Women claim 'hairy legs' profiling in new G20 lawsuit
Police surround a group of activists during a protest at the G20 Summit in Toronto on Saturday, June 26, 2010. (The Canadian Press/Darren Calabrese)
Published Tuesday, July 31, 2012 4:54PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 31, 2012 9:50PM EDT
TORONTO -- Women claiming to have been profiled because of their hairy legs are among a group of seven people planning to serve a $1.4-million claim against police on Wednesday arising out of the violence-marred G20 summit two years ago.
The group from Hamilton alleges the police wrongfully arrested them on June 27, 2010 -- a day after vandals went on a rampage in downtown Toronto -- as they emerged from a Yonge Street restaurant, their lawyer said.
They allege they were kept for hours in handcuffs, then held for more than 24 hours at a makeshift detention centre in the city's east end before being released without charge. One of the plaintiffs also alleges she was sexually assaulted during a roadside strip search.
None of the claims has been proven or tested in any court.
In a statement, lawyer Davin Charney said one of the seven asked the reason for their arrest and an officer told them police "would make one up."
Charney said some of the plaintiffs believed they were profiled for arrest because of their appearance, which included having hairy legs.
A provincial police watchdog -- the Ontario Independent Police Review Director -- conducted an investigation into the incident and found the complaint "substantiated."
Its report found Const. James Ure wrote in his arrest notes that "all parties appear to be protesters; back packs; clothing and females all have hairy legs."
The officer told investigators he jotted down the "hairy legs" note as a general observation, calling unshaven female legs "one indicator that I associated with protesters down at the G20 that weekend."
Investigators disagreed with that explanation, writing that the note lead them to conclude there were "reasonable grounds" to support the discreditable conduct complaint alleging Ure swore at the women, and told them to "shave your legs, you dykes."
Charney said he would provide further details at a news conference at police headquarters on Wednesday when the suit would be served.
A police spokesman was not immediately able to say whether any action had been taken against the officer.
The statement of claim alleges senior officers were frustrated that front-line officers were not able to stop the vandalism.
The officers, including Chief Bill Blair, held a meeting, then gave orders or "authorized more assertive and aggressive police tactics," according to the claim.
"Senior TPS commanders used inflammatory and excessive language when giving orders to subordinate officers, encouraging them to 'take back the streets' and referring to vandals as 'terrorists'."
The lawsuit, which was filed at the end of June, could be the last one of its kind, given the two-year limitation period.
Several suits have previously been filed; some have already been settled.
Dozens of officers are facing various disciplinary charges resulting from the summit weekend, including allegations of excessive use of force and illegal arrest.
More than 1,100 people were arrested -- most released without charge -- in one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. In his systemic report, the review director was fiercely critical of police for riding roughshod over people's rights.
However, more than 40 people have been successfully prosecuted for the rampage, which included vandals using black bloc tactics to smash windows and attack police vehicles.