Camp justice goes to court – planet s

“This is this complicated situation where municipalities are creatures of provincial statue, so the province can certainly enact those laws,” says Rasmussen. “But I would argue those laws don’t take away the discretion the police have to prosecute or not depending on the circumstances. More importantly, it does not mean the RPS is required to arrest somebody when the premier picks up the phone.”

It is well established in case law, says Rasmussen, that police officers do not act as government agents. Instead, they have discretion in how they carry out their duties. That creates a firewall between the government and police. Without it, you’ve got the potential for a police state to emerge — which is a kiss of death for a liberal democracy.

When the Saskatchewan government issued a call for police to dismantle the camp for a second time in late June [see timeline], Regina city councillor Joel Murray — who sits on the Board of Police Commissioners, the municipal body that oversees police operations — tweeted: “I never want to see the day that police are operationally directed by politicians. There are numerous examples of how that is a very dangerous precedent.”

More recently, there were the Ipperwash and APEC affairs in 1995 and 1997. In both instances, inquiries were held and the governments involved (the Harris PCs in Ontario and Chretien “pepper, I put it on my plate” Liberals in Ottawa) were found to have acted inappropriately when they pressured the Ontario Provincial Police and RCMP to act against demonstrators.

Typically with police discretion, says Rasmussen, complaints arise when police exercise too much discretion rather than too little. In R. v. Beaudry (2007), for instance, an officer caught a fellow officer driving while impaired but didn’t collect the evidence necessary to charge him. On appeal to the Supreme Court, his conviction for obstruction of justice was upheld.

“When courts look at these situations, what they’re looking at is not just a subjective test of whether the police officer thought they were exercising their discretion [properly], but whether they were doing it in a reasonable manner,” says Rasmussen. “So there has to be valid and reasonable grounds on which they’re making that judgment.” Building Bridges

The test the government will have to meet was set out in R. v. Oakes (1986), says camp lawyer Dan LeBlanc. “The first part of the analysis is ‘Is the government’s activity interfering with their right to express themselves?’ The obvious answer seems to be yes. The second question is, ‘Is the government’s action justified to achieve goals it’s trying to pursue?’”

Previous Supreme Court decisions have held that freedom of expression exists on a spectrum, says LeBlanc. “At the high end, where we say we fall, is expression aimed at taking part in social and political decision-making. At the low end is something like advertising as commercial expression. At the higher end, the government has to put more on the scale to justify interfering with expression.”

June 27: Citing a meeting that’s set for July 2 between the government and camp in Fort Qu’Appelle, RPS Chief Evan Bray issues a statement that reads, in part, “Right now, our focus is community safety. We assess [the situation] multiple times a day. We make sure there’s no risk to the public, which at this point we don’t feel there is. So our response right now is to let that discussion happen and ultimately hope for a peaceful resolution.”