A Surrey RCMP vehicle.
Jason Payne / PNG
A Sikh man is suing RCMP alleging an officer ripped his turban off his head while he was in custody at the Surrey detachment.In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Kanwaljit Singh says that on the afternoon of June 30, 2017, he was the only prisoner in the booking area of the jail in the presence of about four or five police officers. He alleges that at the time of the incident he had his back against the booking officer’s desk and was speaking with the police officers who stood in a semicircle in front of him.“While the plaintiff was speaking with these officers, another police officer, who the plaintiff understands to be Sgt. Brian Blair, joined the group of officers standing in a semicircle in front of him,” says Singh’s lawsuit. “Suddenly, without provocation or justification, and despite the fact that the plaintiff was standing still and being compliant, Sgt. Blair approached the plaintiff and ripped the turban off of his head. Sgt. Blair then threw the plaintiff’s turban onto the booking desk.”After the incident, Blair, accompanied by three or four of the officers who had just been speaking with Singh, grabbed hold of him by his arms and proceeded to march him out of the booking area to a holding cell, says the suit. While Singh was being marched to a cell, and despite the fact that he was being compliant, Blair and another officer twisted Singh’s arm causing pain, with Blair also grabbing Singh’s hair, says the lawsuit.“The plaintiff had styled his hair in a “topknot” to facilitate the wearing of his turban, and Sgt. Blair pulled his hair out of the “topknot.”Singh said in his lawsuit that he is a devout Sikh who wears his turban as part of his religious practice, with the turban being not only an expression of his religion, but also a core piece of his identity: “Sgt. Blair intended his forceful removal of the plaintiff’s turban and his pulling of the plaintiff’s hair to be insulting to the plaintiff’s religious beliefs.”Singh’s lawyer, David Honeyman, said his client at the time was facing charges, but added that from his perspective that fact is “irrelevant” to what happened to him. He said no prisoner should be treated in the way that his client was in the detachment.Singh is described in the suit as a software programmer who currently resides in Abbotsford.The lawsuit claims that Singh suffered injury to his dignity, loss of self-respect, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and is seeking general, aggravated, exemplary and special damages, as well as a declaration that Singh’s Charter rights were breached.“The plaintiff was subjected to negative and differential treatment by employees, servants or agents of the defendants on the basis of his race, ethnic origin and/or religion,” says the suit.No response has yet been filed to the lawsuit, which contains allegations that have not been tested in court.In an email, a spokesman for the provincial Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which is named as one of the defendants, said there would be no comment as the matter is before the courts. The RCMP had no email@example.com/keithrfraser