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Special Judicial Update - Roadblocks

On Saturday October 12, 1996 a well-publicized party was to be held at the Satan's Choice Motorcycle Club, Toronto clubhouse. By coincidence a "routine police safety check" manned by 3 uniformed police units, a mobile drug squad, and a special investigation unit (the bike squad), was set up on Broadview Avenue north of Queen Street just around the corner from the club house.

According to police evidence, an automobile was ordered to stop to investigate the working condition of its safety features. Further investigation of this automobile resulted in two passengers being charged under the Narcotics Control Act. Each of the two accused was tried separately.

Both accused were represented by Barrister Lorne Farovitch and his team of researchers from the law firm of CHAPNICK AND ASSOCIATES, Toronto. Applications were made in both cases to throw out the charges on the grounds that the so called "safety check" was not in fact a routine police safety check, but rather something quite different, something contrary to the rights and freedoms granted to Canadians under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our constitution.

In the first case to come before the courts, the case of R.v. Hook, the Crown Attorney and the arresting officer, after reviewing the documentation presented to the court by the Chapnick and Associates lawyers and after hearing the comments of the Presiding Judge, chose to withdraw all charges against Mr. Hook.

In the second case of R.v. Patrick, similar materials were filed with the court and with the office of the Attorney General. On the first day of the hearing, evidence was given by the arresting officer that the purpose of the roadblock was not to target and investigate bikers and their associates, but to address motor vehicle safety concerns. Extensive cross-examination by Lorne Farovitch revealed that this was not the case.

On the second day of the hearing the presiding judge, His Honour Judge Fairgreive of the Ontario Court Provincial (Criminal) Division requested submissions with respect to the Brown case (the so called "Paradice case"), and other cases presented by Mr. Farovitch. The judge in Brown, a civil action by members of the Paradice Riders motorcycle club against the Durham Regional police force, found that roadblocks were not contrary to the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our constitution and as a result the Paradice Riders were unsuccessful in their claim.

Judge Fairgreive in a carefully reasoned decision took into consideration the new Canadian "anti-biker" Criminal Code amendments which were not part of the Code when the Brown decision was rendered. He also took into consideration the factors which led up to these amendments including the warfare and bloodshed attributed to bikers across the country. This made Mr. Farovitchs job even more difficult. Still the rule of law prevailed and in the opinion of the Judge, the Brown case was incorrectly decided. The use of roadblocks for purposes such as found in the Patrick, Hook, and Brown cases were and continue to be illegal. His Honour ruled that all evidence gathered as a result of the illegal roadblock must be excluded and as a result all charges against Ms. Patrick were dismissed.

How strong is this decision? His Honour Judge Fairgreive is considered to be one of the strongest Judges in the Ontario Provincial Division Criminal Court. His judgments are well respected as being carefully, thoughtfully, thoroughly, and judicially reasoned. This particular case is even stronger in that the Judge chose to reserve his decision until after his personal research and consideration had been completed. Even after rendering his decision, Judge Fairgreive has chosen to delay the issuing of his written Reasons for Judgement until he has had a chance to prepare them for special issue and publication across Canada. The Judge believes this to be a special landmark case and so do we!

Why is this decision important to all law abiding motorcyclists? This judgement is important to all Canadians, not just us. Civil Liberties are something to be guarded and defended. Canadians have given their lives time and time again to defend our treasured rights and freedoms. Ms. Patrick and Mr. Hook were not members of any illegal group, they were not terrorists, they were Canadian citizens traveling in our free and democratic land. Canadians need not and should not have to answer to the state with respect to their mobility. Today the excuse is criminal gangs; tomorrow it could be religious zealots or those with cultural or ethnic differences. Bikers are by definition freedom loving. The Ontario Confederation of Clubs will continue to support the legitimate rights of our brothers and sisters, this is our duty as bikers and as Canadians.

So that there is no confusion, the Ontario Confederation of Clubs does not support illegal activity of any kind. We do not support any club member who is legitimately convicted of any criminal offense, or is prosecuted legitimately for any civil wrong. We stand firm, however, in our duty to preserve our free, democratic, and just society for those who come after us, as those who came before, did for us.

Congratulations to all the lawyers at Chapnick and Associates who assisted in the researching and preparation of these cases and to Lorne Farovitch who advanced the constitutional arguments before both criminal courts. A very special thank you to Jeffrey Chapnick for again helping the motorcycling community as he has done for the past twenty years, his sacrifices have helped to advance the interests of motorcyclists throughout Ontario and throughout Canada. We really do appreciate it.

Ian Watson
Chairman Ontario Confederation of Clubs Judicial Committee
Vice-Chairman Ontario Confederation of Clubs