Ontario man ‘factually guilty’ but gun case tossed over OPP

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. The Charter guarantees certain political rights to Canadian citizens and civil rights of everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all areas and levels of government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights.

Ontario man ‘factually guilty’ but gun case tossed over OPP

Postby Thomas » Sun Jan 28, 2024 4:12 pm

Ontario man ‘factually guilty’ but gun case tossed over OPP racial profiling

Superior Court Justice Cary Boswell found that the OPP displayed “an almost complete indifference” to the man’s Charter rights.

While noting that a man was “factually guilty” of carrying a loaded handgun, a judge recently threw out the evidence and acquitted him after finding he was racially profiled by the OPP in Huntsville.

Superior Court Justice Cary Boswell found that the OPP violated no less than five different sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when officers arrested Tyrese Douglas-Hodgson during a traffic stop in March 2020, displaying “an almost complete indifference” to his rights.

“Mr. Douglas-Hodgson was not treated lawfully or fairly and a significant contributing reason for that is because he is a young Black man,” Boswell said in his ruling last month.

“I reach the unfortunate conclusion that racial profiling played a significant role in the traffic stop of Mr. Douglas-Hodgson’s vehicle and his detention.”

A spokesperson said the provincial police force is reviewing the decision. “The OPP does not condone any form of profiling which contravenes the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights,” Bill Dickson said.

Douglas-Hodgson’s Toronto-based lawyer Kim Schofield, who has successfully argued several racial profiling cases, said she’s noticed a greater awareness of the issue by judges in just the last five years.

“The missing piece of the puzzle is what happens with these decisions — these decisions really should be taught in police continuing education,” she told the Star.

“I’m not sure (police) are even in touch with the fact that it is racial profiling. I’m not sure that the cops necessarily set out to racially profile, or if it’s systemic.”

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While noting that a man was “factually guilty” of carrying a loaded handgun, a judge recently threw out the evidence and acquitted him after finding he was racially profiled by the OPP in Huntsville.

Superior Court Justice Cary Boswell found that the OPP violated no less than five different sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when officers arrested Tyrese Douglas-Hodgson during a traffic stop in March 2020, displaying “an almost complete indifference” to his rights.

“Mr. Douglas-Hodgson was not treated lawfully or fairly and a significant contributing reason for that is because he is a young Black man,” Boswell said in his ruling last month.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW
“I reach the unfortunate conclusion that racial profiling played a significant role in the traffic stop of Mr. Douglas-Hodgson’s vehicle and his detention.”

A spokesperson said the provincial police force is reviewing the decision. “The OPP does not condone any form of profiling which contravenes the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights,” Bill Dickson said.

Douglas-Hodgson’s Toronto-based lawyer Kim Schofield, who has successfully argued several racial profiling cases, said she’s noticed a greater awareness of the issue by judges in just the last five years.

“The missing piece of the puzzle is what happens with these decisions — these decisions really should be taught in police continuing education,” she told the Star.

“I’m not sure (police) are even in touch with the fact that it is racial profiling. I’m not sure that the cops necessarily set out to racially profile, or if it’s systemic.”

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A 2022 Star investigation revealed that hundreds of constitutional breaches across the country by police have led to stern court rulings and cases crumbling, but with little to no action taken by police to correct any issues, leaving officers to repeat the same breaches in the future.

According to Boswell’s ruling, Douglas-Hodgson came to the OPP’s attention after Det.-Sgt. Michael Pigeau witnessed an apparent conversation between his vehicle and the driver of another car, whom the officer said was known to him as part of the “local drug subculture.”

Pigeau said he couldn’t determine the exact race of the driver of the first vehicle, but knew he was “darker-skinned” and could have been Latino. Boswell rejected Pineau’s testimony, noting that the officer would have been “acutely interested” in the interaction and had a good view of it.

“He clearly saw the driver,” Boswell said. “And there would have been no mistake that Mr. Douglas-Hodgson is a Black man.”

Soon after, both cars drove off, Douglas-Hodgson was stopped by officers for careless driving, a non-criminal traffic offence. He was told he was now being detained as part of a drug trafficking investigation and to exit the car. During a pat-down search, police found a loaded handgun and arrested him. A package of drugs was also found on his body during a strip search later at the detachment.

Pigeau maintained in his testimony that the only purpose for stopping the car was for careless driving, something that the judge said “defies credulity … The idea that four police officers, in two separate vehicles, pulled Mr. Douglas-Hodgson over for what amounts to not much more than an improper left turn is simply impossible for me to accept.”

The real reason the car was stopped, the judge found, was because Pigeau believed it had been involved in a drug transaction based on the interaction he witnessed with the other car and because the driver “was a young, Black man.”

Pigeau’s belief that there had been a drug transaction was nothing more than a “hunch,” the judge said. Boswell found there were no reasonable grounds to stop Douglas-Hodgson for drug trafficking and he acquitted him on gun possession charges.

He said that “there is no doubt that Mr. Douglas-Hodgson is factually guilty of carrying a loaded, prohibited firearm in public,” but failing to exclude this key evidence would “not only bring the administration of justice into disrepute, but would serve to breed cynicism about the value of Charter-protected rights in this country.”

Police violated Douglas-Hodgson’s rights to equality; life, liberty, and security of the person; and against unreasonable search or seizure, among others.

“I find that the manner in which Mr. Douglas-Hodgson was treated reflected an almost complete indifference to his Charter rights. His rights were breached at every step of the process,” Boswell said. “To maintain any integrity and legitimacy whatsoever, the court must unequivocally distance itself from racial profiling.”

Boswell said he took “judicial notice” of the fact that “there is a pervasive stereotype that young Black men are disproportionately involved in criminal activity, frequently drug dealing.”

Judicial notice means something is so widely known and accepted that a judge doesn’t need expert evidence to accept that it’s true.

“I also take judicial notice of the fact that Huntsville is a predominantly white community. A young, Black male in Huntsville, communicating with a person known to the police to be involved in illicit drugs, raised a red flag for Det.-Sgt. Pigeau,” Boswell said.

“It did so, I find, because subconsciously, Det.-Sgt. Pigeau was influenced in his suspect selection by the pervasive stereotype I have just described.”

While finding that the racial profiling in this case was done subconsciously, it is still “demoralizing and humiliating,” and must be condemned by the court, Boswell said.

“It undermines many of the foundational principles on which Canadians pride themselves,” he said.

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