THURSDAY, JUNE 30, 2005
The Community Coalition Against Racism (CCAR) is pleased to announce the successful resolution of a complaint concerning the conduct of an officer of the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) by Wilamina McGrimmond, a native resident of Hamilton, originally of the Bear Clan of the Carrier Nation of British Columbia.
The complaint was directed against Detective-Sergeant Ted Davis, who was operating in October and November 2003 in an undercover capacity for the HPS in the Red Hill Valley where Ms. McGrimmond was in the leadership of a native and non-native occupation of an area known as the "Greenhill Site." In an historical precedent, natives and non-natives had co-operated to construct a settlement with a longhouse and roundhouse, in an attempt to protect the 12,000-year-old native cultural tradition and the scores of native historical sites in the Valley, not to mention the biologically-significant valley ecosystem and the 44,000 trees slated to be felled to make way for an expressway. Under a series of royal proclamations and treaties, the native occupiers correctly maintained that their traditional rights of hunting, fishing, and gathering were to be extinguished in this last pristine1600 acre greenspace in Hamilton, by the expressway.
In her complaint, Ms. McGrimmond alleged that, on or about October 28, 2003, the day the tree cutting commenced along the Niagara Escarpment (a United Nations-recognized World Biosphere), Davis was arrested along with other protesters. When he returned to the Greenhill Site, he was waving his trespass ticket in the area and cursing the police in very obscene language. (He referred to police as "fucking pigs.") Most important, according to Ms. McGrimmond, Detective-Sergeant Ted Davis counselled the native and non-native people assembled at the Greenhill Site to break the law: to riot and attack police. Davis owns up to this in his letter of apology to Ms. McGrimmond (a copy of which is below) and admits that his actions were inappropriate. Fortunately, because the occupiers had adopted a strict code of non-violent conduct, his counsel was treated with grave suspicion and ignored. As remedial action to her complaint, Ms. McGrimmond insisted upon a letter of apology from the HPS acknowledging the inappropriateness of Davis' actions and a promise that officers of the Hamilton Police Service never be used again as agents provocateur (people who masquerade as protestors and who advise others to break the law as a form of entrapment.) At no time during the complaints process did Ms. McGrimmond ever request damages for herself or discipline for Davis.
Achieving a resolution of this complaint was a long, tortuous, and trying process and demonstrates several of the weaknesses of the current complaints system in which the police investigate and determine the outcomes of complaints filed against themselves. When Ms. McGrimmond first tried to file the complaint, she was given the run-around at the Central Police Station where she was told by police they couldn't accept the complaint. She was advised to go to the East End station to file the complaint. The advice she was given at Central Police was incorrect but too often given in the past as a way to discourage Hamiltonians ready to file complaints against police. The East End station also was reluctant but finally accepted the complaint. In its response, the HPS rejected the complaint out of hand as "frivolous and vexatious". Determinedly, Ms McGrimmond appealed to OCOPS, the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, which ordered the HPS to hear the complaint.
At this point, Ms. McGrimmond requested the assistance of the Community Coalition Against Racism. At a meeting in 2004 between Deputy Police Chief Ken Leendertse and Staff Sergeant Jack Caruzzi on the one side, and Ms. McGrimmond and Ken Stone of CCAR on the other, a tentative agreement was reached in which the police offered to write a letter of apology for the inappropriate actions of Ted Davis. In fact, a letter was sent by Ken Leendertse to Ms. McGrimmond but it did not contain an admission of the inappropriateness of Davis' actions. According to the Ontario Police Act, no police officer, even those working undercover, are ever allowed to break the law. In this case, however, Ms. McGrimmond and Mr. Stone both felt that Davis was acting as an agent provocateur, whose advice, if followed by the natives and non-natives at the Greenhill site, might have resulted in injury, arrests, and even death.
Since the letter of apology was refused by Ms. McGrimmond, the Hamilton Police Service again rejected her complaint.
