Canadian police ordered to apologize to community leader

TORONTO (Horizon) — As part of their investigation into the events surrounding the attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa–Ontario in 1985 and the assassination of a Turkish diplomat in Ottawa in 1982– the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Zaven Sarkissian of Toronto–Ontario–in the early morning of June 27–1996–and took him to the headquarters of the RCMP in Milton–Ontario.

Sarkissian–a leading member of the Canadian-Armenian community–is closely associated with the Armenian National Committee of Canada and the Armenian Community Center of Toronto.

Without charging Sarkissian with any crime–the RCMP had his mug shot taken and fingerprinted him. Without any explanation or apology–Sarkissian was unconditionally released at 10 p.m. the same day.

The RCMP investigator informed Sarkissian that he wanted a meeting with the leaders of the Armenian community and that Sarkissian would be arrested again on the following Tuesday–if the community did not assist in identifying the culprits for the 1982 incident.

On July 3–1996–in response to the RCMP investigator’s threat–a meeting between the RCMP investigator and representatives of the Armenian community was held at the Toronto law offices of Edward L. Greenspan–at which time the RCMP investigator made statemen’s that Sarkissian was involved in planning the 1985 incident–and threatened that he would be arrested–imprisoned and charged for conspiracy to commit murder.

On August 29–1996–a lawsuit was filed against RCMP Commissioner J.P.R. Murray–and RCMP investigators Brian McCalla–M.D. Bolduc and Glen Macdougall. In the suit the plaintiff Sarkissian claimed "damages against all defendants in the amount of $500,000 (can) for false imprisonment–abuse of process–power and authority–negligence–as well and infringemen’s of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

The suit also sought punitive damages of $1 million (can)–the defendants’ legal fee reimbursement and a public apology by the RCMP to be published in the Horizon weekly.

In a statement–the Defendants claimed that their conduct was legal. A motion to the Court concerning whether the RCMP had pleaded sufficient facts to constitute "reasonable and probable grounds" for Sarkissian’s arrest was set be heard on February 10.

Meanwhile–the parties to the lawsuit were referred to–what is known as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center–where a mediator was to attempt to settle the lawsuit without the need for further legal proceedings.

Sarkissian–was represented by David Stratas and Andrew Little of the Toronto law firm of Osler–Hoskin and Harcourt–while Greenspan–a criminal lawyer–represented the interests of the Canadian-Armenian community.

On January 29 and February 8 the mediation sessions were held in Toronto and the lawsuit was settled. The parties agreed to settle the matter with the following statement:

"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have been investigating the events surrounding the attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa–Ontario in 1985 and the assassination of a Turkish diplomat in Ottawa in 1982. In connection with this investigation–RCMP officers have been making inquiries of persons who may have information about these events–including persons in the Armenian Community in Canada.

"During this investigation–officers of the RCMP arrested Mr. Zaven Sarkissian–a leading member of the Armenian Community–on June 27–1996. Following his arrest in connection with the 1985 incident– Mr. Sarkissian was taken into custody by the officers and held until late that evening. Since June 27– 1996–news of Mr. Sarkissian’s arrest has spread through the Armenian Community. Since the arrest– Mr. Sarkissian has not been questioned–arrested or charged with any offense by the RCMP.

"The RCMP will not arrest Mr. Sarkissian again in relation to the 1985 incident unless evidence not known emerges. The RCMP recognizes that reasonable and probable grounds are required to affect an arrest.

"The RCMP acknowledges that the arrest has caused damage and embarrassment to Mr. Zaven Sarkissian–his family and the Armenian Community in Canada.

"The RCMP intends to continue working with the Armenian Community to foster goodwill and cooperation between them."

In a somewhat similar case earlier this year–former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had sued the RCMP and the Canadian government for $50 million (Can). The case was to be tried in Montreal–however–shortly prior to the beginning of the trial–an out of court settlement was reached– according to which the government apologized to Mulroney and agreed to pay his legal expenses.

Prior to Sarkissian’s case–for a number of years–community members had complained about harassment by RCMP investigators."


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