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In a sudden development, the coroner’s inquest into the death of Jeff Berg has been adjourned to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 29, 2004, when lawyers will convene to make submissions respecting a ‘problem’ that has arisen. Berg family lawyer Cameron Ward indicated at the inquest today that the problem related to a letter the jury delivered to the Sheriff, and asked that a copy of the letter be marked as an exhibit. Coroner Jeannine Robinson advised those in attendance that the letter will be marked as an exhibit when the inquest reconvenes on Tuesday to consider counsel’s submissions on the matter.

The coroner’s inquest is being held in Coroner’s Court, MetroTower II, 20th floor (2035-4720 Kingsway, Burnaby, British Columbia)


Jeffrey Michael Berg, 37, died on October 24, 2000 of injuries inflicted by VPD Cst. David Bruce-Thomas during the course of an arrest on Sunday, October 22, 2000.

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In a judgment released June 24, 2004, Provincial Court Judge D. I. Smyth has dismissed and stayed all charges against our client Murray Bush arising from an incident that occurred on October 3, 2002. Mr. Bush was photographing a public demonstration against Premier Gordon Campbell’s visit to the Britannia Community Centre when he was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Mr. Bush was taken by a paddy wagon to a Canadian Tire store parking lot where, in a situation eerily similar to the Stanley Park police beatings a few months later, a group of up to 40 uniformed VPD police officers opened the doors and threatened Mr. Bush with violence. He was then driven to the Vancouver Jail and subjected to a humiliating strip-search. Mr. Bush made eight or more requests to call a lawyer, all of which were ignored. Despite the fact that he had no criminal record, that he had cooperated fully with the police, and that court officials were available to release him on conditions, Mr. Bush was held in the Vancouver Jail for over 26 hours.

After hearing the evidence in the 20 day trial, Judge Smyth concluded that the police conduct so seriously violated Mr. Bush’s constitutional rights that two of the charges must be stayed. A third was dismissed as unproven.

The Judge had harsh words for the custodians of the jail. He concluded his reasons with the observation that “the evidence suggests an unfortunate failure at the Vancouver Jail, or simply reluctance, to bring the practice of strip-searching …and the practice concerning the release of prisoners into conformity with [the law]”.

It would seem that those entrusted with a duty to uphold the law have been routinely violating it.

Read Judge Smyth’s decision.

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Lawyers representing a BC Liberal government social housing agency were in the Court of Appeal in Vancouver on Monday, June 7, 2004 to appeal a BC Supreme Court decision ordering them to pay $100 each in court costs to forty homeless people who occupied the abandoned Woodward’s building in September 2002.

In a factum filed with the Court, the lawyers for the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation argued that the award “was unjust because it penalizes an innocent party who only sought to protect its property rights.” Lawyers for the defendants countered by pointing out that the homeless were never convicted of anything and that “all citizens, even homeless ones, enjoy the presumption of innocence.” They sought to uphold the award, made because the provincial government dropped civil proceedings at the last moment, thereby inconveniencing the defendants and their lawyers.

“I wonder how much BC taxpayers have paid government lawyers to pursue this case in the province’s highest court for the last year and a half”, mused defence lawyer Cameron Ward. “I’ll bet it’s substantially more than $4,000.” After hearing oral submissions, the three Court of Appeal justices reserved decision. Arguments were later made in two separate appeals brought against the injunctions that resulted in the eviction of homeless squatters from the Woodwards building and adjacent sidewalks. Judgment was reserved in those cases also.

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On Friday, May 28, 2004, the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed the provincial government’s application for an injunction to restrain people from interfering with the construction of a proposed parking lot complex at Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.

Madam Justice Quijano found that the government’s application, brought against 50 “John Does” and 50 “Jane Does”, deprived the parking lot opponents of due process. She determined that it was neither just nor equitable to grant the government the Order it was seeking.

The BC Liberal government intended to use the injunction as a weapon to quell the public opposition to the project and to enable the RCMP to arrest people for alleged contempt of court. There is no word yet from the Hon. Bill Barisoff as to whether the government will attempt to push ahead with the construction of the controversial parking lot.

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The lengthy criminal trial of five people charged after a disturbance at Britannia Community Centre in October of 2002 has finally ended. Rev. George Feenstra and several others were charged with assaulting police officers, obstructing police officers, causing a disturbance and being members of an unlawful assembly after a planned visit to the centre by Premier Gordon Campbell was called off.

According to the evidence at trial, Rev. Feenstra was dressed up as a clown when he was grabbed by the police, handcuffed, and thrust against a wall. He was strip-searched and jailed for about 30 hours. The Crown called dozens of police officers from the Vancouver Police Department as witnesses. After nineteen days of trial, Rev. Feenstra was acquitted of all charges. Judge Smyth is expected to render a verdict in the cases of the remaining four accused on June 24, 2004.

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