Fickle finger of fate | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (June 16, 2023, 2:47 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
Is that a finger I see before my eyes?

An Ottawa police officer may be in hot water as a result of an incident where an elementary school kid on a school bus gave the cop the finger resulting in the officer boarding the bus, reprimanding the kid, threatening to take him away, and following the bus to the school where he related the incident to the principal.

Unfortunately for the officer, the incident was witnessed by none other than a human rights professor who just happened to be standing at the corner of Daly Avenue and Charlotte Street, with her daughters whom she claims were very disturbed by the constable’s “intimidation, abuse of power and violation of the Charter.” She lodged a complaint against the officer, as did the kid’s parents.

Firstly, I must say it was certainly serendipitous to have a human rights prof at the corner of Daly Avenue and Charlotte Street. I say the university should consider deploying a human rights professor at that intersection full time, to audit more potential breaches of the Charter. You never know. Sounds like a good place to set up a Charter abuse monitoring station.

Actually I do wonder where the Charter breaches occurred. We do have fundamental Charter rights such as right of religion, rights against unreasonable search and seizure and of course rights of mobility. Did the officer’s actions on that school bus hamper the bird-flipping kid’s plans to move to Winnipeg? Ah huh!

I say if Parliament wanted to enshrine giving the finger in the Charter, it would have specifically said so. There would have been a provision reading something like, “Canadians have the right to flip the bird, even while sitting in a school bus.”

Actually there was a Quebec judge, Dennis Galiatsatos, who recently ruled that, though not civil or polite, “Flipping the bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right…” OMG! (R. v. Epstein [2023] Q.J. No. 1233) 

God given? I Googled “bible, flipping the bird” and the best I got was “Noah and the dove. Dove did not return. Noah exclaimed, ‘Where is that flipping bird?’”

I also rechecked the Ten Commandments to see if I missed anything. It reads, “Thou shalt not murder … steal ... commit adultery.” There is no 11th commandment reading, “Thou mayest however give an officer of the law the finger.” Alas!

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is screening the case and it notes the investigation should be completed within 120 days. I’m not sure the inquiry into the invocation of the Emergencies Act as triggered by the disruption of downtown Ottawa by that truckers’ protest during the COVID pandemic took that long.

Oh well, there may be one fact in favour of the officer. Rumour has it that he did not board the school bus right after that scholar gave him the finger. The man actually waited patiently until the school bus driver folded back the bus’s STOP sign.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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