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July 14, 2004

Campaign to Support Peter Owusu-Ansah

From: GhanaWeb, Ghana - Jul 14, 2004

- Assault by Police Backgrounder

Public campaign:

Peter Owusu-Ansah is a 25-year-old black man who is hard of hearing, and who was physically assaulted by two on-duty police officers in September, 2002. The officers were charged with criminal assault and the trial began in January, 2004. The trial is coming to a conclusion with closing arguments by Crown and Defense on July 20, 2004. A Coalition of community groups will be attending to raise the profile of this important criminal trial, to providing public support for Peter, and to raise awareness of the dual discrimination in the police force against people of colour with disabilities

The Coalition to support Peter Owusu-Ansah currently includes: African Canadian Legal Clinic, ARCH: A Legal Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities, Canadian Hearing Society, Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Ethno-Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario, and Parkdale Community Legal Services.

The Assault:

Peter Owusu-Ansah is a 25-year-old black man who is hard of hearing. He was born in Ghana and immigrated to Canada as a teenager, where he began learning both English and American Sign Language. He also learnt how to lip-read. He studied at the Ernest C. Drury School for hearing-impaired students in Milton, Ontario, then went on to study the trade of carpentry. He currently works as a carpenter in Toronto.

Over a two-year period in 2001 and 2002, Peter was stopped by police asking for his ID more than 17 times. He was stopped while walking down the street, while sitting in coffee shops, and while riding his bicycle.

On the evening of September 13, 2002, Peter played basketball with a group of deaf and hard of hearing friends at the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf. After leaving the Centre, they were approached by two uniformed police officers at the intersection of Bayview and Eglinton. The police asked the group to show their ID. Peter attempted to assist his friends in communicating with the police as many of them could not lip-read, and explained that he was hard of hearing. Peter also requested an explanation from the police for why they were asking for ID. The police rapidly grew frustrated and impatient, and escalated their requests for ID by shouting aggressively in Peters face and pushing him in the chest.

After the arrival of a second police car, Peter was separated from his friends and interrogated by an Officer Moosvi. Officer Moosvi continued to ask for Peters ID, behaving in a consistently confrontational and aggressive way towards Peter. When Peter did not provide any ID, Officer Moosvi began swearing obscenities at Peter. Officer Moosvi kneed Peter in the groin, twisted his arm across his back, and handcuffed him.

Officer Moosvi and his partner Officer Taylor drove Peter away from his friends. While handcuffed in the back of the police car, Peter was unable to communicate with the officers as he could not lip-read from behind and in the dark. Officers Moosvi and Taylor drove Peter to the parking lot behind Northern Secondary School, where Officer Moosvi hit Peter several times in the head and in the groin, while Officer Taylor stood nearby. The officers then put Peter back into the car and dropped him off at a bus stop near Mount Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue.

Peter has been seriously impacted by the assault, by the ongoing pattern of police harassment due to his colour, and by the polices inability to navigate his hearing impairment. Peter does not trust the police and feels unsafe being alone in public areas because he knows that the police will target him. His sense of dignity and self-worth have been significantly impacted. Perhaps worst of all, Peter wonders why he has to explain his skin colour and his deafness to the police in order to be treated politely. He feels that the police treat him as though he is less worthy of respect than other people.

Systemic Discrimination:

The discriminatory treatment of Peter Owusu-Ansah by the police demonstrates the dual discrimination by police against people of colour who have disabilities. Peter is stopped by police because of racial profiling. He is then unable to defend himself because the officers in question cannot navigate his hearing impairment. In fact, Peter's hearing impairment seems to goad the police into more violent action.

The discrimination against people of colour with disabilities is a systemic problem within the Toronto Police. In addition to racism and racial profiling, there is a fundamental inability to respond to the needs of those with disabilities, including hearing impairments. People of colour with disabilities are highly vulnerable to police abuse and violence.

In addition to supporting Peter in his fight to be free of police harassment and violence, the Coalition of Community Groups has come together to demand:

1- A commitment from police and all levels of government to eradicate racial profiling, and ensure that policing in Ontario is free of racism; 2- A commitment from the police and all levels of government that the police will respond appropriately to the needs of those with disabilities, including hearing impairments.

Status of Various Legal Actions:

Officers Moosvi and Taylor were charged with assault and their criminal trial began on January 28, 2004. The trial is currently ongoing and the last trial date is expected to be July 20, 2004, when the final submissions by Crown and Defense will be made.

Peter has also filed a Human Rights Complaint against the Toronto Police Services Board and against the four police officers involved in the incident. Parkdale Community Legal Services is representing Peter in this matter. The Complaint is ongoing.

Peter has also filed a civil suit against the Police Services Board and Officers Moosvi and Taylor. The civil suit is ongoing.

Contact: Shannon Slattery, Parkdale Community Legal Services (416) 531-2411 ext. 251

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