On February 13, 2022, we broke the news of the RCMP sabotaging three excavators near the site of the Coutts Blockade demonstrations, which were ongoing at the time. The Coutts Blockade was an event which lasted 18 days between January and February 2022, in Coutts, Alberta. Home to the province's largest international border crossing, this Freedom Convoy-style blockade protested against vaccine mandates and COVID restrictions. Police disabled these three vehicles over alleged fears they would be incorporated into ongoing demonstrations.
On October 28, 2022, we interviewed Chad Williamson, barrister and solicitor at Williamson Law, the firm providing legal support for these three plaintiffs at no cost to them thanks to generous Rebel News donors at TruckerLawyer.ca, who informed us that preparations for the filing of a statement of claim were ongoing.
Now, this statement of claim has been filed against the RCMP.
Provided in full below, it reveals allegations of Charter infringements, costs related to the excavator sabotage, and unlawful and political RCMP conduct.
The three plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit against Alberta RCMP are Durango Livestock Ltd., Vandernberg Feeders Ltd., and 628016 Alberta Ltd., each owning one of the three excavators.
In the “Timeline of Events and Police Destruction of Private Property and Vandalism”, the following is made known, from the perspective of the plaintiffs:
10. The Operators obtained permission from a land owner to place the Excavators on his lands (the “Private Lands”) and fly flags from the Excavators’ arms.
16. In the midst of hanging the Canada flags and the third Excavator being moved into position, the RCMP, including the RCMP Emergency Response Team (the “ERT”), attended with approximately 40 units, in 15 to 20 vehicles, onto the Private Lands where the Excavators were positioned.
17. The RCMP demanded that the excavators be moved from the “area”, as they were considered a “threat”, or they would be “permanently disabled”. The RCMP stated they were concerned that the Highway would be dug up.”
20. The Operators informed the RCMP that the Delivery Truck operator was not in the area and that he was out of time to drive his rig.
21. The Operators offered to move the Excavators out of sight and across the hill. The RCMP accepted thiscompromise and no other threats were made.
29. During the morning of Sunday, February 13, 2022,some or all of the Operators returned to the Excavators and found that they had been vandalized in a violent, reckless, and unnecessarily destructive manner (the “Vandalism”).
30. During text messages exchanged with the RCMP regarding the Vandalism, an RCMP officer confirmed that the Excavators were “disabled” andstated that it was not the RCMP’s call, but the decision to “disable” the Excavators was made at a much higher level.
31. The RCMP:
(a) Erred in their threat assessment;
(b) Acted upon on inaccurate, wrong, or misleading information;
(c) Acted negligently, recklessly, unlawfully, maliciously, and destructively;
(d) Intentionally destroyed private property without lawful authority;
(e) Infringed the Charter rights of the Plaintiffs (as is herein elsewhere
(f) Engaged in further and other unlawful acts and omissions which are known
to the parties and shall be proved at the trial of this action.
32. The Excavators posed no immediate threat to life or property. In fact, the Excavators posed no threat at all to anyone or any property or infrastructure.
33. The Plaintiffs state that the decision to disable the Excavators was politically motivated.
34. The Plaintiffs state that the damage sustained to the Excavators was beyond what was necessary to disable them, and represents wanton, malicious vandalism and destruction of private property meant to punish the Plaintiffs and other third-party demonstrators.
35. The RCMP trespassed onto the Private Lands to destroy private property.”
Click here to see the full statement of claim.
The plaintiffs assert that their intention to show support for the Coutts protest by hanging Canadian flags on the excavators' arms was a protected form of expression under Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Other damages allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs largely include costs of repairs, loss of revenue and opportunities, along with some undetermined fees, all of which are accounted for in remedies portion.
To summarize, the plaintiffs are asking for a declaration that their Charter rights were infringed on, and $132,171 in damages, not including amounts to be awarded or proven in court.
“This goes beyond mere disabling or seizing, this is really a destruction of private property by a government body without what we say, is lawful reason for them to do so,” the plaintiffs lawyer Chad Williamson, barrister and solicitor at Williamson Law, the firm representing all three plaintiffs said. “It’s going to be our intention to find out what the motivation was by requesting the internal documents pertaining to the decision to disable these vehicles.”
To hear our entire interview with Williamson, who is providing these plaintiffs with assistance thanks to your generous donations at TruckerLawyer.ca, check out the video at the top of this report.
We reached out to Alberta’s RCMP media relations manager to ask questions of this report, and to hear their side of events. In response to my questions, we received the following reply:
The arrival of the excavators on Saturday, February 12 (Day 15 of the protest) followed three consecutives evenings of farm equipment arriving at the scene, failing to stop for police, driving dangerously close to police, and soon being used to block the highway.
Our Community Conflict Management Group members spoke to the protest organizers and said that the equipment needed to be removed from the immediate geographical area, or it would be disabled. While the equipment was moved 500 metres from their original location, the excavators still posed a threat to the further continuation of the existing offences (such as the illegal blockade of the Coutts border crossing), as well as a risk to police and public safety.
Further considerations, at the time, were the significant number of protestor vehicles and equipment already blocking the highway and seriously restricting the free-flow of emergency vehicles into the Village of Coutts and Sweetgrass-Coutts Joint Border Inspection Station.
As such, the RCMP was required to make the operational decision to disable the equipment.
Alberta RCMP Media Relations Manager
However, most of our original questions remained unanswered. Here's what we asked:
- What was the purpose of disabling the excavators?
- What specific safety or legal concerns led to this decision?
- What evidence was available to support these concerns?
- What specific steps or methods were used to disable these vehicles, and why?
- Was there an agreement between the vehicle owners/operators and the RCMP, where the vehicles would be moved outside what RCMP considered a ‘dangerous area’?
- What were the geographical boundaries of the ‘dangerous area’?
- Were the owners/operators cooperative with these requests?
- What legal authority was granted to the officers to enter the private property and perform these actions (e.g., warrant, consent from the property owner, exigent circumstances, other legal authorities, etc.)?
- Did RCMP attempt to obtain consent from the property owner?
- If exigent circumstances were involved, could you please describe the nature of theemergency situation that justified immediate action?
- Allegedly, the truck driver(s) who transported these excavators into the area had legal limitations on their operating hours, which would have prevented owners/operators from transporting the excavators at the time RCMP requested their relocation. Did RCMP consider alternative options in response to this, before deciding to disable the excavators?
- Were any alternative methods or strategies considered before deciding to disable the excavators? If so, what were they and why were they not pursued?
- What additional factors or information is relevant to this situation that has not been addressed?
- Was the potential for the invocation of the Emergencies Act a factor during that time?
- Was this done as a precursor to the raid on Joanne Person’s property?
- Were any other vehicles disabled during the blockade demonstrations?
- How many other vehicles were disabled?
- What were the purposes behind these actions?
- In retrospect, do the RCMP believe that disabling the excavators was the mostappropriate and proportionate action to address the situation? Why?
- Are there any established protocols or guidelines within the RCMP for handling similar situations in the future, and if so, have any changes or updates been madeas a result of this incident?
- How does the RCMP plan to improve communication and transparency with the public and affected parties in similar situations in the future?
We followed up with the RCMP's media relations once more, but no further information was provided. We’ll follow the case as updates arise. If you wish to keep informed on this story, you can find all of our latest coverage at TruckerLawyer.ca. There, you can also donate to our Rebel News crowdfunding initiative to help these three plaintiffs.