Mistaken pie-throwing case lands in top court
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, June 18, 2009 2:13PM EDT
OTTAWA - All he wanted was an apology.
Instead, activist Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward has had a seven-year legal fight that is now going to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The high court has agreed to hear an appeal by the City of Vancouver and the B.C. government over a $10,000 damage award given to Ward.
He was arrested by police in August 2002, when Vancouver Police officers believed he was going to throw a pie at then prime minister Jean Chretien.
Police placed Ward in handcuffs and escorted him to a paddy wagon, all the while his arrest was being filmed by a cameraman from a local TV station. The arrest was later broadcast on the evening news.
Ward is well-known within the court system and has built a respected career representing people who have accused police of misconduct, often for free.
He spent several hours in jail and, despite his objections, was strip searched.
"I was completely pie free," he quipped in an interview Thursday. "I had not attended anywhere near a bakery for weeks."
On a far more serious side, Ward said he felt he had to take action to clear his name and restore his reputation.
"It could have all been dealt with within days by a simple apology for the mistake that was made."
Ward said he is disappointed that so much taxpayers money has been used to fight the case that could have ended without a legal fight.
"It's just very surprising to me that these defendants, the province and the city, would go to such great lengths to fight this issue, given the amount of money involved."
On Aug. 1, 2002, Ward was at the opening ceremony of the Millennium Gate by Chretien in Vancouver's China Town.
He watched part of the speech, and then walked away. About the same time, police received a tip that a white male was overheard planning to throw a pie at the prime minister.
A police officer testified at trial that Ward was running down the street and that "he kinda matches the description."
In January 2007, A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Ward's Charter rights were infringed for his wrongful imprisonment, his strip search and the unreasonable search of his vehicle.
The court ordered the province pay him $5,000 for the strip search and the City of Vancouver pay $5,100 for wrongful imprisonment and the unreasonable seizure of his vehicle.
The B.C. Court of Appeal refused to overturn the award because the strip search of Ward "amounted to a significant Charter breach."
"I would not interfere with the trial judge's exercise of discretion to award damages for the unreasonable search," ruled B.C. Appeal Court Justice Richard Low.
As is usual in such cases, the Supreme Court of Canada gave no reasons about why it agreed to hear the appeal.
Ward said it was a fight he had to take to court.
"I wasn't charged with anything. But I felt my rights had been violated and I wanted some sort of remedy," he said. "And the only remedy that means anything is some sort of damages."