A Whitehorse man suing over claims of police discrimination took the stand on Aug. 3 to explain two alleged incidents of prejudice.
Along with profiling and discrimination due to his East Indian heritage, Mandeep Singh Sidhu alleges unlawful detention and arrests, malicious prosecution, assault and breaches of his charter rights.
Sidhu took the stand on the second day of court proceedings.
Led by his attorney André Roothman, Sidhu began to recount his history with the RCMP going back more than 15 years. He told the court that other RCMP officers in Watson Lake openly disapproved of his friendship with a white female officer. He believes that interactions with police after this were influenced by racism.
He recounted how he was arrested on sexual assault charges, which were stayed, in 2010. While in custody shortly after his arrest, he said he was told not pray in Punjabi.
Roothman told the court this may be relevant for assessing damages later on and that his client was held on charges that had no merit.
Sidhu retold a 2011 encounter with the police in which he says he was arrested and later put in the psych ward for a week after initially being stopped for using a cell phone while driving.
Both Sidhu and Roothman refer to the 2011 incident as a turning point with Sidhu’s relationship with the RCMP. Sidhu told the court he experienced stress, paranoia, troubling sleeping and other ill effects on his health and personal life during this time.
“To bear the brunt of this for 14 years of my life, it isn’t easy,” Sidhu said.
Sidhu also began filing numerous formal complaints about the RCMP. He said he did so because he felt he was being targeted, feared for his safety and wanted to create a paper trail.
Incidents continue in Whitehorse
The incidents highlighted in his lawsuit took place in Whitehorse, years after the Watson Lake incidents.
The first main incident Sidhu testified about was a Dec. 2, 2012 traffic stop at an impaired driving checkpoint. After being sent to a secondary screening Sidhu got into a verbal confrontation with Cst. Andrew West, one of the officers there.
The court was showed video of the incident. A clip filmed by Sidhu contains his loud proclamations that the check of his license and registration was racially motivated.
Sidhu called in a complaint about the roadside stop and met with another officer, Cpl. Natasha Dunmall, the next day.
On the witness stand, Sidhu justified the statements, which were later used as the basis of his arrest for uttering threats against an officer.
He said one of them was meant to be an expression of his fears of being injured or killed in an altercation with an RCMP officer, another was a reference to a T.V. show and a third was hypothetical.
He told the court that he and Dunmall disagreed over the role of his race in the Dec. 2 stop but he thought they parted on civil terms and he expected her to launch a complaint on his behalf.
Photos, audio recordings and video, which were entered as evidence, also illuminated Sidhu’s testimony about his arrest. Three days after meeting with Dunmall, Sidhu was arrested at his workplace.
The court was played poor-quality video of Sidhu in the back of a squad car being driven to the courthouse. It showed his head striking the plexiglass barrier between the front and back seat of the car. The video shows an argument between Sidhu and Cst. Matthew Leggett — who was driving the car — over whether the impact was caused by his braking.
On cross-examination from Johnathan Gorton, a lawyer representing the attorney general, Sidhu acknowledges embellishing how much his head was hurt. He also said his back was in pain from a slipped disk. He is seen trying to lie down on the seat towards the end of the video.
During his Aug. 5 testimony, Sidhu and Roothman raised questions about whether the video of him in the back of the squad car had been edited. From the stand, Sidhu raised concerns about the modification date of the file and said he thinks the portion where his head struck the glass seemed sped up to him.
Also presented as evidence were photos of bruising to Sidhu’s left arm, which he told the court was caused when Legett grabbed him there to remove him from the squad car.
Sidhu was eventually acquitted of the uttering threats charge.
He told the court that this was followed by years without a major incident between him and the RCMP. The next incident Sidhu claims police misconduct in took place on the highway between Whitehorse and Watson Lake in June 2016. He was stopped for speeding, but he testified that the signs leading up to the police check stop were confusing and some of them were knocked over. Sidhu received a ticket and alleges that the stop was arbitrary and based on his race.
Roothman called Clinton Teichroeb, a neighbour of Sidhu’s as a witness. Teichroeb, who is white, told the court that he passed through the check stop and admitted to speeding on the same day as Sidhu and was not ticketed.
On cross-examination, Gorton asked if Teichroeb had ever worked for Sidhu and he acknowledged that he had been a sub-contractor for Sidhu’s father’s company.
The trial, overseen by Justice Karen Wenckebach, is scheduled to continue through next week.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org