By TOM GODFREY
A third police force in the GTA has been served with a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit for the alleged racial profiling of members of the Black community.
A Statement of Claim has been filed against Durham Regional Police Services Board seeking $200 million in damages from its police force for the alleged racial profiling of Thelma Angela Vassel and Nathaniel Ndem, who are both residents of Oshawa.
The action was launched on December 29 by the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) on behalf of Vassel and Ndem, according to a copy of the Claim that was obtained by Share.
The legal challenge, which was filed by Toronto lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, seeks $150 million in damages from police. The plaintiffs in deputations allege they were racially profiled by officers in what they claim is a violation of their constitutional rights.
They are also seeking $25 million in punitive and $25 million in exemplary damages.
This is the third lawsuit to be filed against an Ontario police force by members of the Black community.
The first landmark $200 class action suit alleging racial profiling was filed against Toronto Police Service and its Board in November 2013 and is winding through the courts.
A $125 million challenge was also launched by BADC against Peel Regional Police Services Board for similar allegations against its officers in 2013. Both cases are before the courts and it can take years before they are heard.
“BADC experience is that Judges and Crown Attorneys agree that racial profiling in the hands of police exist but that it does not exist in the particular case before them,” the Claim stated.
It said “less than a dozen cases of racial profiling have succeeded in the criminal contest in the history of Ontario and less than half a dozen cases have similarly succeeded before the Ontario Human Rights Commission in the history of the Commission”.
Vassel, a Canadian citizen, alleged she was followed by police in November 2012 while driving a BMW. She claimed the officer suspected the car was stolen and followed her to a gas station, court documents show.
“The plaintiff pleads that she was racially profiled by a Durham police officer,” the Claim alleged. “She told the officer he was racially profiling her for no reason.”
Vassel was charged for allegedly having a suspended licence.
Ndem, who is also a Canadian citizen, alleged he was pulled over by Durham cops in May 2014 while walking home after watching a movie.
“Without any reason or probable cause, PC Scott Green decided to stop the Plaintiff and without a reason began to conduct a search of his body, his clothing and his belongings,” the Claim alleged.
“That without reading the Plaintiff his constitutional rights for a search, PC Green decided to arrest the Plaintiff.”
The lawsuit alleged that Durham Police Services Board failed to exercise its supervisory role over the officers involved and failed to properly screen and train them before they were hired.
The suit claims the board failed to ensure the officers acted in compliance with the Police Services Act, Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“The Board condones racial profiling by its inactivity during the relevant period,” according to the document, that accused the board of failing or refusing to implement or ensure anti-racism policies were introduced and enforced.
“The Board has failed or has done nothing to pressure the government of Ontario and the Ministry of the Attorney General to introduce anti-racial profiling legislation and to criminalize racial profiling or to protect African-Canadians,” the Claim alleged.
No date has been set for a hearing. Durham police have refused to comment.