalf of everybody" to set limits on police activity.

Bryant said police were stopping everyone who "seemed to look like a protester" that day and it's "akin to racial profiling" because they were stopping people based on appearances rather than actions and evidence.

"This isn't Russia. This isn't a country where the police stop people based on broad state powers that are not grounded in the constitution."

Stewart is seeking $100,000 in damages for being detained for 12 minutes and having his swimming goggles seized. Bryant said a high dollar value is put on the case to "deter this kind of behaviour" from the police in the future.

"If we were in the United States, this would be $10 million," he said. "You hit them in the pocket book, and then that's how you get, in this case, the police to change their activities."

The hearing began Monday and is scheduled to last eight days.

With files from The Canadian Press and Trevor Dunn


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