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Posts from the ‘Human rights’ Category

Frank Elsner, Lisa Helps and Barb Desjardins

On August 24, 2015 at 9:30 am, Frank Elsner was scheduled to testify at the BC Human Rights Tribunal in the matter of Bratzer v. Victoria Police Department. I was the complainant.  I had alleged eight instances of discrimination by my employer, all based on the protected ground of political belief.

Frank Elsner’s testimony was not voluntary on his part. I had obtained an “Order to Attend” from the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Central to Elsner’s testimony would have been questions from me about the acceptable boundaries of conduct by a police officer, including social media use.

I also wanted to know why he never modified or withdrew a restrictive set of orders issued by the previous police chief. These orders significantly curtailed my ability to use social media including Twitter. They also limited other off-duty activities such as publicly speaking about the need to reform cannabis laws in Canada. Finally, I wanted to ask him what the police board had done, if anything, to investigate my complaints of discrimination at VicPD.

On August 17, 2015, the human rights hearing began.

On August 19, 2015, Mayor Lisa Helps and Mayor Barb Desjardins learned about the Twitter exchanges and concerns that Elsner may have had an inappropriate relationship with the wife of one of his subordinates. (The source for this date is Chief Elsner’s own petition that he filed with the BC Supreme Court.)

On August 21, the two mayors notified the Police Complaints Commissioner via their lawyer and they asked to proceed with an internal discipline investigation. It appears that their intent was to proceed with a confidential investigation conducted by a lawyer (presumably with client-solicitor privilege) rather than an external public trust investigation.

On August 23, a new testimony date of August 27 at the human rights hearing was confirmed for Frank Elsner by the lawyer for VicPD.

August 28, 2015 was the last day in which new evidence was heard at the human rights hearing. In the end I decided not to call Chief Elsner to testify. Not knowing what had happened behind closed doors, instead I made the difficult choice to place a higher priority on other witnesses.

On September 8, 2015, one day before closing arguments in the human rights hearing, the Police Complaints Commissioner agreed to a less formal, internal discipline investigation of Elsner’s conduct. This decision was based, in part, on discussion Chief Elsner had that same day with the husband under his command. We now know that Chief Elsner deliberately misled this officer, as noted by Retired Judge Carol Baird Ellan in her finding of discreditable conduct:

The husband left the meeting under a false impression as to the nature of the conduct that was the subject of the investigation, and then informed the co-chairs, based on that, that he did not want an investigation. The investigation proceeded internally, in part because of the position taken by the husband.

On September 9, 2015, closing arguments were heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

I can say with certainty that had there been no coverup, and had Elsner instead been suspended pending an external public trust investigation, it would have led to a more truthful and just hearing at the BCHRT. It would have changed the questions I asked of witnesses, some of whom were executive-level police officers at VicPD. I certainly would have required Chief Elsner to testify. And it would have strengthened and clarified my closing argument. One can imagine how difficult it would have been for the Department lawyer to justify why my off-duty use of Twitter needed to be restricted or prohibited, had the chief constable himself been suspended at that time regarding allegations about his own use of Twitter.

Ultimately, five of the eight allegations were upheld by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, resulting in the largest “injury to dignity” award for political belief discrimination in Canadian history.

Fast forward several years. I still do not know whether the police board ever assigned someone to investigate my concerns of discrimination when the complaint was first filed back in early 2013. (If an investigator was assigned, they certainly never contacted me for an interview or to ask clarifying questions.) And to this day, neither Mayor Lisa Helps, Mayor Barb Desjardins or any other member of the police board has ever spoken to me about the discrimination that I endured.

An open letter to Marci Ien about racial profiling

This is an open letter to CTV’s award-winning broadcaster and talkshow host Marci Ien. It was written in response to her misleading claim that she was racially profiled by police. I’m not the author. It was posted to Craigslist Toronto yesterday and signed by Richard Huggins. This document is the first I’ve seen that truly conveys how much hurt and damage has been caused by Ms. Ien’s allegations.  Here is an excerpt:

Dear Marci Ien,

As a police officer who is mixed with Caribbean and European ancestry I’m curious to know what your opinion is on a “person of colour” (as you put it), who is also a police officer. Reading your account of what I considered to be a routine and frankly quite boring traffic stop (though having a door open on a car I was approaching may cause my heart to skip a beat); I was baffled as to how you were able to build this up into an issue of racism.