Once again, Ms. McGrimmond appealed to OCOPS, enclosing a long statement by native activist, Dave Heatley, who corrobated the details of her complaint. After a long interval, OCOPS once again ordered the HPS to investigate the complaint by taking statements of any and all witnesses to the undercover activities of Ted Davis at the time in question. Ms. McGrimmond and Mr. Stone spent a part of the winter of 2004 interviewing witnesses involved in the defence of the Red Hill Valley, who had witnessed many suspicious behaviours of Detective-Sergeant Davis in the fall of 2003 in the guise of an environmental protester. Three of those witnesses who gave statements were young men who, in late October ,2003, were engaged in building a tree-sitting platform for Kevin Hamilton, who occupied a tree for three days and was later awarded the prize of Environmentalist of the Year. According to the three young men, Ted Davis approached them in civilian dress and urged them to spike trees. They suspected the man at once of being a police plant since that suggestion had been ruled out by the protestors long before. They refused his advice and advised him that the protest was peaceful and that spiking trees was illegal and could cause serious injury or death to tree-cutters.
In the early part of 2005, Ms. Grimmond and Mr. Stone recruited the help of Hamilton lawyer, Mark Coakley, who offered his services on a pro-bono basis because of his commitment to the environment and to justice for native people. At a meeting earlier this year with Staff-Sergeant Coruzzi, and accompanied by Mr. Stone and Mr. Coakley, Ms. MsGrimmond again went over her testimony and her demand for an apology for the inappropriateness of Davis' conduct at the Greenhill site as well as a promise that HPS officers never be used as agents provocateur again. This meeting was followed shortly by another with police at which Ms. McGrimmond was represented by Mr. Coakley. At this meeting, the HPS finally agreed that Ted Davis would submit the requested letter of apology to Ms. McGrimmond. Even more important, the representatives of the Hamilton Police Service made a commitment at this meeting to review and reform the policy regarding the use of undercover officers.
While there is no firm timetable as yet for the completion of this review, a firm commitment by the HPS that its undercover officers will not act as agents provocateurs will be welcome news to many in Hamilton involved in trade unions (which sometimes go on strike), social movements (such as the anti-war movement), student groups, ethnic and religious organizations, and of course, the environmental movement. In fact, such a review by the HPS may be a precedent for other police services in Canada, in the way that its neutral position during labour disruptions has become a precedent for other police services across Canada.
The long and difficult progress of Ms. McGrimmond's complaint is a testament to her strength of character and determination. But it also points out the need for reform of the police complaints process. It was for this reason that CCAR was pleased not only to make a presentation to the Ontario Commission headed by Justice Partrick Lesage on this matter but also to read his many thoughful recommendations to establish a more independent process of civilian oversight of complaints against police for Ontario. Hopefully, the Attorney-General of Ontario, the Honourable Michael Bryant, will act quickly to implement these recommendations.
In conclusion, however, it must be noted that, while Ms. McGrimmond's complant has been successfully resolved, the cause which gave rise to the occupation of the Greenhill Site in the Red Hill Valley has not been successful, as yet. The destruction of the Red Hill Valley ecosystem proceeds unabated. The City of Hamilton is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds, needed for more important civic infrastructure repairs, to build the Red Hill Expressway to service a huge new private housing development called "Summit Park" on the Mountain, which is, in effect. a further example of urban sprawl at the expense of the taxpayers and of the decaying downtown core. It is also at the expense of ordinary native people who have not received a penny in compenstion for the loss of their traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering rights, who have witnessed the destruction of important cultural sites which would have been eagerly preserved in many more progressive places in the world, and who have been denied any land in exchange for the 1600 acre Red Hill Valley.
Below is the text of the letter of apology of Detective-Sergeant Ted Davis:
My role in the Red Hill Valley was to enter in an undercover capacity to observe activies and to ascertain whether or not the possiblity for violence excisted as information had been received that violence may erupt.
I attended the valley on several days in October and November of 2003. At time I assisted with maintenance of the longhouse and established what I felt was a positive relationship with persons I met there.
On October 28Th 2003 I was at the valley, at the top near Mount Albion Road. When workers began cutting the trees I saw some people who appeared as though they were trying to stop the cutting. I tried to convince these people not to do this because I didn't want anyone to get into trouble. They refused to listen to me and were arrested. as I was also. I was taken to the Police Station and released.
I returned to the top of the valley and saw that people were trying to climb trees and others wanted to rush down the hill to the bottom, and asked me to join them. I refused to go to the bottom because tensions were high and I thought there would be problems.
I do not dispute Wilamina McGrimmond's recollection of events on this date and I fully agree that such actions are improper.
Further, if at anytime I did or said anything that offended Wilamina or anyone in the valley I apologize.
Ted Davis 05/06/10
The Community Coalition Against Racism was pleased to have worked with native people to help resolve this issue of importance to the whole community. For further information, please call Ken Stone at 905-383-7693.