BY RYAN BOWMAN
When 16-year-old Jakub Markiewicz took a photo of an arrest-in-progress in a Burnaby, B.C., shopping mall, he did not expect to be the one wearing handcuffs. Nor should he have.
It all began on an ordinary day in September, when the aspiring journalist witnessed a group of Metrotown mall security guards arresting a man in the concourse and, deeming it newsworthy, snapped a single photograph. When the guards spotted him, they demanded he delete the photo; Markiewicz explained he was using film and could not delete it.
As he turned to leave, RCMP officers arrived on the scene and he took another photo.
The next thing he knew, he was grabbed, pushed to the ground, handcuffed, placed under arrest, dragged outside and thrown in the backseat of an RCMP cruiser. His backpack was sliced from his shoulders and searched, without a warrant or his permission, and the guards again demanded he delete the photos.
“I was like, just perplexed,” Markiewicz said after being released. “I was like, ‘What’s going on here, why am I being treated like this?’”
It’s a valid question. And one which needs to be asked. According to Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”
Unreasonable doesn’t begin to describe it.
While malls are considered private venues, Markiewicz was within his rights to be photographing until he was asked to stop.
The RCMP, however, was not within its rights to search and destroy his property without just cause or, more importantly, his consent. While he was not charged with any crimes, he was banned from the mall for six months.
And while the incident may not be the starkest example of the state’s ever-increasing disregard for our freedoms, it is the latest in a long parade of personal injustices in a country supposedly rooted in liberty and democracy. Due process, it seems, has been replaced by an “act now, ask questions later” mentality.
Still fresh in our collective mind is the tragic and avoidable death of Robert Dziekanski, killed in 2007 by repeated Taser blasts from RCMP in the Vancouver International Airport.
Then there’s the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto.
Granted some of the rioting was grounds for apprehension, but accusations by journalists and peaceful protestors of unlawful arrest and use of unnecessary force were heard loud and clear across the globe.
Follow this with similar accusations (accompanied by video) during the Occupy Toronto protests last summer and you have a disturbing pattern of public servants infringing and encroaching upon the rights of the citizens they’re supposed to be protecting.
And all of this in the midst of police chiefs crying for support of Bill C-30, which would allow officers (among others) to obtain Internet and cellphone records of Canadian citizens, without warrants, at any time and for any reason.
We have the right to photograph in public. We have the right to protest. We have the right to our privacy.
Today it’s just a backpack. Tomorrow it’s everything our country stands for.