The Supreme Court of Canada has awarded $5,000 in damages to Cameron Ward, a lawyer who was strip-searched after being arrested by police in Vancouver.
In 2002, Ward was taken into custody at a public event in Chinatown attended by then-prime minister Jean Chretien.
Police had been investigating a threat that someone was going to throw a pie at Chretien.
After being held for several hours in a provincially managed lockup, Ward was released without charges.
He later launched legal action against the province and the City of Vancouver over the incident.
The Supreme Court said in a decision released today (July 23) that the strip search while in custody violated Ward’s charter rights.
“Strip searches are inherently humiliating and degrading and the Charter breach significantly impacted on [Ward’s] person and rights. The correction officers’ conduct which caused the breach was also serious,” the decision reads.
The Supreme Court also says the seizure of Ward’s car violated his charter rights. But the court did not uphold an earlier award of $100 in damages, noting the seizure did not cause any injury to Ward.
The Vancouver Police Department says it respects the decision of the court.
“We are pleased that today’s decision upheld the findings of the trial court that VPD officers were acting in good faith when they lawfully arrested Cameron Ward for disturbing the peace,” said a news release from the department.
“We are also pleased that even though the court found the temporary impounding of Mr. Ward’s car was a violation of the charter, that he did not suffer any damages and that he should not be awarded any compensation.”
The department also noted that the province no longer manages the lockup where Ward was held.
“We can say that since control of the jail has reverted to the VPD, that we have a clearly defined policy around strip searches,” the department says. “They are now only conducted in the jail when there are reasonable grounds to justify it.”