A Nova Scotia man has filed a lawsuit over his arrest at a public meeting on a proposed gold mine in eastern Nova Scotia, saying he wants to counter the “chilling effect” the incident could have on the discourse around environmental issues.
John Perkins, a member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, said Tuesday he is suing officials with Atlantic Gold Corp., the RCMP arresting officer and the Attorney General of Canada over his forcible removal from a public information session organized by the company at the Sherbrooke fire hall on May 23.
Perkins, who was released without charges following his arrest, alleges he sustained injury and damage as a result of the incident, including nerve damage to his wrist, shock, and mental anguish.
“The arrest happened so fast and was so unexpected I didn’t know what to do,” he said in a prepared statement during a news
conference in Halifax.
“I felt humiliated, powerless and scared. The experience has affected me greatly.”
Perkins said his decision to move ahead with legal action wasn’t taken lightly.
“Now I am worried about the chilling effect my treatment by Atlantic Gold and the RCMP will have on other citizens who participate in public meetings or public debate, especially those who seek to protect the environment,” he said.
The incident received widespread attention after video captured by an audience member at the meeting and by a freelance journalist was posted on social media.
Perkins’ lawyer, Brian Hebert, said a notice of action was filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax early Tuesday, although the defendants had not yet been served.
In a copy of the document provided to the press, Atlantic Gold Mining N.S. Corp., its chief operating officer Maryse Belanger, security manager Terry Moser, company communications director Dustin O’Leary, RCMP Const. Justin Greene and the Attorney General of Canada are named as defendants.
It said Perkins is seeking unspecified damages, legal costs and any other relief determined by the court.
In his statement of claim, Perkins says the company’s assertion that he was causing a disturbance at the meeting is “false and malicious.”
The document says Perkins was approached by a man in plain clothes after the first of two information sessions and was told that he had to leave. The man, who turned out to be Moser, had been instructed by Belanger to call 911 and report a disturbance and to seek Perkins’ removal by the RCMP, the document alleges.
It says as a result of “false statements made to 911”, Const. Greene was dispatched to the fire hall, where both he and Moser could see that the information session was proceeding peacefully and no one was causing a disturbance.
The claim says Greene chose not to conduct an investigation and instead approached Perkins and asked him to leave the fire hall.
When Perkins asked why, he was again told he had to leave and that he would be placed under arrest for trespass and obstruction if he didn’t.
Perkins was then forcibly lifted and pushed out of the meeting room by the officer who was assisted by Moser. He was pushed against a wall, onto a table and then dragged to the floor by Greene who pinned and handcuffed him, according to the claim.
“He (Perkins) told Greene that the cuffs were too tight, but Greene neither acknowledged John nor adjusted the cuffs,” the claim
It says Perkins was taken to the Sherbrooke, N.S., detachment of the RCMP where he was left in a cell “for some time” before being advised of his Charter rights. He was released without charge about two hours later.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court. Hebert said his client filed a complaint with the RCMP in June but still hasn’t received an update.
“As far as we know the process is ongoing,” he said.
Nova Scotia RCMP did not offer any comment about the lawsuit, however its spokeswoman, Cpl. Jennifer Clarke, confirmed in an email that “a complaint has been made to the RCMP.”
Meanwhile, O’Leary offered a statement on behalf of St Barbara Ltd., which recently acquired Atlantic Gold.
“St Barbara Ltd. respects Mr. Perkins’ right to explore all legal avenues available to him, but as this is a proceeding with the courts, our company will have no further comment on this case until it is resolved,” the statement said.
A request for comment from the federal Justice Department did not receive an immediate reply.