The Yukon Supreme Court civil trial challenging police conduct toward a Whitehorse man saw some tough questions for the plaintiff and testimony from some of the officers accused of discrimination and other offences.
The lawsuit launched by Mandeep Sidhu focuses on the events of two traffic stops, one in 2012 and one in 2016 and also Sidhu’s arrest for uttering threats against a police officer following the 2012 stop.
As the trial entered its fifth day on Aug. 6, Sidhu was on the stand facing cross-examination from Jonathan Gorton, one of the lawyers representing the RCMP and the Attorney General.
Gorton questioned Sidhu about his history with the RCMP. He raised an incident in which Sidhu approached an RCMP officer in a gym and confronted him about an arrest he had witnessed. Gorton played recordings of Sidhu hurling foul language and slurs at police dispatchers and videos of the 2016 traffic stop and resulting confrontation with officers.
“Mr. Sidhu, do you hate the police?” Gorton asked.
“No, sir,” Sidhu replied.
Sidhu added that he believes he was unfairly targeted based on the colour of his skin and history with police.
One of the officers accused of misconduct, Andrew West, took the stand on Aug. 9.
West called the check stop which led to the conflict between him and Sidhu a routine activity. He said he was called to the vehicle when the auxiliary constable who first stopped Sidhu at the check stop requested help with a driver who would not give him his license.
About eight months before the Dec. 2012 check stop, West had stopped Sidhu for driving without a seatbelt. The court saw video of this incident which also showed Sidhu arguing about why he was stopped. The seatbelt ticket was eventually dropped.
The RCMP officer, who is no longer stationed in the Yukon, told the court that he recalled the previous incident and knew that Sidhu had ten demerit points on his license then, so he decided to proceed to a further investigation of his license and registration.
West told the court that after Sidhu made further comments and entered his personal space before West made remarks about Sidhu’s recent mayoral candidacy. West expressed regret about his comments and said they were not professional.
Cpl. Natasha Dunmall, the officer who was interviewing Sidhu when he made the alleged threats against West that led to his later arrest took the stand on Aug. 10.
She said Sidhu raised concerning hypotheticals about future violence between him and West, and suggested that she watch online videos of police being killed in traffic stops.
She said Sidhu told her if West stopped him again there would be a body on the ground, and it was on her.
Dunmall said she was asked by superiors why she didn’t arrest Sidhu right there in the lobby of the RCMP detachment. She said she understood that Sidhu’s words could be considered a threat but felt she needed more information before laying a charge.
On cross-examination from Sidhu’s lawyer André Roothman, Dunmall said she did not take notes or use a recording device when she and Sidhu were speaking at the RCMP detachment but wrote electronic notes about the encounter immediately afterward.
The case then moved to testimony about Sidhu’s arrest for the uttering threats charge. Led by questions from Sylvie McCallum Rougerie, another lawyer representing the Attorney General, Sgt. Jason Waldner recounted the details of the arrest.
Waldner acknowledged that before entering Sidhu’s family’s laundromat in plain clothes to arrest him he had seen officer safety bulletins and other emails about Sidhu’s history with the police.
He told the court that he and the other officers’ plan was to get Sidhu out of the laundromat and into custody as quickly as possible.
Sidhu was transported directly to the court house, an arrangement which Waldner said he had encountered only one other time in Whitehorse.
He told Roothman that Sidhu largely complied with him during the arrest but was more resistant with Cst. Leggett.
Leggett took the stand the following day gave his account of transporting Sidhu to the courthouse. The RCMP officer, now a corporal and no longer working in the territory, gave similar testimony to Waldner about the plan for the arrest, what was known about Sidhu. He told the court that Sidhu repeatedly asked about his wife and kids as they were driving to the courthouse.
Addressing the allegation that he had braked suddenly causing the handcuffed Sidhu to hit the barrier in the police car. Leggett told the court that Sidhu hit his head on the barrier intentionally when he was already finished braking. When presented with Sidhu’s claim that Leggett had bruised his arm by gripping it while getting him out of the car, the officer questioned how he knew he had a bruise there while still wearing a hoodie.
Roothman’s cross-examination dealt largely with how Leggett had grabbed and held Sidhu as he was leaving the police car. Leggett maintained that he was holding Sidhu near the armpit, above where the bruise was.
The trial was set to continue on Aug. 13 after the Yukon News’ print deadline.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com