Update: The case of City of Vancouver v. Ward was heard on January 18, 2010 before all nine Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. No fewer than 25 robed lawyers were in attendance. Judgment was reserved.


It can be disconcerting when one’s name is bandied about in print, as mine was in recent Vancouver Sun columns by Ian Mulgrew (October 23, 2009) and Law Society President Gordon Turiff (October 29, 2009).

Mulgrew wrote about my 2002 arrest and the legal odyssey that has followed and Turiff used the case to stress the importance of lawyers’ independence. I will refrain from saying too much about the matter now, as the case is before the Supreme Court of Canada, but I will say this: it has been an eye-opening experience to have had my fundamental rights and liberties trampled by agents of the state and then to have had insult added to injury by the authorities’ subsequent behaviour.

Seven years ago, I was handcuffed, thrown in a police wagon, strip-searched and jailed, and my car was seized from where it was lawfully parked, all because Vancouver police were apparently concerned that I matched the description of someone who had been overheard using the word “pie” in the same sentence as the phrase “Prime Minister”. I arrived home after the ordeal to learn that footage depicting me being bundled away in handcuffs had been shown on the evening news.

After consulting an experienced lawyer, I requested an apology to set the record straight and clear my name. The matter should have ended there. However, no apology was forthcoming, so I sued. I hired lawyers and as the trial date approach, I offered to drop the case for a formal apology. The matter should have ended there. But again, the authorities refused to provide an apology. Four lawyers defended my claim, at taxpayers’ expense, and the six day trial resulted in a judgment in my favour. The matter should have ended there. It didn’t, because the Province and the City of Vancouver instructed their lawyers to appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judgment. The matter should have ended there. It didn’t; the defendants sought and obtained leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and their two related appeals will be heard in Ottawa in January.

As Mr. Mulgrew expressed so clearly, I have been dragged through years of litigation without any apparent regard for the cost involved. The City of Vancouver, in particular, is spending taxpayers’ money on an appeal that arises from the trial judge’s decision to award me $100 for the unreasonable seizure of my car.

As a lawyer, I have devoted my professional life to the pursuit of justice for my clients. Concepts of fundamental rights and liberties, and the independence of the legal profession, are near and dear to me. However, these may be hollow notions indeed when those with unlimited resources can use them to crush the individual.