Half of those arrested in tense Halifax housing protest no longer facing charges

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HALIFAX – Carmel Farahbakhsh says that when she headed to a Halifax demonstration final August to protest town’s resolution to tear down non permanent housing for the homeless, she was anticipating to peacefully make her level.

Instead, the 29-year-old stated she was shoved right into a police car, suffered a concussion and was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction — sending her right into a four-month authorized ordeal earlier than the Crown dropped the case Jan. 26.

Farahbakhsh is one of 12 individuals out of 26 who’ve had their charges from the protest withdrawn or dismissed. Another three individuals’s instances have been despatched to restorative justice.

Ten months after the protest, Farahbakhsh says she remains to be offended for going by way of what many protesters in Canada expertise — being charged by police and thrust into authorized instances that don’t meet the Crown’s requirements for prosecution.

“It was one of the scariest experiences of my adult life,” Farahbakhsh stated in a current interview about her hours in custody. “There was no communication to me about what my charges were. I wasn’t told why I was being held. I was suffering from an injury (a concussion), and there was no care or attention to the injury.”

The charges towards Farahbakhsh and others who attended the protest resulted from an indication that started the morning of Aug. 18, after police have been informed by town to clear public grounds of tents and non permanent wood shelters constructed by advocacy teams for the homeless.

The grounds in entrance of the previous Halifax public library in town’s downtown stuffed with demonstrators. Clashes broke out between police and demonstrators on streets lined with retailers and cafes, and protesters have been sprayed in the face with chemical irritants.

Police issued a launch later that day saying the arrests, with the chief stating officers “were in a very complex and difficult situation and responded to the best of their abilities with what they had under the circumstances.”

However, defence lawyer Asaf Rashid, who has represented most of those charged in the Halifax demonstration — 11 of his shoppers have had their charges withdrawn or dismissed — says he’ll battle six upcoming instances with constitutional arguments. His shoppers’ charges embody obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, and assault of a police officer.

“What was the point of all those arrests and all of that money and time going into that?” Rashid stated in a current interview. “That raises questions to me about why that happened.”

Rashid factors to Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which ensures “security of the person,” as grounds to invalidate town’s order to destroy non permanent wood shelters erected on municipal land.

“People who were staying there had nowhere else to go, so it raises the issue of whether their fundamental rights to security of the person were violated, therefore making the police actions that day unlawful,” Rashid stated.

Farahbakhsh stated she didn’t count on to be concerned in clashes when she attended the rally, including that she wished to assist LGBTQ youth she counselled, who she stated have been struggling to search out housing. Farahbakhsh stated she was detained from about midday till about 9 p.m. that evening on the police lockup.

After studying her charges can be dropped in January, Farahbakhsh stated she felt a way of aid, however it was accompanied by a way of “anger for time stolen from me.”

Some Canadian defence attorneys say the occasions in Halifax replicate a pattern throughout the nation: municipalities and police forces are resorting to heavy-handed ways moderately than aiding the homeless in discovering shelter apart from on public land.

Sima Atri, co-director of the Community Justice Collective in Toronto, stated in an e-mail that final July, massive numbers of individuals have been detained throughout a protest towards the clearing of a homeless encampment on the metropolis’s Allan A. Lamport Stadium. Few charges proceeded to courtroom.

“The way the police and city responded to Lamport Stadium is just another example of … excessive resources and force used against people standing up and protesting, especially around issues of housing and police,” she wrote.

Halifax police spokesman Const. John MacLeod stated in an e-mail, “As with any case we lay … we believe to be the appropriate charges based on the investigation and evidence and then bring the matter before the courts.”

Ryan Nearing, a spokesman for the City of Halifax, stated that whereas the province is the lead company charged with addressing housing, town has offered assist that has included buying and putting in modular models to accommodate 64 individuals. Nearing stated town can also be letting provincially funded companies use metropolis services as non permanent shelters, including that Halifax has authorised $70,000 to a coalition of 11 neighborhood service suppliers to fund resort stays to assist homeless individuals.

Farahbakhsh stated she stays distrustful of the intentions of police, in addition to provincial and municipal governments, in the wake of her tough arrest and her first encounter with the felony justice system.

“It shows me they’re not invested in processes of community repair or reparation,” she stated. “It shows me a lack of commitment to these promises.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed June 13, 2022.

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