Supreme Court of Canada to hear Laval métro escalator case

Montreal Gazette

OTTAWA — The case of a woman who received two tickets and was arrested because she didn’t hold an escalator handrail in a Laval métro station is going to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The case stems from an incident on May 13, 2009, when the appellant, Bela Kosoian, was stopped by a Laval police officer at the Montmorency station because she wasn’t respecting a pictogram instructing riders to hold the railing of the escalator. 

Kosoian argued that the pictogram with the word “attention” was not, in her view, an obligation, and did not hold the handrail as the looked in her bag for money to buy transit tickets. Laval police said at the time that she received three separate warnings, refusing each time. The situation degenerated after she refused to identify herself, “because I did not do anything wrong,” she said. She was forcibly arrested by the officer and another who arrived as backup, according to court documents.

Police kept her detained for about half an hour before releasing her with two tickets — $100 for having disobeyed a pictogram and $320 for having obstructed the work of an officer.

The STM said at the time that it had never before issued a ticket on the island of Montreal for refusing to hold a handrail.

Three years later, Kosoian was acquitted of the infractions in Montreal municipal court. She then launched a $45,000 lawsuit against the Société de transport de Montréal, the city of Laval and officer Fabio Camacho. The Quebec Court rejected the lawsuit in 2015, finding Camacho’s behaviour to be “exemplary and irreproachable.” Two years later, the court of appeal maintained that decision, with one judge dissenting.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada announced it would hear the case.

“This is excellent news,” said Kosoian’s lawyer, Aymar Missakila. He said the Court of Appeal ruling created a dangerous precedent.

“A police officer who has a sincere but false belief that a law exists and decides to punish a party on the basis of this law could be exonerated of all responsibility …. It goes squarely against important principles of law,” he said.

In its decision, appeals court judge Julie Dutil argued that the officer “had reasonable motives to believe that an infraction had been committed,” which justified the decision to issue fines and arrest the woman after she refused to identify herself.

The dissenting judge, Mark Schrager, wrote that “the honest but mistaken belief” of the police officer that not respecting a pictogram had “created an infraction” could not exonerate Camacho nor the STM. Schrager jujdged that the pictogram represented a warning, and that a “reasonable person” would not believe that it was an obligation that could result in a fine. Nevertheless, he said Kosoian had some responsibility. “She certainly did not offer her cooperation to the officers, and all her reactions, from the beginning to the end of her detention, only aggravated the situation.”

The STM and city of Laval have not yet offered a reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

3 thoughts on “Supreme Court of Canada to hear Laval métro escalator case

  1. C’mon now…

    Two tickets….?

    For not holding a hand rail…?

    You gotta be kidding me.

    But I have a solution.

    Next time…

    Use the handicapped elevator.

    Because in that you can take a sht…

    Not hold the rail. .. and…nobody will question you.

    How would I know this. ?

  2. Bwahahahahahahahahah! All that cop was doing was his job–stealing from “the subjects” for the sake of the overlord govt. agency…and, oh yeah, Canada is a member of the Brit Commonwealth with a Queen-appointed Governor General…meaning, all Canadians are SUBJECTS to the British ROYAL FAMILY. So, all that cop was doing was his job–rob from the poor to give to the Queen.

    Now, Canada could do the right thing and leave the Commonwealth, like 1970s Aussie PM Gough Witlam did, which led to among other things the right of return for Aboriginees (whose children were just as badly abused as the murdered First Nations children at Kamloops, murdered by possibly Prince Phillip)…but then Witlam was removed from the PM job after doing these rightful things…

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