I was born in Toronto, and though life has pulled me away, my family still lives in Toronto and it will always be home. You’ve mentioned the “Black Community”, and I’m curious to know who exactly that community consists of. Does it include people with mixed ancestries? Blacks who are police officers? Is your Black community restricted to the confines of the Greater Toronto Area, or does it stretch coast to coast? If it includes all of these, I would like to know what your thoughts are on the many police officers “of colour” working in our diverse police agencies across the country. I can assure you, you do not speak for us, nor do you have the right to imply that you represent us. Police officers aside, I have spoken with many other people of colour who share the belief that you do not speak for them. So please stop. openmind_heather_mallick

I’m concerned about the possible damage your story has had on the youth and new immigrants to our country (who may be fleeing violence from police in their own countries), if your opinionated story is read as fact. Your position as a well-known journalist seems to have allowed your opinion to be taken as fact by many people. Your recent article presents a story through only one lens, and that is one of racism. As you are a journalist in this country I would argue you have a greater responsibility to present facts from multiple lenses. But perhaps journalism has changed in this country and it’s no longer required to thoroughly investigate a situation. Don’t get me wrong you are able to express your opinion, but as a journalist your delivery can play a crucial role on how it is received (as fact or opinion).

Some people think that because someone is the loudest, they must be correct. This is simply not true and can also lead to social injustices when people are judged too early without facts being uncovered. There are several “loud” people who are simply uneducated. Yet people seem to hear them more often because of how loud they shout their opinion. If you hear an uncontested opinion long enough it begins to sound like fact.

If your only tool is a hammer, it’s likely that you will view all your problems as nails. This is similar to looking at a situation through a “racism lens”. If you’re looking at a situation from the belief that it is stemmed by racism, then the result will be that you connect all your experiences in that situation to racism.

If you choose to educate yourself on policing in this country you’d find that the racism problem, which is so loudly spoken of, is not what you think. I’m hoping that this letter gives you, or anyone else who feels like reading it, a better understanding of your interaction.

Based on your article, it is clear to me that you are not educated on the roles and actions of police officers. This does not mean you yourself are not educated, but that your experience in situations like these is minimal or has been misunderstood because of the lens you are viewing it through. I don’t blame you for your lack of education in situations like these. I think many people have similar fears and misunderstandings around police operations. I know I did before I was a police officer. It came from a lack of education. Perhaps nobody is to blame for this or perhaps everyone is to blame. One could argue that our society takes minimal efforts to educate people on interacting with police. Others could argue that there is nothing stopping individuals from educating themselves on specific topics. I think it’s a mixture of both.

When I was briefly a School Liaison Officer, I developed a short program to deliver to high school students. I explained the various roles police had in a Canadian society and ways to interact with police so that the interaction was smooth for both parties. It was no surprise to me that a lot of the misconceptions students had around police came from movies, television shows and American news agencies. I can not stress enough that most movies and television shows depict an inaccurate account of policing.

We also do not have the same culture as the United States, but students would often quote American terminology or American stories for recent examples of police conflict. Again, it’s hard to fault the students for these beliefs. When lacking experience, many people seem to resort to what they’ve seen on television, when forming their beliefs. If we’re flooding our brains with Hollywood movies or the problems of another culture, it’s easy to get confused.

I would like to give some insight as to what may be going through a police officer’s head. Remember I cannot speak for all police officers. Each police officer is different with their own experiences, styles, strengths and weaknesses, but this may help with a broader view.

The most dangerous situation for a police officer to be in is while conducting a traffic stop. Most police calls involve someone giving the officers information on what they’re being called to, and who’s involved. This is often not the case for a traffic stop. Most of the time the license plates will match the vehicle and the driver will have a valid driver’s license and are able to provide their correct information (Routine Stop). However there are times when none of these add up and the officer is in danger. The officer does not know the stop is routine for certain until the interaction is finished.

Let’s look at your interaction…

Please follow this link to view the remainder of Richard Huggins’ letter. It is worth reading every word. One can only hope that Shree Paradkar, Heather Mallick, Scott Laurie and others who have condoned Ms. Ien’s attention-seeking behaviour will take the time to do so.

New rules at the BC Human Rights Tribunal

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) has introduced new rules aimed at improving efficiency and the flow of complaints for both complainants and respondents. Here is a summary of the new rules, and  here are the full official rules.

Seeking pro bono legal assistance

For several years now, I have been experiencing significant problems at work regarding my off-duty volunteer advocacy with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). I tried to resolve these problems in a number of ways but I was not successful in these efforts. Unfortunately, the situation became so bad that I felt I had no choice but to submit a complaint to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The complaint alleges discrimination in the area of employment on the ground of political belief, contrary to Section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code.

Yesterday, the BCHRT released its first decision about the case. It is a preliminary decision, focused on the issue of timeliness. The decision itself can be read here. The Vancouver Sun also has a writeup.  Because this matter is before the Tribunal, I will refrain from commenting publicly on the actual details of my complaint. The BCHRT is a quasi-judicial body and it is really important for me to respect the legal process underway.

I am seeking pro bono legal assistance. If you have experience in BC human rights law, and you feel the principles raised in this case are important, please contact me. I am not necessarily looking for someone to take over the whole case as that would be a huge commitment. That said, there are a couple of specific areas where I could use some help as the case moves forward.

A big “thank you” to the friends, family and colleagues who are supporting me during a very difficult time in my life. I am also grateful for past and current support from LEAP, Stop the Violence BC and the BC Civil Liberties Association.