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At the public hearing into the the death of Jeff Berg at the hands of Vancouver police Department Cst. David Bruce-Thomas in October of 2000, Commission Counsel Dana Urban, Q.C. characterized the VPD’s internal investigation as “incompetent at best”. He also accused the internal investigators of ignoring a key independent civilian eyewitness and dissuading others from testifying at the hearing.

Urban said that the accounts of three civilian eyewitnesses indicated that Jeff Berg had surrendered to the police and was standing quietly when Bruce-Thomas hit him in the head or neck with his handgun and knocked him to the ground. He was then kicked in the head three times. According to Urban, expert evidence suggests that Berg was clinically dead, and therefore not resisting, when the kicks landed on his head. The pathologist’s report of the autopsy states that Berg died of a blow to the neck and had bruises and lacerations to his head and a severely bruised testicle.

Urban made his remarks at a case management conference where Berg family lawyer Cameron Ward was seeking standing to cross-examine witnesses and obtain disclosure of police reports related to the incident. Urban supported the application, to the dismay of police lawyer Bill Smart, Q.C.

After reviewing the “incompetent” internal investigation report, Crown Counsel decided not to lay any charges against Cst. Bruce-Thomas. Remarkably, although a coroner’s inquest is mandatory in this case of an in-custody police homicide, one has not been scheduled yet.

Meanwhile, Jeff Berg’s sister Julie and the rest of her family still wait for answers.

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Jeff Berg hearing resumes

March 13, 2004 in News

The public hearing into Julie Berg’s complaint that police used excessive force in dealing with her brother resumes on Monday, March 15, 2004 with a further “case management conference”. We will be applying for standing to participate in the hearing and for disclosure of the contents of police files.

Ms. Berg has tried vainly to obtain answers from the authorities ever since her brother Jeff was killed in October, 2000 after he was assaulted by a police officer. She filed her formal complaint in November, 2000. The police officer involved, VPD Cst. David Bruce-Thomas, was never charged, there has been no Coroner’s Inquest yet (though one is mandatory) and the Police Complaint Commission public hearing has been adjourned to June, 2004, after some police witnesses refused to be interviewed by Commission counsel.

The case management conference will commence at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, March 15, 2004 in courtroom 108, 800 Hornby Street, Vancouver.

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“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

Joni Mitchell

The provincial government’s application for an injunction has been adjourned to Friday, March 12, 2004. Supreme Court Justice Quijano put the matter over after hearing from lawyers for the Attorney General and the “Jane Does” who have been named as Defendants in the government’s civil lawsuit. The government has sued one hundred unidentified people for damages, claiming that demonstrators opposed to the construction of a large new parking lot at Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island have trespassed on public Crown land. Lawyers will be back in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo on Friday morning at 10:00 a.m.

For more, please go to www.cathedralgrove.com

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“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” – Joni Mitchell

A number of citizens have been gathered at Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, demonstrating against the provincial government’s decision to create a 2 hectare parking lot. On February 24, 2004, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia and the Attorney General of the Province of British Columbia commenced an action in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against “John Doe 1 through John Doe 50” and “Jane Doe 1 through Jane Doe 50”.

In this curious proceeding, the government’s lawyers have alleged that the Does have trespassed on Crown lands and have intentionally interfered with the Crown’s use and enjoyment of these public lands. The government seeks damages, interest and court costs from the Does.

We have responded on behalf of Maureen Sager by filing a Statement of Defence alleging that the proceeding is a SLAPP suit and an abuse of the court’s process. We have also served notice to conduct examinations of Attorney General Plant and Minister Barisoff on Friday, March 5, 2004 in Nanaimo. The government’s lawyers have responded by saying that these Ministers of the Crown will not attend.

The issues arising in this case may be addressed in Nanaimo on March 8, 2004, when the government seeks to have an application for an injunction heard. If granted, the injunction would restrain all the Does, and everyone else having notice from being in something called a “working area”. According to the usual practice in British Columbia in these cases, anyone who refused to obey such an order would be arrested an become subjected to contempt of court proceedings. The courts tend to deal with such matters harshly. For example, Betty Krawczyk recently completed a jail sentence of the equivalent of 14 months imposed for contempt of court after she refused to step off a public logging road.

The saga continues at 10:00 a.m. in Nanaimo Supreme Court on Monday, March 8, 2004. For more information, go to: www.cathedralgrove.com

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Vancouver Radio station CKNW has reported that a Coroner’s Inquest will soon be held into the death of Jeff Berg, who died October 24, 2000 after being arrested by Vancouver police Constable David Bruce-Thomas. This news comes after Berg family counsel Cameron Ward wrote to Attorney General Geoff Plant on February 6, 2004, demanding that he order that an Inquest be held.

The CKNW story:

VANCOUVER (CKNW/AM980) — More than three years ago Jeff Berg died during his arrest by Vancouver Police in an eastside alley. Today, Vancouver coroner Stephen Fonseca announced an inquest will be held. Fonseca says no date for the inquest has yet been set because he is still trying to bring all the witnesses and lawyers together. But he’s hoping to have it done before the Police Complaints public hearing in June.

Chief Coroner Terry P. Smith, in a letter mistakenly dated Novemvber 19, 2004 and received by us on February 23, 2004, has responded to our letter to Mr. Plant. Mr. Smith indicated that the Coroner “intends to proceed with an inquest at the earliest opportunity”.

As of February 26, 2004, we still have not received formal confirmation of the inquest date, although Coroner Stephen Fonseca has indicated that it may be held starting October 4, 2004.

The Berg family is distressed by the extraordinary delay in getting this matter before a Coroner’s jury and we have written the Coroner to request an earlier date.

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