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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Student suing Montreal police to establish legal precedent

MONTREAL - A Quebec student said she sued the Montreal police in order to set a legal precedent regarding the way the state treats political activists.
Caitlin Nelson, a self-professed anarchist who was an active participant in the 2012 Quebec student strike movement, sued the City of Montreal and its police force for $24,000 for sexual, verbal and physical harassment.
Court documents filed by Nelson state that the police deliberately targeted her because of her political beliefs.
"My goal is to make it illegal to arrest or detain anyone on the basis of their political beliefs or how they look," she told QMI Agency Saturday afternoon.
To do this she is working with Julius Grey, one of Canada's most prominent human rights and constitutional lawyers, who filed the motion in Quebec Court on Thursday.
Grey did not want to speak publicly about the motion.
"Grey would not have taken my case if it didn't have the potential to set a legal precedent," Nelson said.
Sebastien Grammond, dean of the University of Ottawa's Civil Law Section, said Saturday that Nelson's case "could be something new.
"We haven't seen this often in jurisprudence -- if ever -- at least not in this way," he said, adding that if the facts in Nelson's motion are true, "then this is not the type of conduct we should expect from the police."
Nelson said she's received close to $7,000 in tickets.
Court documents allege that between May 2012 and June 2013, Montreal police ticketed Nelson for acts such as "shouting in public, not using the sidewalk during a protest, swearing in a park, and because the ash of the cigarette she was smoking fell to the ground."
Nelson also alleged she was given four jaywalking tickets at once on Aug. 29, 2012, while the friend she was with received only one.
Court documents state that aside from her anarchist beliefs, police targeted her because she is an administrator of a Facebook group that "advises citizens on how to make complaints against police officers."
Carissima Mathen, also a law professor at University of Ottawa, said Nelson's case "is a tough sell."
Mathen said that there are existing grounds in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms such as the freedoms of conscience and expression that Nelson could have used to defend herself in court against the police.
Nonetheless, Mathen said the case will "almost certainly" be decided by a higher court.
"Neither party would let a trial judge be the last word," she said.
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