Advocacy Groups Support Deaf Man Who Accuses Police Of
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2004
TORONTO, ONTARIO--More than a dozen Toronto-area groups have banded together to support Peter Owusu-Ansah, a 25-year-old carpenter who claims he was assaulted by two police officers because he is black and deaf.
"We have rallied around his cause because it is so rare for someone to have the courage to step forward," lawyer Elisabeth Bruckmann, of Parkdale Community Legal Services, told the Toronto Star. The coalition supporting Owusu-Ansah includes the Canadian Hearing Society, the African Canadian Legal Clinic, ARCH: A Legal Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities, the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf and the Canadian Association for the Deaf.
Owusu-Ansah has filed a $60,000 civil lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service Board and the two officers. He has also lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission alleging police harassment and discrimination based on color and disability.
Both of the constables have pleaded not guilty to assaulting Owusu-Ansah, who moved to Canada from Ghana when he was a teenager.
According to Owusu-Ansah, he was talking with friends on a street corner on the evening of September 13, 2002, when Toronto police constable Wayne Taylor approached him and asked to see his identification. When Owusu-Ansah was not able to show identification, the officer asked for his name, birth date and address. He gave his first name, but not his last, he said, because he was tired of being stopped by police -- more than 17 times in the past few years.
Owusu-Ansah said that when constable Syed Moosvi arrived on the scene as backup, he told both officers to go ahead and arrest him if they thought he had done something wrong.
"He (Moosvi) just grabbed me and he twisted my arm on my back and he tried to break my arm," Owusu-Ansah testified in the assault trial this week. He said Moosvi also kneed him in the groin.
The constables allegedly handcuffed Owusu-Ansah, threw him in the back seat of a police cruiser, then drove him to a parking lot behind a school.
"He (Moosvi) started to punch my face," Owusu-Ansah told the court. "He kept punching my face and he kneed me and he slapped me and he took off his vest and asked me if I wanted to fight him."
Police records show that the officers released Owusu-Ansah unconditionally when they learned that he was deaf.
An attorney for constable Moosvi said Owusu-Ansah struck his client in the chest, so he arrested him for assaulting a police officer.
No court-appointed sign language interpreters were available for Tuesday's testimony, so a coalition interpreter volunteered to sign for Owusu-Ansah and the other deaf witnesses.
Judge Paul Robertson of the Ontario Court of Justice said future court dates would be scheduled for the Wednesdays and Fridays because that is when a court interpreter would be available.